All about the Braves and baseball events.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Time To Talk About Outfielders; More Gushing About Francoeur

I know that second base was and still is hotly debated, but it looks like

The 2007 Braves outfield projects as thus:

LF - Some combination of Matt Diaz, Ryan Langerhans, and Craig Wilson
CF - Andruw Jones
RF - Jeff Francoeur

Left field is yet again a three-man position, and that's just fine with me, considering the three-man position wasn't a burden last season.

Diaz's fielding statistics are pretty good, but if one watches him field, he looks like a chicken running around with its head cut off. But, hey, if you can do it right, I don't care if you do it ugly; unless a particularly ugly missed catch causes the Braves to lose the game. According to FRAR/FRAA runs from last season, Diaz fields better than Langerhans! (16/11 - 10/6) Of course, Langerhans is considered the superior fielder, and he basically is. But Diaz can at least field well enough.

As for Andruw, the only thing I can say about him is this: he had better have one of those "contract years", even though they don't really exist. That would be like Javy Lopez just decided in the middle of the 2003 season to turn on the hitting switch on his machine so he could get paid the big bucks. But if that really is the case... Andruw had better turn on his hitting switch when the season starts and not in the middle of it. Whatever happens with Andruw, I'll accept it. If he leaves and the Braves get nothing, I'll accept it. If he's traded in the middle of the season, I'll accept it. If he's signed to another contract by Atlanta, I'll accept it.

Now for the fun part.

Jeff Francoeur, the next Tony Armas, Sr.

Baseball Prospectus, in their interesting book Baseball Between The Numbers: Why Everything You Know About The Game Is Wrong, has a list of their worst 100-RBI seasons since 1972, based on a correlation between their RBIs on the season and a statistic called Value Over Replacement Player, which measures the value of a player's offensive output against a theoretical AAA player from the same position in the same amount of plate appearances.

Here are the three worst 100-RBI seasons since 1972, which is how far back BP's database goes:

Joe Carter, 1997 Toronto Blue Jays - 102 RBI, -2.4 VORP
Tony Batista, 2004 Montreal Expos - 103 RBI, -1.1 VORP
Tony Armas, 1983 Boston Red Sox - 107 RBI, 6.9 VORP

They're ranked by RBI per VORP. I don't know how they calculated it, but I do know this:

Francoeur's 2006 campaign falls between Batista and Armas. Why? His 2006 VORP was:


Because he had the same number of RBIs in 2006 as Bastista in 2004, Francoeur takes the third spot. But it's a dubious spot: just the third player since 1972 to have a negative VORP and 100 RBIs in the same season.

But hey, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's have Mark Bowman talk about our buddy Frenchy instead:

Jones' need to venture toward right field has been lessened since the arrival of the athletic Francoeur, who some believe is capable of being a quality center fielder at the Major League level. Francoeur's strong and accurate arm has enabled him to notch a Major League-high 26 assists since making his Major League debut on July 7, 2005.

That is nice. That means he has a pretty good arm, but from what I recall, Francoeur had a few throwing errors as well. We'll see these assists drop because Frenchy will get a reputation for throwing people out, just like Andruw. :)

After starting last season with just two hits in his first 36 at-bats, Francoeur managed to hit .272. By the end of the season, he'd tallied 29 homers and collected 103 RBIs -- allowing him to join Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews as the only players in franchise history to enjoy a 100-RBI season before their 23rd birthday.

That doesn't mean that he's going to be as successful as them: at least they could take walks.

Oh, oops, did I say walks? Is that what's so bad about Francoeur? Sorry, my bad. Wait, I'm not sorry.

Francoeur's plate discipline has drawn ire from his critics. He swings at the first pitch more than anybody in baseball and hasn't entirely proven that he has a keen since of the strike zone.

*The Price is Right* Ding ding ding ding ding!! That's right!!!

But while drawing eight walks in his final 29 games in 2006, he showed some signs of being a little more patient.

Wow... what a small sample size. This rate would produce 44 or 45 walks. That is not good enough.

Still, it can't be said that Francoeur isn't able to come through in the clutch. He hit .320 (55-for-172) with runners in scoring position and .288 (80-for-278) with runners on base last season. His 53 two-out RBIs ranked second in the Majors, trailing only Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, who had 55.

And he hit something like .226 with two outs. Isn't that more when he HAS to hit?

Wow, two-out RBIs. Fascinating. RBIs are about a matter of circumstance, not about how good people are. It's just a plus when people drive others in.

Francoeur's RBI Opportunities: 74, 33rd in the majors
Howard's RBI Opportunities: 91, 4th in the majors

Lots of RBI opportunities mean lots of RBIs.

"[Francoeur] can sit on pitches now," Cox said. "He's sharp kid. He is still working. He is not going to walk an awful lot, which is fine with me where he is hitting in the lineup.

This scares me to no end, that Bobby Cox is comfortable with the idea that Francoeur won't be able to walk a lot. Well, what about when Francoeur is the cleanup hitter for the Braves or somewhere around there when Chipper Jones is retired and Andruw Jones is playing for some other team? I bet he'd want more walks then.

And I think if you took his aggression at the plate away from him, I don't think he'd be as good."

That may be the case, but you'd also cut down on his atrocious number of first-pitch outs.

Francoeur and Jones combined for 232 RBIs in 2006, tying them for the third-highest total among any NL duo.

With 162 RBI opportunities between the both of them. :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

LaRoche Traded; At First I Was Upset, But Then I Felt Better

ATL gets:
P Mike Gonzalez
SS Brent Lillibridge

PIT gets:
1B Adam LaRoche
OF Jamie Romak

At first, I was upset about this trade, and so were a few other Braves fans on Baseball Fever, because we thought that this was a trade of LaRoche for Gonzalez straight up. I was against that because it just didn't seem right on it's face. Trading a young first baseman who appears to be just hitting his peak for an excellent reliever who just happens to have a problematic elbow. I then learned that there were prospects involved. I left for dinner, I came back home and read more about the trade.

I think the Braves came away nicely in this one. Who is Brent Lillibridge? One of the top prospects in the Pirates organization, that's who. :)

The downside of this whole thing is that Scott Thorman is starting. He has no business doing so and the upcoming season will show that. On the other hand, this means that Jarrod Saltalamacchia could get a look at first base in Richmond in 2007 and be the first baseman in 2008 if it doesn't work out with Thorman.