I slam Jeff Francoeur a lot for the things he does poorly, but I should be fair and note one thing he does really well, and that’s kill runners from the outfield. MLB.com has a feature on that today. Most interesting quote comes from Andre Dawson, who was rumored to have a bit of his arm himself once upon a time:
“You gain a reputation that you probably deserve, and no one wants to
test your arm. But sometimes I think your reputations get better than
your arm. I could still throw when I retired, but I think some
third-base coaches who hadn’t seen me throw for a while gave me too
As Dawson would no doubt agree, this is one area where being overrated is a wonderful thing. Better than killing a high percentage of runners at the plate is not having anyone try to advance on you in the first place. Francoeur probably gets that benefit of the doubt a lot these days, and will continue to do so even as his arm strength inevitably declines with age.
But you kind of hope some will still test him. Francoeur threw out two guys at the plate a week ago Sunday when I was in Port St. Lucie watching the Mets-Nats game. By far the most exciting plays in the game. I was in the press box and thus couldn’t cheer, but it took every ounce of strength I had to keep from doing so. And that’s with one of my least favorite players on my least favorite team. If it had been Jason Heyward throwing dudes out I probably would have ‘asploded.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.