It is common for fans to use a great deal of hyperbole when describing players, especially if that player is polarizing for one reason or another. Whether it is "the worst player ever" or "the best player ever," more often than not neither statement is accurate, and it is generally off by a great deal. Part of being a fan is being allowed to use hyperbole at will without repercussion.
That is true unless you are talking about Jeff Francoeur's 2012 season, because Francoeur is on pace to have the worst full season by an outfielder ever. And thats not hyperbole. Pick a facet of his game and he has been terrible at it. The obvious pain has come at the plate, where Francoeur entered Monday in the bottom 10 of qualifying players in OPS, slugging percentage and runs created, and bottom five in on-base percentage. Any way you would like to break down a player offensively, Francoeur probably stinks at it this season.
Batting with runners in scoring position? .192/.214/.308. Batting with nobody on base?.233/.272/.376. Batting at home? .232/.284/.355. Batting on the road? .237/.285/.369. Batting in the first half of the season? .251/.289/.378. Batting in the second half of the season? .237/.285/.369. Maybe you choose look beyond the plate and think about what he does on defense as a outfielder? Well
The Fielding Bible has Francoeur listed as a -37(!) defender in right field. Bill James Total Runs suggest Francoeur has saved minus-18 runs as a defender. Fangraphs says he has an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of minus-9.8. Hash it out however you want, the numbers show that Francoeur has been terrible, and the stat that brings it all together, his hitting, fielding and baserunning, is Wins Above Replacement. Using Baseball-Reference's formula for WAR as the measurement, only two outfielders have both qualified for the batting title and had a WAR worse than Francoeur's.
(Through Sunday's games)
Francoeur (2012): Age 28, 485 PA, -3.3 WAR, .647 OPS
Jose Guillen (1997): Age 21, 526 PA, -3.4 WAR, .712 OPS
Lou Piniella (1973): Age 29, 553 PA, -3.4 WAR, .652 OPS
Yep, thats three current or former Royals in the bottom three, though Guillens terrible season happened in Pittsburgh.
Frenchy has a little ways to go if he is to have the worst full season all-time for any position player. Jim Levey currently holds that distinction by putting up a -4.1 WAR as a shortstop for the St. Louis Browns in 1933. A minus -4.1 would seem a little too far out of reach at this point (though anything is possible!), but if Francoeur were to have a -0.2 WAR between now and the end of the season, he would slide into second place all-time for a position player.
Worst WAR Seasons of All-Time
(Note: Must have qualified for batting title)
Milt Stock (1924): -3
Tommy Thevenow (1931): -3.1
John Misse (1914): -3.2
Francoeur (2012): -3.3
Jim Levey (1931): -3.3
Hunter Hill (1904): -3.3
Guillen (1997): -3.4
Piniella (1973): -3.4
Hughie Miller (1914): -3.5
Levey (1933): -4.1
For perspective, San Francisco Giant Melky Cabrera has a +4.7 WAR this season. If the Royals had decided to let Frenchy walk after 2011 and kept Melky for the final season that was left on his contract, the Royals would have a record eight wins better than what they have now, according to WAR. That's the difference between being 56-71 (through Monday) and 64-63. (And that doesn't consider that if the Royals had kept Melky they wouldn't have traded for Jonathan Sanchez and his -1.2 WAR as a Royal.) This leaves Royals fans with a fun question: Would you rather have your team be one game over .500 but have the season derailed by a PED user or be 15 games under .500 and have a really nice guy on your team who buys pizza for fans but is also having one of the worst seasons by a position player of all-time?
Alas, this isn't a question that will change anything. Instead Royals fans must continue to endure one of the two worst seasons in franchise history by a starting player and live with the knowledge the team gave a $36 million contract to the only other outfielder who had a WAR lower than Frenchys -3.3 because he was the only one willing to sign with the team at the time.
That encapsulates being a Royals fan, doesn't it?
| Ben Nielsen, email@example.com