Monday, January 31, 2011
Giving Frank Francisco a Fair Shake
By Ian Hunter
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.