Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local Sports

April 13, 2006

Francoeur needs patience

Patience is a virtue that Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francouer needs in the worst way.

Thursday’s game not withstanding, Francouer has been mired in a horrendous slump to start the season. Through nine games this year, I was only three hits behind the second-year player. His batting average was a paltry .081.

Encouragement was seen Thursday from last year’s National League Rookie of the Year runner-up. He homered in his first at-bat and singled in his second plate appearance. While Francouer popped out in his third at-bat, he did work the count to 3-2, which is significant for the youngster.

Through nine games, Francoeur had three times as many strikeouts (9) as he does hits. Francoeur’s .103 on-base percentage was attributable to his inability to draw walks. He’s yet to walk this year and was issued just 11 free passes in 70 games last season.

In Francouer’s 37 at-bats before Thursday, 21 have come with the count 0-0, 0-1 or 0-2. Only twice had Francoeur been patient enough to work a full count.

Francouer needs to have a better eye and be more patient at the plate. The deeper he can work the count, the better the pitch he is likely to see. While the best place to learn may be on the job in Atlanta, a trip to the bench or a trip back to the minors still may not be a bad move. While it may be premature to judge after only 10 games, it is cause for concern.

In Wednesday night’s game, a dejected Francoeur was consoled in the dugout by injured star Chipper Jones. Fans in Atlanta are starting to boo which is never good for a young player’s psyche.

Francoeur’s slow start could be traced to how he finished last year. While the right fielder started the season with an eye-popping .413 average in July, it slowly dropped to .312 in August, .247 in September and just .111 in October. Coincendentally, Francoeur’s strikeouts increased toward the end of the season and his walks dropped.

There’s no doubting Francouer has the talent to play at the major league level.

His cannon for an arm has already gun down numerous would-be base runners.

Hopefully, Thursday’s performance is a sign of things to come for Francoeur. Like the Braves have been with Francoeur, he needs to be patient at the plate.

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