Are newspapers telling the full story about young stars David Wright and Jeff Francoeur?  Here I add some numbers to accompany the current story lines for the two players.

With all of the information available today, it is so much better to be a baseball fan now than at any other point in history.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s compare the press coverage of two ballplayers and then look at their statistical profiles.

Let’s say you are a young fan living in New York and all you had was newspaper coverage to help shape your baseball views.  You would read how David Wright was striking out too much and was not getting any hits with runners on base and how the club’s poor start was due to his sub-par play.

And let’s say you had a kid your age who just moved from Atlanta.  He would tell you all about this guy Jeff Francoeur, who the Atlanta paper was raving about.  Since Spring Training, this kid had read in the paper week after week about how Francoeur had revamped his swing and how he was not striking out any more and how he was going to return to being a superstar.

I understand how important “the story” is to the newspaper.  David Wright is the face of the Mets and it is hard to watch the strikeouts.  And Jeff Francoeur is the local boy who succeeded with the home franchise.  And words make for a better story than just numbers.

But man, would it kill the papers in each city to write one piece that takes an objective look to see if the numbers back up the story in any way, shape or form?  Here’s how our two players with different press coverage are doing so far this season:

Wright – .293/.389/.446

Francoeur – .283/.305/.444

Now of course, this is just a small part of the story.  Wright’s numbers were much better last season while Francoeur’s were much worse.  So let’s dive a little deeper and see what we can find.

Wright is striking out a ton.  His K% sits at 30.4 percent compared to a lifetime mark of 19.2 percent.  Wright has been remarkably consistent with his numbers in this category.  In his four full seasons in the majors, Wright has the following K% numbers:

19.7, 19.4, 19.0, 18.8

Yes the strikeouts are hurting right now but do you really think it’s a trend likely to continue, especially given that he has been improving in this regard throughout his career?

Wright’s average and on-base percentage are right about where we would expect them to be.  His biggest problem is with his slugging percentage.  Again, let’s look at his full-season totals in this category:

.523, .531, .546, .534

When all is said and done, do you think Wright’s .446 slugging is a small sample size special or indicative of what he is likely to do from this point going forward?

On the flip side we have Francoeur.

He has been doing great in cutting down strikeouts.  But how likely is it to last?  He currently has a 9.1 K%.  Here are his marks in the category for his three full years in the majors:

20.3, 20.1, 18.5

Do you view a K% less than half of his previous career best as a sustainable mark for the rest of the year?  Especially when you combine it with his 3.9 percent BB%, which is even less than it has been for the past two seasons.  Here are Francoeur’s BB rates since he became a full-time player:

3.4, 6.1, 6.1

Francoeur’s “success” can be traced to his contact rate, which currently sits at 83.4 percent.  Here are his marks in the category the past three seasons:

76.8, 73.9, 76.7

In the past three years, Francoeur rated in the lowest 20th percentile in contact rate.  Now he’s in the top half of the majors in the category.  Is that sustainable?

There is nothing wrong with stories that point out Wright’s current struggles or Francoeur’s current success in making contact.  But these stories are incomplete without the acknowledgment that these are completely out of whack with the player’s established career levels and that it would be a major surprise if they were to remain at current levels the rest of the season.

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