Friday, January 14, 2011
Francis Signs with the Royals
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick had an interesting tweet today. The Kansas City Royals have come to terms with former Rockies starting pitcher Jeff Francis on a one year $2M deal. Francis stands to make an additional $2M if he meets certain performance incentives related to games started an innings pitched.
I know this isn't a sexy move, but I really like this signing for the Royals. Prior to signing Francis, their rotation consisted of Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Vin Mazzaro, and Sean O'Sullivan. Yikes! As Josh indicated in his now famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) column on the Ten Worst Rotations, "not a single starter anywhere on this rotation that qualifies as anything more than a barely serviceable #4 starter." I'm going to go out on a limb, but that might be the nicest thing anyone has ever said about any of those pitchers. The truth is that most of those pitchers wouldn't crack the rotation on 27 of the 30 major leagues teams. With Francis added to the mix, they have a solid middle of the rotation starter that's more than capable of serving as an ace for a team scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Upon returning from Tommy John surgery last May, Francis showed he was still a pitcher capable of producing quality innings. His 5.00 ERA wasn't pretty, but his 3.88 FIP (3.94 xFIP) indicates that he was likely plagued by poor defense and bad luck. While his K/9 and swinging strike rates were slightly below his career norms, Francis exhibited strong ground ball tendencies and above average control. This is a great sign because pitchers that have the ability to induce ground balls and limit walks typically perform better long term than those who do not. If Francis can stay healthy and repeat his strong peripherals in 2011, I see no reason why he won't return to the 3.5-4.0 WAR pitcher he was prior to surgery. Solid move by Dayton Moore and the Royals.