Saturday, April 23, 2011

Francoeur's Improved Approach In The Early Going

Jeff Francoeur's six years of terrible plate discipline between 2005-10 made his signing with the Royals a tough pill to swallow for saber-nerds like me. But, while it is still too early to declare him a changed man, the early returns from Frenchy the Royal are encouraging. This could all be a small sample size mirage, but for now, let's hope that hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has worked some Jedi mind tricks on Francoeur and this can keep up through the season.

He has swung at half of the pitches he has seen, which is a significant drop from the 60% swing rate he had last year and even his career low of 56% in 2008. (The 2011 average so far is 45%.) Interestingly, the drop-off in swings is coming mostly on strikes, not balls out of the zone. He is swinging at 39% of balls out of the zone (O-Swing%), which is higher than his career norm. He is being more selective about which pitches in the zone he hacks at, with his Zone-Swing% falling off a cliff all the way to the league-average of 65%. That increased selectivity is resulting into a near-league average swinging strike percentage of 9%.

Not surprisingly, the improved selectivity has resulted in better contact rates. His 83% overall contact rate betters the league average by 2%, his Zone-Contact% is 3% better than league-average, and his Outside-the-zone-Contact% is 6% above average.

Six full years of data certainly carries more weight than the 84 plate appearances his 2011 rates are based on, and he is a near-lock to regress towards his career norms. But these early numbers are surprising, and something to watch as the season marches on.

All numbers from

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