How Many Runs Did Jeff Francoeur’s Arm Save?

I know, I know. I’m sorry, and I promise this is the last Francoeur post I’ll ever write, but I thought this was interesting. Kevin Burkhardt brought a question up during the SNY telecast — what a great word, by the way, “telecast” — of last night’s game: How many runs did Jeff Francoeur’s arm save the Mets? Was it enough to make up for his awful, awful offense?

As it turns out, people keep track of these sorts of things, and then figure it out for us. It should be obvious by now, but the Internet was invented so that silly pictures of cats and baseball statistics might become more widely available.

Francoeur recorded 11 outfield assists for the Mets this season, the most in the National League. 11 runners cut down would be quite impressive on their own, but that’s just part of the story — the threat of Francoeur’s arm also caused baserunners to hold up and not risk advancing first-to-third or second-to-home on hits to right field. How many extra bases did he save on reputation?

Thankfully, people keep track of those sorts of things as well. See here:

Single w/ Runner on 1st Single w/ Runner on 2nd Double w/ Runner on 1st Flyout, <2out, Runner on 3rd Flyout, <2out, Runner on 2nd Baserunning Totals
Year Tm Lg Opp Held Opp Held Opp Held Opp Held Opp Held Opp Held Held%
2010 NYM NL 51 34 33 18 20 13 11 3 27 18 142 86 60.6%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/2/2010.

So there you go. Baserunners had 142 opportunities to take an extra base on Francoeur and were held up 86 times, 60.6% percent. The National League average for runners holding up on hits to right field is 49.3%, which would come out to 70 holds in the 142 opportunities baserunners had against Frenchy. In other words, Francoeur saved the Mets 16 bases with his arm, in addition to the 11 assists.

How many runs is 11 assists and 16 bases worth? The three major fielding systems, UZR, Total Zone, and Runs Saved, all have an answer:

  • UZR: 6.6 runs
  • Total Zone: 8 runs
  • Runs Saved: 10 runs

So he saved somewhere between 6.6 and 10 runs, the best outfield arm in baseball — but that’s not counting Francoeur’s range, which is not rated as impressively by those systems. Francoeur isn’t the fastest rightfielder and didn’t always get the best jump on balls. His grin, on the other hand, needs to be rated using megawatts.

But simply ignoring those other factors, would his arm alone make up for his awful offense?

Not at all. Because of his NL low on-base percentage, both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference valued Francoeur’s offensive contribution to the Mets as minus-12 runs below average. He simply made too many outs to be effective. At best his arm offset 10 of the runs lost with his bat, and at worst just 6.6. He was still a negative no matter how you cut it.

To better illustrate this, let’s take the 11 outs and 16 bases Frenchy saved the Mets with his arm, and add them onto his offensive line. We’ll take those 11 assists and turn 11 of the outs Frenchy made into walks; then we’ll add 16 bases onto his total bases. We’re taking his defense and turning it into offense. If we do that, his new slash line goes from this:

.237/.293/.369

To this:

.237/.317/.420

Which is a whole lot better. His OPS just jumped 75 points, from .662 to .737, and is now only a tick below the National League average of .743.

But even with those added walks and total bases, Francoeur’s .737 OPS would jump him only two places, from last in OPS among NL rightfielders to third-from-last. He would still be a below-average hitter playing a position that stresses offense. He would still be in Lasting Milledge territory.

So did Francoeur’s arm make up for his poor hitting? Sorry Frenchy lovers. It didn’t. Francoeur’s arm is the best in baseball, but he was so bad at the plate that it wasn’t enough to matter.

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5 Comments

Filed under Mets, Statistics, Words

5 responses to “How Many Runs Did Jeff Francoeur’s Arm Save?

  1. I agree 100% here, Frenchy sucks. But something you also didnt take into account when converting Frenchy defense to offense. You took the runs and bases he saved and converted them to offense, which raised his OPS, but then still compared it to just the rest of the league’s offensive numbers.

    Thats not a fair comparison IMO because other right fielders likely also saved some runs with thier arms as well. Maybe not as many as Frenchy but some, so if you converted everyone elses defense to offesne the same way, many other guys would see an offensive boost as well I’m sure, so in the same context and perspective, Frenchy would still suck that much more.

    • Patrick Flood

      Okay. I see what you’re saying.

      What I was trying to do here was turn Frenchy into an average defensive right fielder by turning his arm into offense, to show that turning his defense into offense isn’t enough to make up for how awful he was.

      What you’re describing is basically WAR — take offense, account for defense and position and come up with one number. Francoeur is indeed last in WAR, but that’s not what I was trying to do.

  2. I agree that Francoeur sucks and that his arm didn’t come close to making up for it, but I’ve extremely skeptical as to the accuracy of those ‘hold’ stats. There are just too many factors that seem to be less measurable and makes the data uneven. Did the baserunner run through the sign? Was the third base coach even aware of Frenchy’s arm? Did a neat relay or a good tag by the infielder/catcher, or an oversliding of the bag result in an out that in normal circumstances wouldn’t have? Did the runner get a bad read on it to begin with, thinking it may have been a soft fly ball and didn’t take as big a lead/headstart? How different is it if there is two-outs and an automatic start? How many ‘fast’ runners did Frenchy hold, versus ‘Molina’ runners? (saying that Jose Reyes probably goes first to third on even Frenchy, but Bengie Molina probably doesn’t even on Chris Carter) How do you effectively measure and rank speed, particularly around the bases speed versus out of the box speed?

    How about all the bad throws Francoeur made? There were at least a couple that he threw way off line, or airmailed to home plate and turned a single into a double.

    All in all, i think you _over_rated his arm.

    • Patrick Flood

      Actually, the biggest thing I did to overrate his arm was to compare Francoeur’s assists to 0, and not to average. He was only 4-5 assists above average, but I gave him credit for all 11, which really doesn’t make any sense.

      The point here was to show that Frenchy’s arm wasn’t enough to compensate for his hitting — because that was the point, I tried to overrate his arm everywhere I possibly could. But you’re right, it is overrated here.

  3. This is how Frenchy’s arm really could have saved the Mets some runs:

    Just imagine the kid as Gaby Sanchez.

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