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|
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:
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.