I've gotten to the point where I get angry every time Jeff Francoeur comes to the plate. I'm resigned to the fact that this Braves team is pretty good, but nothing special. However, I feel my blood pressure start to rise when Francoeur comes up. He seems like a nice guy who is popular in the clubhouse, but I struggle to come up with examples of athletes in any sport who are so bad at their basic job functions and yet continue to get the opportunity to suck.
Right now, Francoeur is 145th out of 150 players in terms of VORP among NL position players with 100 or more plate appearances. By that statistical measure, he has cost the Braves 6.9 runs as compared to what a replacement level player would produce. If you prefer OPS, he is 80th among 89 qualifying NL position players. This comes on the heels of a season in which he was 133rd out of 134 players in terms of VORP among players who got 324 plate appearances.
Jeff Francoeur is the equivalent of a pitcher with an ERA north of seven. For instance, Francoeur had a VORP of -16.9 last year, meaning he cost the Braves 16.9 over what a replacement level player would have done. By way of comparison, Greg Reynolds of the Rockies had a VORP of -16.8. His ERA was 8.13. This year, Brad Lidge has a VORP of -6.7, which is comparable to Francoeur's number. Lidge's ERA is 7.27. If Francoeur had an ERA starting with the number seven, there is no way in the world that he would get the ball every fifth day for one season, let alone a season and then the first two months of the next. The fans in Atlanta (yes, even Atlanta) would go bananas if Francoeur were a pitcher, getting torched every day. Because we don't get upset about position players making outs in the same way that we do pitchers failing to get outs, the necessary pressure has not been applied. Thus, Bobby keeps trotting out one of the worst players in the Majors with apparently no thought to benching him or even platooning him.
And I think I'm about to say something that I never, ever, ever thought I'd say: where is Terence Moore when we need him? When evaluating the inexplicable patience afforded Francoeur, the facts that he's good-looking, local, and white have to be considered. The Braves do have to deal with a somewhat tepid fan base in Atlanta, one that was spoiled by success for 14 years. I see how they might have some reticence in dealing harshly with Gwinnett's finest. But for the love of G-d, how many more rallies must our rightfielder butcher before someone, anyone, gets a shot in right? How many more opposing pitchers are going to get to pitch an extra inning because one Braves hitter always hacks at their first offering? Frank Wren, you had a good week last week. Let's build on it.