I came across two interesting articles today that take very opposite positions on the future of Jeff Francoeur.
The first story comes courtesy of the great writers over at The Hardball Times. David Appleman tackles Jeff's 2005 season by using graphical analysis from his site FanGraphs. David explains that what we saw Jeff do during his first month with the Braves really isn't what we should expect out of our budding star. Instead, we should temper our expectations and expect Jeff's performance to be closer to his last 200 plate appearances of 2005. During that time, Francoeur hit just .252 with 6 homeruns.
On the other side of the spectrum, SOMWorld, The Official Strat-O-Matic Fanzine, takes a different look at Francoeur's 2005 season. While the article talks about Jeff being a safer bet than most fantasy/simulation baseball draft picks, it touches on some very important details about the rightfielder's ability. First, Jeff Francoeur is a tremendous defensive outfielder with an accurate rifle for an arm. Second, he has amazing bat speed, and "the ball jumps off his bat." After that it gets interesting. SOMWorld looks at approximately the same 200+ plate appearances that finished off Francoeur's 2005 season. During that time (the last 202 appearances to be exact), Francoeur walked 11 times for a rate of 5.2 percent.
SOMWorld then compares Jeff to other "elite" players in their initial at bats"
A-Rod had a 4.4 percent walk rate over his first two seasons (196 at bats).
Craig Biggio began with a 4.1 percent walk rate in his 1988 rookie season (123 at bats). Bret Boone started with a 3.0 walk rate in his first 129 at bats.
The low walk rate doesn't necessarily indicate that Francoeur will not become a more patient hitter. If anything, he should move quite easily into the 6 to 8 percent walk rate category, not spectacular, but quite serviceable as long as he maintains his batting average.
The article does mention the fact that A-Rod, Biggio, and Boone all demonstrated an ability to walk in the minor leagues while Jeff has not. But let us not forget either that Jeff Francoeur never played above AA and even there, participated in just half a season. He's only 22 years old and has plenty of time to prove the doubters wrong.
Odds and Ends...
Since we just mentioned fantasy/simulation baseball, it's a good time to welcome the newest member of the SB Nation, Mr. Matt Watson. Matt will be running Fake Teams, a blog dedicated to fantasy sports. Stop on over and say hi to Matt!
Also, I want to apologize again for the lack of posts lately. I have been inundated with year-end processes at work and have been putting in 15 hour days. Not my idea of fun, but hopefully it will be over soon. Thanks for your patience!