I noticed that this year Maikel Franco had walked in his first 4 games and only one since, and that he had hit 8 of his 10 doubles in his first 10 games (he has played 25). So I set out to find out why Franco appeared to be low on power and expected to find some problems similar to those he has experienced in the past two seasons, but I encountered a much different phenomenon.
Lets first recap where we have been as I have written and said a good deal about Maikel Franco over the past two seasons (heat maps from MLBfarm).
Here is 2013:
We see some very obvious pull tendencies, but beyond just hitting to the left side we see this batted ball distribution.
Now there is some potential discrepancies between FB and LD based on how home runs are classified as well as how balls that are caught in the OF can be classified, so I only want to dwell on the GB rate vs the others. As I have mentioned in pieces, the main reason for this is that his swing length coupled with his great bat speed and hand eye coordination leads to poor contact.
Already in 2015 the ground ball rate has plummeted and line drives and fly balls are up. It has shown in the high doubles rate, and here is the full year heat map.
We can already see more to the opposite way, but lets break this down even more and look at just after those first 10 games, to where he now has only 3 XBHs in the 15 games.
Even less pull contact and more up the middle and the other way, but lets not just look at the hot sheet, lets look at some numbers. I divided the field into two quandrants, pull (LF, SS, 3B) and middle/opposite (1B, 2B, CF, RF), and then excluded balls to the pitcher and catcher, and here is are breakdown of outfield and infield.
|Pull Infield||Pull Outfield||Mid/Opp Infield||Mid/Opp Outfield|
|2015 (last 15)||20||10||26||40|
Now there is a connection between power and pull side, Franco has 49 home runs over the past 3 seasons and only 4 of them have been to the right of center field. So this is not to say that Franco should move to an opposite feel approach for all balls in play. But showing the ability to hit the ball the other way is an important part of Franco’s growth. On a simple level it will make it hard for teams to shift him in the majors. However, more than that it shows a level of approach and hitting that allows for him to manipulate his contact to go with pitches. These are all things that are going to be important for Franco at the major league level. The next step in the process will be showing the ability to combine the different aspects of his game into a single approach to adjust off of.
This is a good example of why looking at minor league stats to show what a player is doing is a dangerous thing to do, because their goals may not always be the same as we want them to be.
Photo by Cheryl Pursell