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Why Jeff Francoeur the pitcher is important

Jeff Francoeur is known as a fan favorite across many teams, but recently people also remember him for pitching two innings with the Phillies last year.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Francoeur's lone outing with the Philadelphia Phillies last year wasn't necessarily the most ideal, only because the bullpen phone was off the hook and he tired quickly.

Last week, Francoeur signed a minor league deal with the team who drafted him, the Atlanta Braves. Naturally, he's signed as an outfielder. But, that shouldn't discount why Francoeur as a pitcher is more than a spectacle.

But, just why is Jeff Francoeur as a pitcher so important? For one, it's analogous with life and career changes. Going from playing a position and then switching to pitcher is not an easy feat, just as changing careers from, say, accountant to doctor is not easy.

Second, it's entertaining, yes. It's something that people can relate to, and also something that can get people to forget the doldrums of the day. And that's fun. Fun doesn't necessarily make it a spectacle.

According to FanGraphs, Francoeur used to pitch in high school. Minor League Ball says that at the time, his scouting report listed that he had a strong throwing arm. That strong throwing arm never went away, and he started pitching for the first time at a professional level in 2014, at the age of 30. 30! At that point, he hadn't thrown since he was in high school — so that's 12 years right there.

In eight games, he threw 7.1 innings with AAA El Paso (San Diego). The numbers alone show that over time, with more opportunities, Francoeur put up better stats. Correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation, however.

Team Level Age ERA H K BB H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP BABIP
El Paso AAA 30 3.68 7 5 4 8.6 6.1 4.9 1.2 6.97 .300
Phillies MLB 31 9.00 1 1 3 4.5 4.5 13.5 4.5 14.63 .000

Small sample size, of course, but an even smaller sample size shows that there could've been potential to do better, with more chances to do better. Similarly, that's another way to relate baseball to life.

Pitch Type Count Freq Velo (mph)
Fourseam 21 44.68% 84.94
Sinker 23 48.94% 87.30
Slider 3 6.38% 72.63

Brooks Baseball lists Francoeur's pitch types as a four-seam fastball, a sinker, and a slider, with the sinker having a higher velocity than the four seam. For a 30-31 year old who hadn't pitched since high school, that's not bad at all. Nowhere near being a regular Major League reliever, but in a pinch, he was not bad. Sure, the Phillies should not have left him in for that second inning and leaving the bullpen phone off the hook was bad, but Francoeur put some effort into it.

Francoeur tried, and he may not have succeeded, but he tried. If that's not an analogy to taking risks and not passing up opportunities in life, I don't know what is.

Information and statistics from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball.

Jen Mac Ramos is a Contributing Writer for Beyond the Box Score. Their work can also be found at Purple Row, BP Wrigleyville, and FanRag Sports. You can find them on Twitter at @jenmacramos.