I must admit I've grown a little annoyed with the Francoeur bashing that's spread like wildfire as we approached and passed the trade deadline. People are acting like he's a worthless player that got hot in April and whose true talent is a no-walk hacker that sells out for RBI without helping the team.
I get it. People formed their opinions on Francoeur when 'The Natural' crapped out with the Braves, and they lined up around the block to crack jokes when the young Jedi was finally reunited with his Darth Vader, Dayton Moore. But as amusing as that narrative has been for many, it ignores a critical fact:
Jeff Francoeur is actually good.
Now, I know what you're thinking--"Oh My God! Small sample size! Why don't you look at more than his fluky 2011 campaign, you moran!" And to this, I'd counter, "Why don't you take 2011 into consideration at all?"
In 2011, Francoeur is hitting .271/.326/.464. His .345 wOBA and 2.3 WAR both rank 13th among AL outfielders. This isn't a matter of a fluky April; we're 108 games in, and Francoeur still ranks as one of the more valuable outfielders in the game.
Granted, he hasn't been anywhere near this good since his seemingly promising career fell off a cliff in 2008 when he was just 24 years old. But just as it doesn't make sense to buy in 100% that this is a newly established performance level for Frenchy, it's equally irrational to insist that he's the washed up scrub he seemed to be when Moore picked him up off the scrap heap.
So how do we properly weigh Frenchy's poor 2008-2010 against his good 2011 to get a sense of what 2012 might look like? ZiPS thinks it has a good weighting system, and it conveniently publishes its updated projections on a daily basis. ZiPS thinks Francoeur will be a .330 wOBA hitter the rest of the way, and at Francoeur's age, we can take that as a proxy for its 2012 estimate as well.
Let me repeat that--an empirical projection system that ignores leadership and smiles and naked batting practice thinks Francoeur is a true talent .330 wOBA hitter. The league average wOBA is .316.
For purposes of comparison, a lot of people think Drew Stubbs is a good young player with a bright future--the kind of player that's a valuable piece on a championship team. He put up 4.0 WAR last year and is on a similar pace this year. Drew Stubbs is less than 9 months younger than Francoeur, and his ZiPS rest-of-season projection includes a .327 wOBA, a few ticks lower than Francoeur's .330 wOBA projection. Yes, Stubbs has a little more defensive value, but for all the vitriol this board spews at Francoeur, you'd think the comparison wouldn't be anywhere close.
I don't want this post to be mistaken as an argument defending Moore's lack of activity at the deadline. If anything, these numbers make a case that teams had reason to make good offers for the outfielder's services, and if they did, Moore should have taken those offers. This team has enough outfielders and should spend some surplus talent to fill holes on the pitching side.
But I do want this post to serve as a reality check. Jeff Francoeur is a pretty good player. He is a 27 year old that plays good right field defense, runs the bases well, and projects as an above average offensive performer. The numbers don't support a case for bashing him.