So everything else aside, how will he play?
- Career line: .270/.313/.433. Average brWAR 0.9, fWAR 1.6
- Career from 2005-2010: .268/.310/.425. Average bwWAR 0.6, fWAR 1.3
- 2011: .285/.329/.476. brWAR 3.7, fWAR 2.9
Thanks to a) a bounceback season b) endless playing time and c) the relative decline in offense since the middle of the last decade, 2011 was Francoeur's most valuable season at the plate of his career. Per at bat, only his 70 games in 2005 (.370 wOBA) were better. The truth is, from 50,000 feet he doesn't really seem to have gotten more than marginally more patient, as his 5.6% walk rate was actually down from many of his prior seasons and right in line with where he's always been, but the power that he flashed early in his career returned. Line drives were slightly up and his speed score -- perhaps slimming down helped -- improved.
The splits reveal a familiar Francoeur story. He crushed left-handed pitching, posting a .570 SLG and a .934 OPS against southpaws in 168 PAs. Against righties, he wasn't as good, but he wasn't terrible either, at .279/.318/.445. His career OBP/SLG against righties, including 2011, is .300/.410. This is, overall, encouraging, because he hit better against both handed-pitchers, while maintaining his general trend as a hitter.
With his low walk numbers, Francoeur's a guy who needs to hit .280 something to help you. Much lower, and we're inching close to simply untenable OBP numbers. Though again, the general decline in offense thanks to
the post-steroid era the self-fulfilling prophecy of every team playing their own Alcides Escobar at two positions has helped ease the pain.
Like fellow Royal outfielder Alex Gordon, Francoeur was able to parlay acceptable range with a strong arm into a useful defensive package. And like Gordon, I like the overall product, but feel that it is also a few ticks shy of sliding down into neutral or even negative category. But that might not happen in 2012.
So has Francoeur hit a new level as a hitter? Could he hit even better in 2012? He'll be 28 next season, so we can't rule it out. Perhaps it's merely something I've talked myself into, but I can't help but feeling Francoeur has more room to backslide than he has room to grow. A career year would feature the almost by necessity and axiomatic high/lucky BABIP and the additional power. So that gets us up to something like .300/.340/.500? Maybe a bit more. After last season, even a Francoeur agnostic would have to admit that could happen. The flip side is what was mentioned above, the BA falls a bit, and Francoeur gets himself out a few extra times trying to produce the doubles he's missed, and we end up in that .260/.310/.410 zone. This is very un-saber of me, but Francoeur strikes me as a player who really needs to have a good April. You want Francoeur playing confidently as opposed to chasing lost hits up there. But yikes, you dumb writer, isn't that really everyone?
So, Francoeur in 2012...