May
20

Ben Francisco and numbered days

By

The Yankees were hit hard by injuries and setbacks in Spring Training, forcing them to mine the scrap heap for stopgap solutions in the weeks and days leading up to Opening Day. One position that needed to be addressed since the end of last season was a right-handed hitting complement for their three-lefty outfield. Andruw Jones played his way out of New York in the second half and finding a replacement was near the top of the offseason agenda.

Brian Cashman & Co. flirted with pretty much all available options during the winter, including free agent Scott Hairston and trade target Vernon Wells. The team eventually acquired Wells from the Angels, but not until the very end of camp, when injuries left the team without a left fielder and the lineup devoid of power. It wasn’t until the very end of the offseason that the Yankees imported Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz on minor league contracts to compete for Andruw’s role.

Neither guy made the cut as New York instead opted to take Ben Francisco north after he was released by the Indians. Since youngsters like Melky Mesa, Thomas Neal, and Zoilo Almonte had little chance of making the veteran-loving Yankees, Francisco’s relative youth and defensive competence won him the job over Rivera and Diaz.

So far this year, the 31-year-old Francisco has hit just .114/.220/.182 (12 wRC+) overall, including a measly 3-for-34 (16 wRC+) against left-handers. Three-for-34! A southpaw-heavy schedule allowed the Yankees to start Francisco in eight of 12 games at one point last month, and he responded with three singles in 25 at-bats. Worst of all, he batted either second or fifth in seven of those eight games.

“He’s struggled,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand two weeks ago. “He’s had some good at-bats, and he’s struggled somewhat. You don’t want a guy to feel like every at-bat is the end of the world. Just go out and play and take care of what you can take care of, and that’s really all you can do. Go out and have good at-bats … Just go out and have good at-bats.”

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Are 40 plate appearances against lefties and 50 plate appearances against all pitchers a big, meaningful sample? No, but players on the right-handed half of a platoon aren’t privy to big samples. They get 200, maybe 250 plate appearances in a given season. There’s no guarantee Francisco will get enough playing time to see his .125 BABIP (.080 vs. LHP) return to his career .287 (.267 vs. LHP) average. Girardi is loyal to his players and has given Francisco every opportunity to bust out of this slump so far, but he has shown zero signs of snapping out of it.

“Just in terms of your fan comments section, just say I’m holding onto him to piss everybody off,” said Brian Cashman to reporters over the weekend before going on to acknowledge the team always looks for upgrades and will pounce if a better right-handed hitting outfielder becomes available. Cashman is a great quote and he has an 80 troll tool, but he’s no idiot. He knows Francisco and the lack of a quality right-handed bat — the Yankees are hitting .228/.299/.359 (75 wRC+) against lefties this year — is a major issue right now.

None of the team’s righty bats in Triple-A are distinguishing themselves right now — Mesa is striking out in over 40% of his plate appearances while Neal and Zoilo own .739 and .623 OPSes against lefties, respectively — so any solution will likely have to come from outside the organization. The trade market should start to heat up with June on the horizon, but Francisco’s time has come. We’ve seen enough to know a replacement is needed regardless of who is on the DL and when they’re scheduled to be activated.

Categories : Bench
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I’m still pulling for Ben to have his “Yankee Moment” before they jettison him into space, where future generations can study him.

    An ultimate game-winning HR in Baltimore will do.

    • trr

      I’d settle for just moving a runner up….seriously, it would be nice for him to have a positive moment….just one?

  • TQStormrider6

    Great song! I always thought Joe was the metal guy, but I’m glad to see you’re filling in that role as well. You do awesome work, Mike!

  • fabricio

    i know musty isn’t doing good in AAA but maybe give him a chance

    • greg

      i have to think they are just waiting for musty to get right in aaa. hes been hitting better after a bad start. i have to assume once he starts hitting like he did last year hes gonna get the call up. on the other hand we have so many guys on the 60 dl maybe they dont want to have to call up musty only to dfa him when tex/jeter/pineda/cervelli/arod come off the 60 day

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        Unless Tex or Youk have a significant setback, I don’t think they’d add Musty to the 40-man for such a small, temporary role.

  • CountryClub

    I think he’s gone whenever the next righty hitter comes off the DL. I guess that would be Youk or Teix. Once one of those guys comes back they can let Francisco go and keep Adams up as the righty DH/pinch hitter. And then, logically, Adams would get sent down when the next guy comes back.

  • Dalek Jeter

    Ugh…if I have to hear/read Girardi say that Francisco has had good ABs much more I might go insane. His ABs, approach, contact, just about everything have been laughably bad.

    • WhittakerWalt

      Yeah, THIS exactly. His ABs are shit. I know Joe has to try saying something positive, but that ain’t it.

  • Bill

    A couple notes:
    -Francisco has historically never had great splits against lefties. He’s a pretty balanced hitter who actually does slightly better against righties.
    -Francisco has DH’d most games he’s played and now with 4 capable OF’s all of whom have experience at all 3 OF positions his defensive flexibility is completely null.

    Personally I thought the Yankees would’ve and should’ve kept Nelson even after the Brignac acquisition. He’s got better numbers over his career against lefties than Francisco. And if needed the team still has Nix as a 5th OF option.

    Although either way the Yankees still need another righty bat (who can hit lefties).

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    Cashman’s quote is the greatest thing ever.

    • Jon G

      Clearly Cashman trolls the blogs every now and again, especially after he’s got a beer or two in him and is looking for some fun…

      • Dalek Jeter

        Maybe he’s one of the trolls among us…

        • trr

          he could be anyone….Eddard….Tilapia…OR YOU DALEK JETER!

