Postseason Grades: Jeff Francoeur

The Postseason Grades series continues with a look at Jeff Francoeur.

Sigh. What is there to say about Jeff Francoeur? The numbers are ugly: 63 PA, .194/.206/.226, 2 extra-base hits (both doubles), one walk, twelve strikeouts. He was so bad. By this time next year, you will likely have forgotten Francoeur was ever on the Giants. Do you ever play the “who can name the more obscure Giant?” game with your friends? I sure do. In five or ten years, you will win that game if you can remember Jeff Francoeur.

The circumstances that led to his signing are defensible. He was good in 2011, and he’s been good against lefties in his career. With Andres Torres starting in center field after the injury to Angel Pagan, the team needed a right-handed platoon partner for Gregor Blanco in left field. The odds of Francoeur contributing significantly to the Giants in 2013 were long, but what did the team have left to lose? They had just completed a 10-17 June and they were 1-6 so far in July. They were in fourth in the NL West, 6.5 games out of first.

Brian Sabean and the front office were in a desperate situation. Instead of gutting the farm – like they did in 2011 to acquire Carlos Beltran – they decided to roll the dice of a few different long shots. Jeff Francoeur was one of those long shots. I can’t fault the thought process, even though it didn’t work out.

Besides, I personally have a soft spot for Francoeur, one of the good guys in the sport. I write up a paragraph about why, but Joe Posnanski has already done a far better job of that than I could:

Jeff Francoeur is one of the greatest guys in baseball. Everybody thinks so. He’s always smiling. He’s always friendly. On the field, he always tries. Lord, he tries. Runs out those grounders. Throws home with gusto. Off the field he’s always doing something cool like signing an autograph or chatting up a kid or appearing at a charity event or helping a teammate or talking to a young reporter who was nervously looking for someone to talk with. When you’re a kid, you might imagine how you would act as a big league ballplayer — and you would probably be imagining the life of Jeff Francoeur.

Well, you probably would imagine yourself a better hitter — which is the real life part of the story.

Francoeur will probably catch on with someone next year – he always seems to. He’ll likely toil away in AAA, or maybe he’ll have a hot spring and make a 25-man roster somewhere. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jeff Francoeur. I just hope it’s the last we’ve seen of him in a SF Giants jersey.

Grades:

Britt: GDIP

Reuben: lol

Nathan: D

Overall: D

Advertisements

Postseason Grades: Kensuke Tanaka

Our series continues as Nathan looks at Kensuke Tanaka.

If he didn’t have such a great story, Kensuke Tanaka is exactly the kind of player you would forget about as soon as he was gone. You can’t sum up Tanaka’s season by looking at his stats (34 PA, .267/.353/.267); if I tried this wouldn’t be a very long article. Tanaka’s 2013 wasn’t about the stats; it wasn’t about the 15 games he played in, the 21 days he spent on the active roster, or the 0.3 WAR he contributed. It was about the culmination of a 14-year long journey, and a dream realized.

From a baseball operations standpoint, Tanaka was little more than a shot in the dark. When he signed with the Giants in January, Tanaka was a 31-year-old international free agent who had played the first 13 years of his career for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. A career .286/.356/.384 hitter in Japan, he was brought in to compete for the backup second base job, along with Wilson Valdez, Tony Abreu, and Nick Noonan. He didn’t get the job and went to Fresno, where he split time between second base and left field. He was called up on July 9th, and appeared as a left fielder and pinch hitter until he was sent back down on July 29th. Unfortunately, he was not brought up when rosters expanded in September.

Tanaka reportedly passed up a guaranteed contract worth $3 million in Japan to sign a minor league contract with the Giants. When asked why he would give up a guaranteed contract for a minor league deal with the Giants, he said “I wanted to learn the culture of America, I wanted to play baseball here. And I wanted a challenge.” (From an Andrew Baggarly column last spring.) Tanaka met that challenge head-on and gave it everything he had, even switching to a position he hadn’t played since 2006 in order to get a shot. A shot is what he earned, and he made the most of it, even getting a few highlight-reel plays in the process.

Listen to crowd in that second clip. Watch as the relief, exhilaration, and joy wash over his face. First career hits are often fun highlights to watch, but Tanaka’s has something special.

It feels a bit strange to end this post with our grades of Tanaka’s season, because his season wasn’t about the grade. On one hand, he was a largely-forgettable second-baseman-turned-outfielder. On the other, his season was the triumphant culmination of a life spent playing baseball, one that peaked with 21 days at the top of the baseball world. My hat is off to you, Kensuke Tanaka. Congratulations.

Nathan: B-

Reuben: C

Britt: C

Overall: C+

Bowkermania Spreads To Japan!

Photo by dwighta3 on Flickr

Former shining hope of the future of the Giants’ offense John Bowker has been released, according to numerous reports around the vast web of tubes (here’s the Phillies’ official statement). Bowker is reportedly planning to pursue an opportunity with a professional team in Japan.

In his first season with the Giants in 2008, Bowker managed to hit 10 home runs and 14 doubles good for 43 RBI, leading to an epidemic of the highly infectious Bowkermania throughout the Bay Area. Unfortunately, Bowker hit just five more home runs in a Giants uniform over the next year and a half and put up an OBP that would have made him only moderately successful had it been his batting average instead and was shipped off to the Pirates, along with one of my favorites, Joe Martinez, for Javier Lopez at the 2010 trade deadline. The case could certainly be made that, without Javy, the Giants wouldn’t have won the World Series, so in a backwards kind of way, he was partially responsible for the glory of 2010. If you squint and tilt your head just right.

In any event, best of luck to Bowker. We’ll always have a fondness for you, kiddo, and don’t forget to hit up Ryan Vogelsong for some packing tips before you head off to the Far East.