Interview: Me and Francoeur, on Stats, Leadership & Fans

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Mets OF Jeff Francoeur at the SNY Studio, during which we talked about baseball statistics, his ‘approach at the plate,’ leadership and New York sports fans.

To watch video of my conversation with Francoeur, click here; or read the text below:

Matthew Cerrone: Yesterday, you did a chat with MLB.com, and on it you were asked a question that compared On-Base-Percentage guys to RBI guys, and you said one does one thing, and one does the other.  But, it seems to me you would want to do both.  What is the difference, and what did you mean by that?

Jeff Francoeur: Well, I think you obviously want to do both.  But, you look at a guy that I played with in Atlanta this year, Garrett Anderson, who’s had a heck-of-a career and his OBP isn’t that great.  I think you learn as you go.  I’m still 25 and I’m learning different things, learning the strikezone and hopefully I will continue to get better at that; but, at the same time, I’m not going up there thinking to walk, thinking about this or that, if there is a guy on second or third I’m gonna try to drive him in – that’s my first priority.  Whether I ground out or fly out or whatever, I want to get him in and do my best to help the team.  I think as you learn more you’re OBP goes up; but, I think for me, that’s not something I just think about.  I know to a lot of statistical people OBP seems to be a huge thing… 15 to 20 years ago it wasn’t a big deal… and all of a sudden it is.

Matthew Cerrone: So, for you, does your approach change in certain situations?  Say, you come to bat with nobody on compared to when guys are on, what do you physically or mentally different that makes it different?

Jeff Francoeur: Absolutely, if nobody is on base, do I want to get something going?  Yeah, you wanna be selective and see what you can do.  But, if there’s a guy on third with one out, I’m just trying to hit the ball to second base or to the shortstop if he’s back and get the run in.  And, if that causes my OBP to be 10 points lower than, you know, I’m not that concerned about it.

Matthew Cerrone: As a player, what do you make of things like Sabermetrics and these comprehensive statistics, what do they mean to you as a player?

Jeff Francoeur: Nothing… They were talking about certain guys, I’m not gonna name names, but he was the ‘third-best left fielder of the year,’ and I was like, ‘Where is that?’  It doesn’t go together to me… Let’s talk about your range, and where your playing.  I remember when I was playing with Andruw Jones and he didn’t get to balls over his head, and I’d say, ‘It’s because he was playing second base… and he never saw a ball drop in front of him.’  So, I think it’s different for different people.  Some of that can be good statistical information, but as a player I don’t pay attention to any of that.

Matthew Cerrone: At the same time, do you play Fantasy Football.

Jeff Francoeur: Oh yeah… absolutely.

Matthew Cerrone: So, it’s different when it comes to that, right?

Jeff Francoeur: Oh yeah… absolutely.  I got to know certain things for that.

Matthew Cerrone: The flip side to that is the off-field leadership, clubhouse stuff… Do you feel the idea of a clubhouse leader is overrated, or is that a real thing, is it important?

Jeff Francoeur: That’s a real thing… I think you’ve got to have guys in there who you look to in certain situations when things get tough, when things are going good, who can pick things up.  I’ve always said that has to be a position player… You have to have a guy who is out there every day, playing and battling.

Matthew Cerrone: So, aside from being a position player, what makes a good leader?

Jeff Francoeur: Someone who is very consistent, not just in their play, but, if they go 0–for-4 they’re not gonna not talk to you for a few days… Really, a guy who’s in the dugout helping players along, not the guy who strikes out and puts his head down at the end of the dugout, a guy rooting for guys, not a rah-rah guy, but a guy who’s letting guys know their doing a good job.

Matthew Cerrone: Can you give me an example of a player, whether with the Braves or the Mets, that you played with, that fans might not value because we don’t see it, but it was something you saw in that person?

Jeff Francoeur: For instance, one of my closest buddies in baseball, Mark DeRosa, you watch him and what he does in Chicago.  I mean, look at what happened in Chicago this year, when guys like DeRosa and Kerry Wood were gone.  It wasn’t that much different of a team, it was almost the same guys from before, if anything they thought they upgraded.  My point is, you ask guys like Derrek Lee, ask him who’s the heart and soul of that team, and they’ll tell you it was DeRosa and Wood and they let them go.

Matthew Cerrone: Lastly, as a fan, how did your view of Mets fans change from when you were with the Braves to when you were traded to the Mets?

Jeff Francoeur: It didn’t change at all… I love playing here because it was a high-energy place, because the fans expect you to win and I love that.  The fans are good in Atlanta, but it’s a college sports town, you get 15,000 people at a game.  Whereas here, even at the end of last season, we had 30,000, 40,000 fans at the game.