Putting Francoeur in Perspective: Sammy Sosa Edition

Would it be fair to say that most baseball people wouldn't mind having a Sammy Sosa on their team? But Sosa wasn't always the corked bat 60 homerun power hitter we grew to love and loathe. Before all that he was just about where Jeff Francoeur is now; a young kid who struck out way too much and couldn't draw a walk unless he got thrown four balls halfway up the baseline.

In the early days of Sammy Sosa, around the time he was traded for George Bell, he was putting up such staggering numbers as a .710 OPS and lower; numbers that showed a lack of plate discipline and a desire to swing at every pitch thrown between the dugouts. But Sosa was young, about the same age as Francoeur is now; he was also aggressive, and had a lot of potential.

Even at 28 years of age, Sosa put up the kind of numbers that Francoeur will most likely put up this year - 36 HR, 119 RBI, .251 BA, .300 OBP. But Sosa didn't really start being Slammin' Sammy until he finally learned some plate discipline. The next year was the Maris chase and the 66 homeruns. Sosa seemingly grew more patient at the plate, and as he did the homeruns became more frequent and his batting average grew along with it. But in many ways he was still the free swinger he was in those early years. His strikeouts stayed the same. In fact he was leading the league in strikeouts at the time - some would say he was giving away at-bats hand over fist. The only thing that really changed about Sosa was that more of those swings he was taking were making contact (steroids or no steroids he was still making more contact).

And then we have Jeff Francoeur; the enigma wunderkind of the Atlanta Braves. Can he be Sammy Sosa? Or is he ahead of Sosa at this point in his career? The key for Francoeur, as it was for Sosa, is making more of those swings turn from outs to hits. If he can be a .300 hitter with a .336 OBP as he was last year, then I don't think too many people would be complaining. (Of course, failing walks, he could always just try and get hit by 20 or so pitches a year; that would help his on-base percentage.)

There have been stretches this year when shades of the kid who set the Braves ablaze last year have rematerialized, but overall he has been like a rookie struggling to find his rhythm in the Major Leagues. Struggling to tame his aggressiveness. Struggling to adjust to the things he has done his entire baseball career that have been so successful. When he does adjust, and many people believe he will, we may be looking at the second coming of Slammin' Sammy, but for now we'll have to settle for Flailin' Francoeur.

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