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.293......Does it Work or Does it Worry

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What is .293 you ask? Well it just happens to be the on-base percentage of Jeff Francoeur in 2006. And this number is probably what most people point to as the biggest knock on our young star right-fielder.

Baseball-Reference has as the most similar batters to Jeff Francoeur through age 22 this list:


Player OBP SLG
Duke Snider .340 .464
Curt Blefary .376 .469
Ellis Valentine .337 .473
Jack Clark .339 .471
Darryl Strawberry .340 .487
Willie Davis .329 .455
Willie Horton .330 .465
Grady Sizemore .345 .470
Max West .334 .435
Gus Bell .331 .443
       

It's sort of a mixed bag of hot-out-of-the-gate young stars, some of whom fizzled and others who went on to have great careers. But what is not similar to Francoeur in this list is the on-base percentage numbers (the first column to the right of the name). Francoeur's .293 last year and .305 career OBP is far from the others on this list. But on the other hand, his .477 career slugging is higher than everyone but Darrrrryl. So while these are possible comps, there seems to be no player who matches both Francoeur's power ability and lack of plate discipline.

But that's just it, isn't it? Having an on-base percentage that is at least in the .330s is part of having a complete all-around game. Sure he can slug with the best of them and drive in runs (second on the team with 103 RBIs), but sixth on the team in runs scored might not cut it. Is that a symptom of hitting low in the batting order, or is it because of the low OBP (or both)? We may not know the answers to these questions for several more years; until we have several seasons from which to analyze Francoeur's abilities as they translate to the stats on the page.

So is the .293 really a cause for concern? Frenchy knows it's a hole in his game and he says he's going to work hard improving on it next year, but how long do we give him? If he hasn't improved upon that number in a couple of years, do we write him off, or do we live with that number? After all, for someone who primarily bats fifth or sixth in the lineup, do we care if he gets on base as long as he's driving a bunch of people in?

For his part, Francoeur did get better at getting on base as the season progressed:

Month OBP OBP-Avg
April .230 .014
May .295 .015
June .278 .030
July .330 .033
August .322 .056
September .296 .053

The first number is his on-base percentage for that month, and the second number is the difference between his batting average and OBP. As you can see, the differential between average and OBP increased just about every month, and the .330 and .322 numbers he posted in July and August might be more of a representation of what he will apply to his game next season than his April and May numbers. This gives us hope that he is indeed learning not only that he needs to get on base, but how to get on base.

Let's all hope that he doesn't end up as a regular at the bottom of the OBP list like Angel Berroa, Pedro Feliz, Adam Everett, or Jose Castillo. For now, we can only look at that .293 and see it as a lesson for a young player who is trying to get better.