Time for Francoeur to find a groove
Those of you who said that Tom Glavine wouldn’t step on the Turner Field mound this year need to head to the ATM or at least examine the fine print of your friendly wagers. From what I could tell, he had no trouble standing on that mound while completing three innings and dodging a Greg Norton liner during Monday afternoon’s simulated game.
As long as his left shoulder is still cooperating, Glavine is still planning to make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. In other words, the simulated game went as well as could be expected, minus the Norton liner that bruised the 43-year-old left-hander’s left hip.
When Norton walked through the clubhouse and said he was sorry, Glavine said, “It’s better that you hit it off my leg, instead of into the seats.”
Never afraid to make himself the punchline of a one-liner, Norton said, “If I was fast enough, I’d have run and caught that ball before it hit him.”
The soft liner didn’t seem to affect Glavine’s delivery or sense of humor.
“I told Norton that I’ve gotten hit a lot harder with slap shots,” Glavine said in reference to his hockey background.
Based on the comments posted today, your primary interest isn’t centered around the 43-year-old left-hander, who won’t be in position to pitch in a Major League game until the first week of June. Instead, most of your attention seems to be focused on that 25-year-old right fielder who finds his current statistics eerily similar to the ones he produced at this time last year.
When Francoeur homered on the first pitch that he saw, there was reason to believe that this year might be different than the last. But 509 pitches and two homers later, the most significant difference is the $2.92 million raise he gained after producing career lows in batting average (.239) homers (11) and OPS (.653) last year. <p>
Through his first 36 games this year, Francoeur has hit .252 with three homers a .272 on-base percentage, a .371 slugging percentage and a .642 OPS – fourth-worst among the 40 qualified National League outfielders.
His numbers through his first 36 games last year included a .262 batting average, three homers, a .310 OBP, a .421 SLG and a .721 OPS.
With less than 80 percent of the season complete, we haven’t reached a point where we can justifiably say that Francoeur is destined to repeat last year’s disappointments. But his current trend is pointing him in that direction.
During his first 18 games this year, Francoeur hit .292 with a .320 OBP, a .458 SLG and a .778 OPS. In the 18 games that have followed, he’s hit .211 with a .224 OBP, .282 SLG and .505 OPS.
One of the most encouraging things about Francoeur’s start came from the fact that he recorded eight hits and 10 RBIS in his first 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But he’s had just four hits and seven RBIs in his past 26 at-bats with RISP.
Still lost within the .279 batting average Francoeur has produced with runners in scoring position is the fact that he’s recorded three hits and produced four RBIs in six plate appearances with two outs and a runner on third base.
In addition, simply looking at his outfield assists total isn’t going to show how many runs he saved based on the fact that runners are less apt to attempt to score or take an extra base against his arm.
But while agreeing the statistics don’t tell the whole story about a player’s value, you can’t ignore that Francoeur’s $3.375 million salary has put him in a position where he needs to turn things around before the Braves reach the point where they deem that his cost outweighs his value.
The Braves were reluctant to give Francoeur this salary in February and they certainly aren’t going to want to provide him an even greater arbitration-generated salary next year, if he isn’t able to end the trend that is pointing him in the same direction that he traveled in 2008.
But it’s still too early to talk about the possibility of the Braves trading or non-tendering Francoeur. Right now, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying that his current three-week slump is just a product of the fact that he was bound to encounter struggles after completely altering his swing and stance during the offseason.
With this being said, the business aspect that made Francoeur a millionaire is the same one that will lead the Braves to be much less patient than they were when they stuck with him throughout last year’s struggles.
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