I was thinking about using the cliché roller-coaster season line to start off this post, but that would mean there were a number of high and low points for Jeff Francoeur over the past seven months. After racking my brain for amusement park memories, it was the tower of terror that seemed much more appropriate. The expectations of a big season for Francoeur were wide-spread heading into 2008. His improved plate discipline last year had even some of the national media outlets almost positive that this would be the young stars breakout season (with a couple prominent writers marking him down as a darkhorse MVP candidate). Then came the free-fall.
Francoeur s first full month wasnt terrible, but over the next four, he would hit a combined .217 with the same poor plate discipline that has become a staple of his offensive production and more importantly, without the power that had always been his saving grace. During those four months, the 24-year old outfielder managed to slug under .300 twice with his high-point coming when he slugged a measly .373 in the month of May. I understand the bad taste his 2008 campaign left in the mouths of Braves fans, but lets give credit where credit is due. Francoeur finished off the season with a strong September; a performance that should not only give Braves fans something to be happy about, but may have saved Francoeurs job.
Before any of you get all worked up and start calling for my head, Id just like to point out that Im not saying hes put all his troubles behind him or that hell take a huge step forward next year. What Im saying is that Francoeur hit .286/.333/.413 with eight doubles, one homerun, and one triple; production that seems to have gone unnoticed. His walk rate wasnt as good as some other months and he showed relatively little homerun power but after the numbers Francoeur put up this year, lets not nitpick.
The implications of this September performance may go farther than bringing a little optimism to an incredibly disappointed fan base. If youve been paying attention to the trade market over the past four months, youve probably seen Francoeurs name a number of times. Its definitely not the ideal situation for the team to trade him. For one thing, Bobby Cox and Frank Wren have no legitimate replacements, and if they trade Francoeur now, itll be for pennies on the dollar (think of it as liquidating your 401K right now). Ive still seen Frenchy speculation scattered around the blogosphere lately, but I think now we can put it all to rest and just cross our fingers for next year.
Jeff, it looks like youve bought yourself at least another half of a year in a Braves uniform.