How would you rate Frank Francisco’s first five weeks?

Frank Francisco came on in the ninth inning last night and retired the side in order to pick up his eighth save of the year, looking pretty good in the process. Five weeks into his Mets tenure – how do you feel about Francisco as the team’s closer? Do you feel pretty good or do you get a sick feeling in your stomach when he strides into the game?

A closer’s worth is judged primarily on his ability to get the final three outs of a tight game. So far this year, Francisco has closed the door and picked up the save in eight of his nine opportunities. In a season where 14 teams have switched closers (some due to injury) since Spring Training began, the Mets seem to be in good hands with a healthy closer with an 89 percent success ratio.

If we go back to last year, we see Francisco Rodriguez was successful on 23 of his 26 save chances (88 percent) before he was dealt to the Brewers. Jason Isringhausen did well, converting seven of eight (88 percent) save chances. But Bobby Parnell struggled as the team’s closer, as he nailed down just six of 10 (60 percent) of his save chances.

It was Parnell’s results in his six week audition in the closer’s role which primarily led Sandy Alderson to focus so much on the bullpen in the offseason. The results have been mixed, as Mets relievers have the 14th-worst ERA (4.57) and WHIP (1.533) in the 16-team NL. Yet Francisco has brought stability to the ninth inning.

However, if you examine Francisco as a pitcher rather than a closer, the numbers are far less impressive. In 14 G covering 13 IP, he has a 5.54 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP. Francisco’s 4.29 xFIP ranks last among the 13 relievers with at least six saves, and he is one of three players in this group to have a negative fWAR.

Rodriguez gave up earned runs in five of six appearances between April 18th and April 29th. Let’s look at those games:

4/18 – After not pitching in five days, Rodriguez came on in the 8th inning of a game in which the Mets trailed by six runs and he allowed two more, both earned.
4/20 – Came on in a tied game in the 10th inning, gave up a leadoff walk and eventually an RBI single to Hector Sanchez to take the loss.
4/21 – Came on in the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead, faced four batters and gave up two singles and a walk before being replaced. Jon Rauch allowed two inherited runners to score, leaving Francisco with 3 ER.
4/24 – Picked up his fourth save of the year and did not allow a run.
4/28 – Came on in the ninth with a 7-4 lead, gave up a solo HR to Dexter Fowler but picked up his fifth save.
4/29 – Came on in the 10th with a 5-4 lead and gave up a solo HR to Carlos Gonzalez to pick up the blown save. He escaped further damage and was awarded the win when the Mets scored in the 11th.

*****

Do you have any idea what Sanchez, Fowler, Gonzalez and three of the four batters he faced on 4/21 have in common? They all batted from the left side. This year LHB have a 1.056 OPS against Francisco despite a .292 BABIP. Last year, Francisco limited RHB to a .568 OPS but LHB posted an .819 mark against him.

A closer who cannot get out LHB is potentially a big problem for the Mets, especially with just one lefty reliever on the squad. With Raul Ibanez gone and both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the DL, the Phillies are not nearly as lefty-heavy as they have been the past few years. Still, when Francisco retired the side in order last night, he faced two guys batting from the left side of the plate. However they were switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, both with a sub .550 OPS this year versus RHP.

While Francisco escaped last night, the Braves’ lineup is stacked with lefties and the Nationals with Bryce Harper called up from the minors, have a bunch of LHB, too. For the most part, Francisco has gotten the job done in save situations this year. But with a pronounced problem versus lefties, it is easy to imagine some rough outings in the future.

12 comments for “How would you rate Frank Francisco’s first five weeks?

  1. Chris
    May 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I cringe…and cringe some more.

    (on the other hand, last night he looked great as did Acosta)

  2. Mack Ade
    May 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Brian:

    I would say… okay.

    My guess is either Jon Rauch or, possibly, Jenrry Mejia will end the season as the Mets closer.

    Mejia is scheduled to start in St. Lucie on Wednesday.

