Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bay, And That Thing About Small Numbers

It wouldn't be Francoeur Avenue without the occasional sidebar discussion of the French God Of Walks. The truth is, regardless of how much we've ragged on Jeff Francoeur over the year(s), I think we all generally like him. He's a fun player to watch and by most accounts is a pretty righteous dude. When you root for laundry as I do that's about all it takes to earn my support. Obviously I like some players (Carlos Beltran) more than others (Alex Cora), but as long as you give it something resembling your best shot and aren't a total dbag, I'll root for you if you're on the Mets. Maybe you suck, and maybe your batting profile isn't what I wish it would be, but I still want you to do well. As for Francoeur, his recent history suggests that he isn't a terrific baseball player. He's got what Kevin Burkhardt might describe as "a strong hose" (or something like that) in right field, and he swings the bat hard so when he makes good contact he can hit some impressive dingers. He also probably doesn't have great range and his approach at the plate is suboptimal.

I mention this because a lot of people were quick to pronounce that Francoeur was a changed man after hitting .457/.535/.857 with eight walks in his first ten games. The Braves were blamed for demanding walks out of Francoeur when they should have been working on his approach instead. The Mets were heroes for rescuing Francoeur from that morass in Atlanta and giving him the encouragement and TLC he deserved in New York. Well, after going 2-for-3 with two hits and a walk in the opening game in St. Louis, Francoeur rolled a goose-egg in the 20-inning marathon, dropping an 0-for-7 that quickly liberated some of the wind from his bulging (--KB) sails. Then he went 0-for-15 with a walk in his next four games before finally "busting out" by way of a 1-for-4 in the finale against the Cubs.

What we're left with is a .279/.352/.508 slash line which, if sustained through the rest of the season, would make Francoeur a valuable player at a reasonable cost. The lesson in all of this, as usual, is to always bear in mind the ease with which we can be tempted by the vagaries of small numbers. Francoeur was a superhero for a week-and-a-half, and now he's just a regular guy (or hopefully a little better). Jason Bay has been a waste product at the plate so far, but he has a history of being a very good hitter, so let's just agree to give everyone some time for the small numbers to get a little bigger before making any pseudo-declarative statements about who's who and what's what. Deal?

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