Monday, January 31, 2011

Giving Frank Francisco a Fair Shake


By
My apologies to Frank Francisco because I think we got off on the wrong foot. Let's wipe the slate clean and start all over again as I don't think I gave him a fair shake.

Lost amongst the initial shock of trading away Mike Napoli was the acquisition of a great right-handed reliever from the Texas Rangers. Jonah Keri calls Frank Francisco "criminally underrated" and I'd tend to agree with that statement.

Francisco has posted a K/9 north of 10 for the past three straight seasons and he brings a lot to the table as far as relief pitchers are concerned. His fastball and split-finger fastball are two dangerous weapons he can deploy to coax those numerous strikeouts.

Fantasy Baseball Insiders had a great look at the Blue Jays three-headed closer situation and not surprisingly Frank Francisco ranked at the top or close to the top in many of the categories they examined.

Even without looking at all these numbers, I'd happily cast my vote for Frank Francisco to fill the vacant closer's job on the Blue Jays Roster. That strikeout rate alone is just too domineering to ignore.

After watching countless nervous ninth innings with Kevin Gregg in 2010, there's nothing I'd love to see more than to somebody like Frank Francisco who can come up with a big strikeout out when the game is on the line.

While it would be great to have that kind of power pitcher to close out games, I almost think Frank Francisco might be better suited for the role that Scott Downs occupied the past few seasons, and that's the team's setup man.

Save situations dictate you go to your closer to hold the lead, but before managers were pigeonholed by the save statistic, they opted to use their best reliever when the game was on the line. When they needed somebody to stop the bleeding, that's when managers brought in their best relievers.

Frank Francisco could be that guy and it's a role I can see John Farrell bestowing upon Francisco. He could be the bridge to Jon Rauch in those save situations, but Frank Francisco could also be a late-inning stopper in games in which the Blue Jays are tied or behind.

Comparing the four of Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel, take a guess at who had the lowest percentage of inherited runners score last season? Frank Francisco whose inherited score percentage was a mere 15 percent.

Frank Francisco has pitched the better part of five seasons in the major leagues and over the course of his career he's only allowed 19 percent of inherited runners cross the plate.

Actually, now that I think about it ... I take back my vote for Frank Francisco as closer. Not because I don't think he's up to the tast; the reason is Frank Francisco would be underutilized as the closer.

He is meant to be a stopper, not a closer.

7 comments:

  1. A lot has been stated about Dotel's inability to get lefties out, but looking at his career numbers against Rauch's, the splits are almost identical.
    Versus RHB, hitters have posted a .653 OPS against Dotel and a .651 OPS against Rauch.
    Versus LHB, hitters have posted a .754 OPS against Dotel and a .745 OPS against Rauch.

    Granted, Dotel has been quite a bit worse over the last two years (whereas Rauch has been more consistent with his career splits), I just wanted to throw it out there.

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  2. Wes, very interesting find - I didn't realize Rauch and Dotel's career splits were so similar. Dotel almost has twice as many innings pitched as Rauch, but I'd still rather hand the ball to Rauch before Dotel in high leverage situations.

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  3. Oh there's no question that I'd rather have Rauch in the closer spot with Francisco and Dotel in the setup roles, especially with how bad Dotel's splits were over the last two years. I just found it interesting how close they were for their careers.

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  4. Wes, the parallels are very odd aren't they? Here's how I'm hoping the bullpen shakes out:

    Rauch - closer
    Francisco - setup man
    Camp - long man
    Dotel - ROOGY
    Purcey - LOOGY and middle relief
    Frasor - Jack of all trades
    Villanueva - middle relief
    Reyes - LOOGY

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  5. I agree mostly with that bullpen, but I'd probably put Reyes as the long man. Sort of like the way Brian Tallet should have been used. I think Camp showed last year that he could be very effective as a one/two inning guy.

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  6. David Purcey would be your second best go to guy at 16% IRs. Unfortunately, he's death on lefties, so as the only lefty, ya, he's your LOOGY.

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  7. Anon, looks like it unless Jo-Jo Reyes or Jesse Carlson makes the team.

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