    Mack

    • May 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      There will be flying monkeys who can deliver hits with the bases loaded for the Mets before they have Rauch be their closer for an extended period of time.

      • Mack Ade
        May 10, 2012 at 8:59 am

        I see flying monkeys every morning after I take my meds….

        • May 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

          Glad to hear they’re giving you the good stuff!

          I did chuckle to myself that Rauch got the save that night after I wrote that post. But then he gave up a run in his next outing and the world seemed normal…

  3. jerseymet
    May 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Francisco reminds me of Benitez. His body language is so similar. I feal Sandy paid too much for him. I would love to see the Mets unload him before he implodes. The man I would love to see as our closer is Dickey. He has the attitude and is lights out the first few times through the batting order. Bring him in for 3 and four innning saves twice or three times a week. We could probably get by with an old time 10 man staff. Allowing for lots of bats off the bench. Just picture him walking into the music of the imperial empire. LOVE IT.

    • May 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      I like your ideas and want to subscribe to your newsletter!

      Seriously, it would be a fantastic thing to see an MLB club try something like this. The Mets just don’t have the SP (yet) to give up Dickey as a starter. Plus, he needs to throw a no-hitter first.

      I don’t mind the cash the Mets paid for Francisco. It’s enough to make him stand out among his bullpen mates yet not enough to feel bad about yanking him from the role if he stinks.

  4. Metsense
    May 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I get nervous when he comes in but he does do what a closer is supposed to do. Last year the season unraveled because those last three outs could not be had. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull him if he got in a jam and a lefty was coming up and go to Byrdak.Fransisco is just a bridge until someone in the system develops. The Mets need a second lefty in the bullpen (not another loogy) that can cover the 7th inning vs LHB and RHB.
    Jerseymet has a unique idea for when (if) the Mets are stockpiled at starting pitching in the future. Dickey could probably pitch until he’s 50!

  5. May 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    After this weekend in Miami, I’d rate it HORRIBLE!

  6. Chris F
    May 13, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I return to my first comment…CRINGE. and CRINGE SOME MORE.

    Help me fellow Mets fans. Im not happy right now.

    Sure, I have plenty of bad things to say about the pen — Francisco in particular, who can say all he wants about “fighting for the team in every outing,” but the facts are simple, he has little control and pitches ball after ball and gives up hit after hit, run after run. There is not much nice to say about any part of the pen outside Byrdak.

    No, after what I saw today, my rant is directed right at the Skipper, who lost this game. The second I heard “pinch hit” for Niese, my stomach grumbled, and when they said it was Ike, I nearly fell out of my chair. Really? Our starter, pitching a shut out and had settled down after a shaky start, still had another inning for sure, and a two run lead. So pinch hit with a guy scrubbed with the flu and who, by the way, has the coldest bat on the team. I said out loud it was a bit of a risk with Baxter, but when they announced Ike, I knew the game was over. Here’s a guy with little hope to get a hit (and boy that tapper was nice eh?) and then surrendering the mound to a group of failures with a collective ERA that would guarantee any runs Ike might drive in would be balanced the runs given up…and so i was right. Predictable like the tides. I cant see the rationale at all at pulling Niese. He was rolling and even at 99 pitches a better option than anyone he could slot in. Terry lost this game and Im most unhappy that this was crappy decisions from the top step.

  7. AL
    May 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Terry lost this game, I will never consider Francisco as a closer, he can be 7 to 8 inning pitching, Rauch can be the closer or Parner.

  8. Metsense
    May 14, 2012 at 8:04 am

    This weekend in Miami he stopped doing what he is supposed to do. How do you improve a bullpen in season with no apparent replacements in the minors? Based on merit, for now, does Rauch close, Parnell get the 8th and Byrdak LOOGY in those two innings? That leaves Fransisco, Ramirez, Acosta for the 7th. Hopefully those three can get straightened out but I have not seen Wharthen capable of finding the adjustments that need to be made.

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