Matthew Pouliot

Jeff Francoeur

The defending world champs have Jeff Francoeur starting in center field

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Never has a team fallen so far, so rapidly.

Jeff Francoeur is making his third career start in center field as the Giants take on the Brewers in San Francisco tonight. His other two both came last year with the Royals, when he played 16 innings and somehow never had a ball hit his way. Or, at least, was never able to get in the way of all hit in his general direction.

Francoeur also played three innings in center field for the Braves in 2006, and he actually did handle a chance flawlessly, at least according to his career stats. Visual evidence of this phenomenon has long since disappeared.

What’s doubly amazing is that Francoeur is playing center field with a right-hander starting against the Giants tonight. Maybe one could justify getting his bat in there against a lefty, but Francoeur has typically been significantly worse against right-handers in his career. Just not this year, when he’s been equally abysmal against everyone (.560 OPS against righties, .565 OPS against lefties).

Alongside Francoeur tonight will be Roger Kieschnick in left and Hunter Pence in right. Kieschnick never played an inning of center field in the minors, which apparently ruled him out. Pence started 95 games in center for the Astros in 2007, but he’s played exclusively in right field since. He’d still be a better option than Francoeur in center, but at AT&T Park, many believe it’s harder to play right than center.

Francoeur is hitting .234/.250/.277 with no homers and four RBI in 47 at-bats since being called up by the Giants. He’s scored one run in 15 games.

Indians buy high on Ryan Raburn, but it’s OK

Ryan Raburn
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After hitting .256/.311/.430 in 1,573 at-bats over seven seasons with the Tigers, Ryan Raburn had to settle for a minor league contract in the offseason.  A few charmed months later, he’s now making guaranteed money through 2015, courtesy of the two-year, $4.85 million extension he signed with the Indians on Wednesday.

There’s no denying that the 32-year-old Raburn has been one of the league’s best role players this season; he’s hitting .277/.370/.565 with 13 homers and 38 RBI in 184 at-bats. He’s not just doing it against lefties, either; he’s hit .257/.347/.523 with eight homers in 109 at-bats against right-handers.

Still, there’s little to suggest this has been any sort of real breakthrough for Raburn. His strikeout rate is a bit higher than his career average. His line drive rate is, too, but only a bit. He’s been more selective than ever before, and it’s helped his walk rate. But much of his success is built on every one of his four flyballs leaving the yard, and that’s just not sustainable. According to hittrackeronline.com, Raburn is one of two players in baseball to have four “lucky homers” this year. His last two homers, coming Aug. 1 against the White Sox, were both wind-aided and wouldn’t have left the yard under normal conditions.

This is also my least favorite type of contract: multiyear deals for part-time players go bad far more often than not. Ask the Cardinals about Ty Wigginton and the Phillies about Laynce Nix. It’s not even about the money; often it turns out to be a waste of a roster spot on a player who doesn’t deserve it.

All of that said, I don’t have much of a problem with the Indians’ signing here. I don’t believe that Raburn will keep this up in 2014, but he’s been a good part-time player more often than he’s been a bad one in his career. Also, the Indians always figure to have use for him with left-handed hitters Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley due to occupy starting spots in the outfield for the next few years.

Little good can come from extending a player at the peak of his value, and that’s exactly what the Indians did here with Raburn. But the money is so modest anyway that this mostly comes down to whether Raburn will still be worth a bench spot in 2015, the final year of the deal. I’m guessing he will be.

Miguel Cabrera notches 10th straight 100-RBI season

Miguel Cabrera
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Miguel Cabrera collected his 100th RBI in Tuesday’s win over the Indians, making him the 17th player in big-league history to reach the century mark 10 times in his career. Cabrera has done it in every one of his full seasons as a major leaguer.

Here are all the players with 10 or more 100-RBI seasons:

14 – Alex Rodriguez –  13 consecutive
13 – Jimmie Foxx –  13 consecutive – Hall of Famer
13 – Lou Gehrig – 13 consecutive – Hall of Famer
13 – Babe Ruth – 8 consecutive – Hall of Famer
12 – Barry Bonds – 4 consecutive
12 – Manny Ramirez – 9 consecutive
12 – Al Simmons – 11 consecutive – Hall of Famer
11 – Hank Aaron – 5 consecutive – Hall of Famer
11 – Goose Goslin – 5 consecutive – Hall of Famer
11 – Albert Pujols – 10 consecutive
11 – Frank Thomas – 8 consecutive
10 – Miguel Cabrera – 10 consecutive
10 – Joe Carter – 6 consecutive
10 – Vladimir Guerrero – 5 consecutive
10 – Willie Mays – 8 consecutive – Hall of Famer
10 – Stan Musial – 5 consecutive – Hall of Famer
10 – Rafael Palmeiro – 9 consecutive

It’s pretty good company for Cabrera; the only guy there who doesn’t have Hall of Fame numbers is Joe Carter. And Cabrera figures to rack up at least a few more 100-RBI seasons before he’s done. He’s currently sitting at 1,223 RBI as a 30-year-old. The all-time leader, Hank Aaron, had 1,216 RBI of his 2,297 career RBI through age 30.