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    The whole “we need to find a right handed bat!” mentality is what’s got us in this mess to begin with. Someone, and I don’t know if its Girardi, Cashman, both, or someone else, has decided that solely by virtue of being right handed, Ben Francisco can hit left handed pitching. There is no evidence to back this up.

    The Yankees need to find people who can hit left handed pitching. I don’t care if he’s left handed, right handed or stands on his head up there. Instead of limiting the search to people who happen to be right handed, lets just look for anyone who can help.

    • Dalek Jeter

      There’s this guy…he’s got a career .255/.359/.447 batting line, a wOBA of .353 and a wRC+ of 117 against LHP. I think the Yankees should look into playing him against all but the toughest lefties, especially because he’s their lefty DH already. (psst guys I’m talking about Travis Hafner)

  • Eddard

    I’m sure he’s a great guy and there’s a little Ben Francisco in some of us, but he has to go. He’s of no use speed wise. He’s of no use defensively. He’s of no use offensively. So what use is he? Call anyone up from the minors even if he’s a specialist. At least a one dimensional player has a dimension, Francisco has nothing. Cut him and let the Os pick him up to bat behind Pearce.

    • trr

      Eddard, I don’t think you and I agree too often, so I better seize this opportunity to second your comments.

  • mitch

    I think he’s the next one to go regardless of who comes back first. I’d rather see Nix at short and Noony DH against lefties than Francisco.

  • I’mVernonI’mVernon4U

    80 troll tool. Haha

    • THC Mondesi

      ^Cashman.

    • Pseudoyanks

      Damn you beat me too it. I’m still laughing out loud.

  • Robert

    With both Zmont and Melky Mesa on the 40 man maybe you might catch lightning in a bottle with one of them by giving them a chance.
    Odds are both will be jettisoned by next year and both will be in the bigs with a team like Houston or Miami…..

    • mitch

      It’s too limited a role for Zoilo. I’d rather see him play full time in AAA because he seems to be the only guy who could potentially become a regular. If any of Neal, Mesa, or Mustelier start hitting, i’d definitely make the swap.

  • hogsmog

    I’M PISSED OFF.

  • high heat

    “He’s had some good at-bats”

    I guess I missed those, Joe.

    He’s looked like absolute dog shit for every single AB I’ve seen, apart from that HR which is looking more and more like an outlier.

  • Robert

    Overbay bating clean up tonite,5 straight lefties for Freddy to start the game.
    Gotta like Romine now that he is getting a chance…..

  • JLC 776

    I really though Francisco would do a lot better than this. I watched him a lot when he was with the Phillies and he didn’t seem half bad back then.

    Holy shit was I wrong.

  • Tom

    Crazy question: Why does the right handed bat need to be a 5th OF? Especially without Jeter, why not carry 2 backup IF’s?

    I think when Youk gets back they should just switch to 2 backup IF’s and go with 4 OF’s and get rid of Francisco. Youk, Adams, Nix, Brignac. This would also give them a little more flexibility in sitting Overbay against lefties and still have an additional middle infielder on the bench if they need to hit for say the SS late in the game.

    The other option could be Musty who can kind of fill both OF/IF roles (granted not with stellar defense)

  • Ben Francisco

    Hey…I’m with you guys. I should’ve been DFA’d a looooong time ago! But hey, such is life when you have unbelievable talent incriminating information on the owners of the franchise a “prolonged slump“. Let’s play ball in Toronto Boston Baltimore tonight! That’s where we are right?! I can never remember as I am drunk during the games don’t really pay attention to what’s going on travel with the team a lot over the course of 162 games and it’s hard to keep track of where we are playing on any given day. I’ll be in the clubhouse on the bench waiting for my turn, laughing my ass off staying warm and loose, and earning a free paycheck rooting on my Toronto Houston Tampa Bay New York Mets Yankees teammates! Let’s score a lot of touchdowns runs tonight!!

    • vicki

      applause!

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    he hits lefties 33% better…he’s a lock against LHP.

  • ….

    This problem is going to work itself out fairly easily in the coming weeks. The Yanks aren’t seeking top 5 player to fill this righty/back-up void. They have some really nice depth with pitching. Kick and scream all you want that it WON’T happen, but the Yanks have Joba, Hughes and Nova, just to start, that could be offered up for trade. One, two or possibly all three, will in fact be traded. Guaranteed. All three are ultimately of little use to the Yanks long term at this point and all three are valuable in a market that is incredibly short of product and in high demand. You’re not get Stanton, not even close, but one or two easily bring back a Morse type player. I expect Cashman to be very busy with some trades in the coming weeks. I don’t think we should hold out for anything huge, mainly for the reason they just can’t. Meaning we shouldn’t expect Giancarlo Stanton. What will they do with Ichiro? Just release him? Trust me, that isn’t happening at all. There’s a business element that remains. Anything we see in the outfield for 2013 is either a complementary piece or something that is a righty platoon for Hafner at DH. I don’t see the Yanks “seeking out” a future outfielder when they are already deep at those positions. That’s an off season move if anything.

    If Cashman can move a few pieces around and land Michael Morse and nice young arm to stock in the minors for a season or two from now, I’m all for it.

  • msammy

    Enough is enough this guy needs to get the axe…

    He’s a bum.

    If you agree sign this petition:

    http://www.ipetitions.com/peti.....cisco-now/