Frank Franciso: A Rest from Closing, or put a Close to Resting?

After the Mets 8-4 loss to the Marlins on May 13th, costing them a series due to a Blown Save by Frank Francisco in game 1 and an all-but-statistical Blown Save in game 3, a decision is currently being made reportedly by Terry Collins and staff of whether a change is needed in the closer’s role and in the pen overall.

Franc Frank is sweating is out while waiting for Collins’ decision regarding Closer Role.

 

Many fans are calling for Jon Rauch, aka The Wookie per Keith Hernandez

Jon Rauch

Jon Rauch; seen here while pitching for the Washington Nationals

back in his Washington days, to take over the role. It’s easy to see why. Frank Francisco has struggled, posting a 1-3 record with 8 saves, 2 blown saves, and a whopping 8.56 era in 16 games. Meanwhile Rauch has posted a 3-1 record with 1 save, 2 blown saves, and a 2.93 era in 16 games. He’s given up 5 runs total.

While Rauch career has primarily been as a set up man, he does have experience closing, although the results are mixed.

In 2011, he was a temporary closer for the Blue Jays, with 11 saves and 5 blown saves.

2010 was arguably his best year in the role. With the Minnesota Twins he had a 3-1 record with 21 saves and only 4 blown saves. His 3.41 ERA was his best for a full season. He also had 17 saves and a 2.98 ERA in 48 games with the Nationals in 2008, before being dealt to Arizona and struggling mightily in a return to a setup role; he had a 6.56 ERA in 26 games the rest of the season. Something to bare watching should he get the job with the Mets – taking it away may lead to disastrous results.

Despite the mixed success there is reason for optimism should he get the role. It appears whenever there wasn’t a change away from it that he thrived. He has the necessary physical tools to succeed, he is big body who can work multiple innings, multiple days and in the last three years he has pretty good splits vs lefties and righties, essentially the difference is he’ll give up more big hits to a righty but doesnt put as many on base, while a lefty is more likely to get a walk, but also isn’t likely to get more than a single either.

It is also fairly common for a reliever to get better with age. At 33 years old, Jon still has plenty of physical gift but more of a mental edge then when he was the flamethrower with the Nationals.

Based on what Jon has done thus far, it is easy to see why he is deserving to gain the closer’s role. However, is Frank Francisco deserving to lose it, and is it in the Mets best interests?

There is an interesting anomaly in Frank Francisco’s cold streaks this year. If one were to peruse his game log you might notice a pattern. Frank Francisco has had 3 stretches this season where he gave up runs on multiple days. Aside from those stretches he only has given up 1 Unearned Run, and a combined 4 hits, 2 walks in 8.2 inning. The rest of his 4.2 innings pitch saw a combined 13 Runs, all earned, with a combined 16 hits and 5 walks, 1 intentional.

Big deal, you say? When he’s good he’s good and when he’s awful, he’s awful. What does this have to do with leaving him as closer?

Each bad stretch was preceded by a 4 day rest period.

April 18-21 was his first bad stretch of the season, the first time he gave up earned runs. He previously pitched on April 13th.

April 28-29 was his second bad stretch. He previously pitched on April 24th.

His third bad stretch is fresh in our minds: May 11-13. He previously pitched on May 7th.

In the last three years Frank Francisco has been nearly as bad with rest of 3-5 days as he is pitching back to back. He gave up nearly as many walks and home runs on 3-5 days rest as he did with none. It’s also important to note that while Rauch in the same time frame has pitched a lot more games overall than Francisco, his number on no rest or 1 day rest are not pleasant.

One other thing to consider: Rauch has pretty bad numbers when he has nobody on. Opponents have a .761 OPS (On Base plus Slugging) when he has nobody on, and drops to .686 with runners on. Francisco is .678 Opponent OPS with nobody on, .685 with runners on. These numbers are based on the last three years. Francisco starts an inning much better, while Rauch apparently does better in a fireman role. Those two usually mean that one should close, and one should be a set up.

If it was up to me, I’d put Rauch in the closer’s role as I care more what a pitcher is doing this year than yearly trends. I am also not convinced Frank Francisco is over his injury suffered in the spring. With that said, looking at the data you have to question if Terry Collins and Dan Warthen are using Francisco correctly. While we know that oftentimes a closer struggles in a non-save situation, perhaps they need to do a better job of getting him in the game consistently. If he struggles in non-save games and cannot perform even on longer rest, then a switch cannot be ignored.

Luckily when Sandy Alderson revamped the bullpen he didn’t put all his eggs in one basket. While the pen has not lived up to expectations and is a work in progress, he still has Rauch to fall back on, as well as incumbent Bobby Parnell. Perhaps in a season where we have seen a 1-9 home grown lineup, we will also see a home grown closer before the season is out.

It’s May 13th, a little over a month since the season started. The book of the 2012 Mets is already featuring it’s first major plot point. Tomorrow we’ll see who Terry tags to Put It In The Book.

Put it in the Book: The Mets Next 50 Years: How a franchise became MLB leader in World Series titles and Perfect Games

Posted By Robert Z

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