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Saturday, January 24, 2009

I May As Well Get Him Over With...

Position: Right Fielder
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 220 lbs.
2009 Age: 26

It has been a crazy three and a half years. There has been a lot of promise. There has been a lot of frustration. There has been a lot of anger. There has been a lot of booing. There has been a lot of forgiving. There has been a lot of lowered expectations.

Get ready for another go-around of that this year.

Francoeur put up the worst year of his career in 2008; he hit career lows in batting average, slugging and home runs. His on-base percentage was only .001 better than his career-worst .293 in 2006.

Truncating his season was a four-day stint in AA Mississippi. He infamously felt "betrayed" by that demotion. When he was called back up after four days, everyone questioned his return, including me. The four days of beating up on pitchers he should beat up certainly didn't help him perform any better:

.234/.287/.374 before the demotion.
.242/.303/.340 after his return.

Francoeur has attempted to make changes though: he's trying a new stance:

After nonstop tinkering last summer, Francoeur has locked into one approach he thinks will work. Using some advice and video recommended by former Braves Mark DeRosa and Mark Teixeira, Francoeur adopted a more balanced position at the plate, with his hands farther back and a shorter stride. He’s been working it into his muscle memory, hitting four times a week since Nov. 15.

Chipper Jones likes the look of what Francoeur has been doing at Jones’ indoor hitting facility in Suwanee. “His weight distribution is right where it needs to be and his mindset is right where it needs to be,” Jones said. “His mindset is from gap to gap. You can’t be out on your front foot the way he was all year last year, and head moving up and down, and his stride was too long, and thinking about pulling the ball around the left field foul pole. His weight distribution is allowing him to think right center to left center and he is killing balls, just absolutely crushing it."

Hopefully, he keeps with it and that translates to results in real baseball. We're all counting on him.

SOME HOMERS IS BETTER THAN NO HOMERS: Franocuer is 6th in Braves history for home runs by batters from their Age 21 to Age 24 seasons. He has 73 home runs so far in his career. That's six less than Dale Murphy and three more than Brain McCann in the same period.

ON THE FLIP SIDE: In the same age range, with a minimum of 2000 PAs, the only Brave that has a lower OBP than Francoeur does (.312) is Rabbitt Maranville (.310), a light-hitting shortstop that had two stints with the Braves franchise.

NATIONAL PRIDE: The game of Francoeur's career was on April 12, 2008, when he torched Nationals pitching for two homers and a two-run single. The 3-run and 2-run taters gave him seven RBIs on the day; a career high.

THE CLUTCH BAG WAS EMPTY, OR PART TWO OF FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES: Francoeur was abysmal in 2008 with runners in scoring position, in general:

RISP: 203 PA, .192/.276/.316, 34-177, 6 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 59 RBI
2 outs, RISP: 89 PA, .175/.258/.238, 14-80, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 19 RBI
Bases loaded: 34 PA, .182/.206/.242, 6-33, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 17 RBI

My Outlook: I have none. It's virtually impossible to tell what Francoeur will do this season. All any Braves fan can do is have faith that Jeff can put a decent season together. If there is more failure, that faith may be dashed completely.

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