Enough has been written about Jeff Francoeur at Amazin' Avenue to fill a book (The Francoeur Avenue Annual, coming next March). He has been a borderline obsession at times and it went deeper than him simply being a terrible major league player on my favorite team.
Even before his trade to the Mets, I was exasperated by Frenchy. He was a frequent target of the sabermetric Internet snark brigade, and with good reason. Despite awful on-field production, he received golden boy treatment from the mainstream media, who loved covering all of his "I have a new approach!" epiphanies. Baseball Think Factory documented much of it -- the puff pieces, the ridiculous quotes, the bizarre corporate blog. Casual baseball fans don't spend/waste as many of their waking hours reading about baseball as I do, so most Met fans were blissfully unaware of the Jeff Francoeur Chronicles. When he arrived, they saw potential and remembered his infamous Sports Illustrated cover. I saw a .634 OPS and fluff stories about his lucky turkey underwear. To every person who was happy to have him in Flushing, I wanted to scream "You don't understand! It's Jeff Francoeur!"
Naturally, he went on a BABIP-aided hot streak for the Mets in the 2nd half of 2009, just to mess with his doubters. Fans fell in love, beat writers fell harder, and the saber-haters among the fanbase had a new poster boy to wave in the face of the spreadsheet crowd. "Give him an extension!", they said. "He's only 26 you statnerds!", they wailed. Meanwhile, Braves fans sat back and offered up some prescient advice: "Just wait."
Back in March, I made a list of possible season outcomes for Francoeur and the chances they would happen. This was going from my gut, without looking at PECOTA projection percentiles:
- Turns into a star -- 1%
- Above average -- 9%
- Average -- 10%
- Below average -- 50%
- Hindenburg -- 30%
When his OPS was 1.392 after his first 43 plate appearances (with 7 walks!), the top two outcomes looked more feasible. Then he snapped back to reality. His OPS hit a season low .635 on May 23rd, and despite a brief hot streak in June, he once again performed near replacement level overall. Hindenburg. Carlos Beltran returned in July, and Angel Pagan shifted to the corner outfield spots. Frenchy's playing time diminished and he didn't like it one bit -- he sort of requested a trade. A couple weeks later, the front office obliged and shipped him to Texas for Joaquin Arias. Much like the Braves trading him away, this wasn't about what the Mets received in return. It was about delicately ridding the team of a major problem. A worst-right-field-production-in-the-league problem.
The Francoeur Era is thankfully over. He provided some fun material for writing game recaps but was absolutely killing the Mets. He'll look good in Kansas City Royal blue next season. Fare thee well, gone away, there's nothing left to say.
I covered my early plan for right field in the center field postmortem, but I'll restate it here -- move Beltran to right field and Pagan to center field. And acquire a quality fourth outfielder who will be expected to accrue a significant number (250-350) of at-bats.
Desired 2011 starting right fielder: Carlos Beltran
Projected 2011 starting right fielder: Angel Pagan