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Entries in ben francisco (2)

Wednesday
Mar162011

Could Francisco Pull a Bautista?

The question was posed on our facebook page whether Philadelphia Phillies' outfielder Ben Francisco could have similar success as Jose Bautista by implementing the same hitting techniques that the Blue Jays slugger did last season.  Successful hitting takes into account a whole bunch of different things.  It's nearly impossible to predict whether one batter's style could work for another player.  Jose Bautista clearly had the ability to produce power numbers at the plate prior to his 2010 season; he just needed to tweak his approach and the rest was history.

Whether Ben Francisco can make a similar adjustment and begin to produce better power numbers is anyone's guess.  Although, it is interesting to note that Francisco and pre-2010 Bautista do have similar numbers.  In 2009, Francisco hit .257/.332/.447 in 459 PA.  Bautista: .235/.349/.408 in 404 PA.  Their 2009 heat maps are also very similar.

(click to enlarge)
Bautista's new plate approach made him a terror to right-handed pitchers, producing a 1.030 OPS.  Francisco has, for the most part, fared equally against righties and lefties over the last 3 years (.753/.789 OPS respectively). Francisco does seem to generate most of his power on pitches inside, a quality shared by Bautista.

Ben Francisco 2008-10

(click to enlarge)

Adopting the hitting changes Bautista made working with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy may help Francisco.  But again, one style of hitting does not work for every player.  Francisco is more of a free swinger than Bautista, and as a result, his walk rate is much lower.  In the last 3 years, Francisco has chased 5% more balls out of the strike zone than Jose Bautista.  As a result, he's put up a .328 OBP.  Changing his swing may help generate more power, but Francisco will need to improve his ability to identify strikes in order to raise his on base percentage.  Otherwise, pitchers will avoid throwing close to the plate knowing Francisco is more likely to chase pitches out of the zone.

Wednesday
Oct202010

Raul Ibanez and the Fastball

Phillies fans are well aware of Raul Ibanez's struggles at the dish during the 2010 post-season. In 25 plate appearances, the left fielder has a triple-slash line of .130/.200/.174. During the regular season, he set a career-low in wOBA among the seasons in which he was a regular starter (since 2002), at .341.

These struggles come after a torrid first half of the 2009 season when he had an OPS of 1.015 and seemed to be on his way to some MVP votes. However, during the second half, he fizzled, OPSing only .774. A good portion of his troubles are likely explained by his left groin strain that sidelined him for 23 days from June 18 to July 11. Since that injury, Ibanez simply has not been the same.

Having watched Ibanez in his time as a Phillie, I have noticed his problems with fastballs. At 38 years old, it seems like his bat speed has been in decline and thus has been rather helpless trying to make solid contact on fastballs. The following images show his in-play slugging percentage on fastballs, the first showing data from April 5 to June 13, 2009 and the second showing everything since.


Ibanez's in-play slug on fastballs, 4/5/09 to 6/13/09

Ibanez's in-play slug on fastballs since 6/14/09

Ibanez has become more of a low-and-inside fastball hitter, a typical area for left-handed hitters. He no longer dominates as much area towards the high and outside part of the plate.

Even worse, Ibanez has also become much less effective against "soft" pitches. Using the same time periods as above:

Ibanez's in-play slug on "soft" pitches, 4/5/09 to 6/13/09

Ibanez's in-play slug on fastballs, since 6/14/09

Given the sample size of the first image, there is obviously going to be some regression to the mean, but overall, Ibanez's recognition of soft stuff has rapidly declined. Additionally, his coverage of the outside part of the plate has been reduced to one small area high and outside but inside the strike zone.

On my blog, I suggested that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel should, at the very least, use Ben Francisco as a defensive replacement in left field late in games. However, this analysis leads me to believe that an outright lineup change in Game Four of the NLCS is imperative, since the Giants will be using left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Ibanez, who performs worse against lefties than Francisco, has been on a precipitous decline. It would behoove the Phillies to admit this before it is too late.