Jeff Francoeur

Is the end here for Jeff Francoeur?

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Maybe someone will pick Jeff Francoeur up for their bench after the Giants designated the 29-year-old outfielder for assignment on Tuesday, but it’s far from a given. His former habit was to hit like gangbusters whenever he joined a new team, but in San Francisco, he came in at .194/.206/.226 with no homers and four RBI in 62 at-bats.

Francoeur has played nine seasons in the majors with a .263/.306/.419 line. That’s not too shabby for a middle infielder, but for a corner outfielder, it’s certainly not getting the job done. In fact, of all the guys to last so long in the bigs, one could say he ranks among the worst corner outfielders of all-time.

By OPS+, here are the worst corner outfielders to amass 4,000 plate appearances:

88 – Don Mueller (4,593 PA from 1948-59)
90 – Shano Collins (7,045 PA from 1910-25)
91 – Jeff Francoeur (4,959 PA from 2005-13)
92 – Cliff Heathcote (4,972 PA from 1918-32)
93 – Glenn Wilson (4,468 PA from 1982-93)
95 – Michael Tucker (4,686 PA from 1995-2006)
96 – Jim Rivera (4,008 PA from 1952-61)
97 – Juan Encarnacion (5,095 PA from 1997-2007)
98 – Johnny Wyrostek (4,785 PA from 1942-54)
98 – Pete Fox (6,169 PA from 1933-45)

Baseball-reference’s WAR, which factors in defense and baserunning, isn’t a whole lot kinder. It rates him as the 14th worst corner outfielder to amass 3,000 PAs and the 6th worst to amass 4,000 PAs. Here’s the list with the 4,000 PA cutoff:

3.6 – Don Mueller (1948-59)
5.6 – Dante Bichette (1988-2001)
6.0 – Al Zarilla (1943-53)
6.4 – Jose Guillen (1997-2010)
6.9 – Jim Rivera (1952-61)
7.4 – Jeff Francoeur (2005-13)
7.6 – George Browne (1901-12)
7.6 – Tommy Griffith (1913-25)
8.0 – Michael Tucker (1995-2006)
8.8 – Juan Encarnacion (1997-2007)

Both the raw stat and WAR rate Mueller as the worst of the corner outfielder. Mueller was actually a two-time All-Star for the Giants in the ’50s. He led the league in hits with 212 in 1954, his age-27 season, but he quickly fell off the table from there and was particularly dreadful in his last two seasons as a regular. Plus, since he never walked and had limited power and speed, he was never all that valuable in the first place.

Francoeur has also had his moments. In fact, he’s been a three-win player three times of his career, according to WAR. Unfortunately, his WAR for his other six seasons is a -2.2. These last two years, he’s at -3.6. His power has deserted him on offense, and he lacks range in the outfield, though he still possesses a very good arm. At this point, there’s nothing to recommend him over a dozen veteran outfielder scattered around Triple-A. He’s going to have a difficult time landing more than a minor league contract this winter, and he might find that his best bet to continue playing is to head to Japan.

Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak ending

ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, MARCH 31 AND THEREAFTER - FILE - In this Oct. 5, 1938 file photo, New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig scores the first run of the 1938 World Series against the Chicago Cubs as he crosses home plate in the second inning of Game 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. A dozen years before Babe Ruth’s famed ‘Called Shot,’ teammate Lou Gehrig hit an equally dramatic homer. Gehrig was 17 when his high school team traveled to Chicago to take on a Chicago team. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and his team down 8-6, Gehrig hit a ball over wall and onto Sheffield Avenue to win the game. The historic ballpark will celebrate it's 100th anniversary on April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/File)
Associated Press
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Today is a significant baseball anniversary. On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig asked out of the lineup as the Yankees played the Tigers in Detroit. It both ended his Iron Man Streak at 2,130, but also marked the beginning of Gehrig’s very public acknowledgement of ALS, the disease which would come to bear his name. Gehrig would never play again.

