Opinion

The Royals can win with Francoeur in right field

A friend and former coworker is convinced the Royals won’t be all they could be this year because of right fielder Jeff Francoeur.

This friend (let’s call him Ben), texted to say the Royals can't make the playoffs if Francoeur has a negative-3 WAR and plays 140 games.

To which I say: wrong.

It is misguided to base the Royals’ chances solely on the 2012 WAR from one player, no matter how much you may personally dislike him*. There are other worrisome spots in the lineup, but the Royals won't sink or swim on Frenchy alone.

*

And Ben must really dislike Frenchy if he thinks Francoeur will become the 10th player in baseball history to post a negative-3 WAR while qualifying for a batting title, according to Baseball Reference

Depending on your source for last year’s WAR numbers (FanGraphs or Baseball Reference), Francoeur was either the worst player in baseball or near the bottom. Not surprisingly, the players who are in Frenchy’s WAR neighborhood are on both lists.

However ... those guys were in the playoffs last year.

Wait, what?

If your argument is that the Royals can’t win because one of their players is too big a liability, then why did the Rangers make the playoffs with Michael Young in the lineup? He played in 156 games and had 651 plate appearances.

According to FanGraphs, Young’s WAR was the worst in baseball, just a bit shoddier than Frenchy’s (negative-1.4 to negative-1.2). Baseball Reference’s calculations had Young slightly ahead of last-place Frenchy (negative-2.4 to negative-2.7).

Say what you want about the Rangers’ talent base, it doesn’t matter. The argument is solely about the inability to make the playoffs when one player’s WAR drags down the entire team. It’s false to believe the postseason is unattainable with a terrible player in the lineup.

Heck, the two other players in Frenchy’s WAR neighborhood from last season were both Tigers*. Brennan Boesch (FanGraphs: negative-1.3/Baseball Reference: negative-1.4) had 503 plate appearances in 132 games for Detroit. His teammate Delmon Young (FanGraphs: negative-0.7/Baseball Reference: negative-1.2) played in 151 games and had 608 plate appearances.

*You may recall that the Tigers won the AL Central.

Again, you can talk about the respective talent levels of the Tigers and Royals. Or how the Tigers knew they had to replace Boesch with Torii Hunter. But if you believe Eric Hosmer*, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, et al, are ready to turn around the Royals’ fortunes, then you must think they can overcome a subpar Frenchy and make a playoff push.

*If you think WAR is the end-all, you know how badly Hosmer struggled in 2012.

And who knows? Francoeur could surprise Royals fans this year.

There is no question Francoeur had a terrible 2012 season. But if we’re strictly looking at WAR, he had a 2.7 (on the positive side) in 2011, according to Baseball Reference. That followed positive numbers in 2010 with the Mets and Rangers and a split in 2009 with the Mets (1.5 in 75 games) and Braves (negative-0.4 in 82 games).

Francoeur is not a graybeard. He turns 29 on Tuesday, and you have to believe he’ll be motivated to remove last season’s bad taste from his mouth while also playing for a new contract.

I believe one reason some fans were so upset with the Royals trade of Wil Myers was the realization that they would have to watch Francoeur again this year. But relax, the Royals can win with Frenchy in right field.

The statistics tell us so.

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