While it was clear that Gehrig’s body was betraying him and his baseball skills were abandoning him in the first few games of the 1939 season, some say the ultimate impetus for Gehrig asking out of the lineup happened earlier that day. The story goes that Gehrig collapsed on the grand staircase of the Book-Cadillac hotel where the Yankees were staying and that later, as he sat in the hotel bar, he told manager Joe McCarthy that he couldn’t play anymore.

The Book-Cadillac is still there. It deteriorated over the years and then was renovated. It’s a Westin now — the Westin Book-Cadillac. It’s a wonderful hotel and the bar area still has much of its old charm, but the grand staircase is gone, replaced with a couple of escalators. I stay there whenever I’m in Detroit. I’m friends with one of the Book-Cadillac’s bartenders and I try to see him whenever I’m there. When I sit in that bar I often wonder if Gehrig sat near where I was, telling McCarthy that he just couldn’t do it anymore. There are a lot of ghosts in Detroit. Gehrig’s is mostly in New York, but there’s a little bit of him in Detroit too.

Cal Ripken would later break Gehrig’s record. I doubt anyone breaks Cal’s. But in some cases the record holders are less interesting than those who were surpassed.

More talk of a juiced ball

VIERA, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Washington Nationals practice balls  during spring training workouts on February 18, 2014 in Viera, Fl.  (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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At the end of March we linked a story from Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight which sought to figure out why home run rates have spiked. Their theory was that it was either randomness or a juiced ball. They tested baseballs and found no evidence of a different ball, so that seems to have ended that.

Except it didn’t end it because, as so often is the case in the early part of a season, we are seeing some statistical, well, let’s just call it “interestingness” and people don’t like to let such interestingness go. To that end Yahoo’s Jeff Passan — acknowledging the Lindbergh/Arthur study — asks once again if the balls are funky.

It’s all based on exit velocity of baseballs, which Passan notes has spiked. He doesn’t come to any conclusions — just not enough data — but the very act of asking the question in a column and Passan’s acknowledgment that he sounds like a conspiracy theorist tell you that that’s his hunch. And it could be the case. I still think the ball got juiced in 1987 and again, on a more permanent basis, in 1993, but there’s no evidence to really support that. Just one of those “can’t think of anything better” sort of situations.

For now, though, it’s May 2. And I suspect that for as long as there have been May 2nds in a baseball season, people have looked at the stats and suspected something weird was afoot. Maybe something weird is afoot. We just can’t really know.

A-Rod knows how to keep his bat dry

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Alex Rodriguez had a big night in a losing effort last night. He homered and drove in four. In the past week or so he’s raised his average over 50 points and may be finally shaking off the offseason rust. When you’re over 40 it takes you longer to do everything.

But even if it takes his reflexes some time to get up to speed, you can never take away the knowledge and experience of a savvy veteran with a high baseball I.Q. For example, whether he’s hitting or not, the man knows that it’s important to keep your bat dry on a rainy night:

Sean Burnett opts out of his Dodgers deal, to sign with the Braves

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Burnett walks off the mound after being pulled during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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In early April the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with pitcher Sean Burnett after he didn’t make the Washington Nationals’ roster out of spring training. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. As is usually the case, veterans like him have an opt-out if they don’t make the big club after a certain amount of time, and Burnett has opt-ed out, realizing that he’s likely not in the Dodgers’ plans.

But he could be in the Braves’ plans. They stink on ice. Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that he’s signing with them and will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow.

Burnett, 33, hasn’t appeared in the majors since he pitched three games for the Angels in 2014 and hasn’t pitched regularly in the bigs since 2012. Tommy John surgery will do that to a guy. He did toss eight and two-thirds scoreless innings for the Nationals during spring training and has allowed only two earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings of relief work for Oklahoma City. There may still be something there. Innings will need to be eaten in Atlanta this year. Burnett may be able to eat them.