Thirty-two year old Jeff Francis hasn’t always been the most exciting pitcher for Rockies fans to watch. Lets be honest many know him as a very shaky southpaw who somehow sticks around in the majors. Well lets take a closer look at how bad he really is.
Obviously Francis isn’t an ace and never will be. A 4.9 career ERA quickly shows you that. With a $1,500,000 contract though, Francis is the second lowest paid starting pitcher on the team. Meaning they're not paying him to be an ace anyway. What the Rockies need Francis to bring them is proficiency and a chance to win every time he’s out there.
With a fastball topping out around 88 and 89, you know there’s a chance the 6’5" lefty will get crushed every time he’s out there. But what Jeff is trying to do is limit this from happening as much as he can. Francis started out the year very rough, creating a sky high 8.44 ERA after 4 starts. Since then though Francis had been exactly the pitcher they need him to be. Lowering his ERA in 5 of his last 6 outings, and giving the Rockies a chance to win with him out there almost every time. His once 8.44 Era has shrunk to 5.87 and just keeps falling.
Now you’re probably wondering how in the world he does this with obviously very mediocre stuff. Well you see here, hitters aren’t used to seeing Francis’s mid to upper 60’s breaking pitches. These can really lull batters to sleep as they have to wait on what seems like forever. After throwing a few breaking pitches, Francis can easily throw his fastball, for instead of it feeling like upper 80s, it starts to feel like it’s mid 90s. By mixing up his pitches frequently, Francis's very so-so stuff seems a lot harder to hit while in the box.
Jeff has also learned to locate all his pitches very well. Lately Francis has done a great job of keeping the ball low in the zone and not letting to many pitches sail high. This is causing many ground ball outs and fewer deep balls. Where the pitches he is missing on are very close and still hovering around the zone. This way he's never giving hitters free balls to just watch go by and get their timing down. Below shows his low command and quality balls from last night.
One last thing we can’t forget is that Francis has pitched most his career and seven of his ten outings this year at Coors Field. Probably known as the most hitter friendly ball park in the MLB, no pitchers like to pitch here. Because of this you can't let his ERA trick you, for not a pitcher in baseball would put up his capable stats in the mile high city. Meaning even if Francis gives you his standard 3 or 4 runs in 5 or 6 innings, he’s doing his job, and I still love his chances with the Rockies lineup hitting behind him.
Obviously Francis is far from an ace but with his smarts and experience, he's going to keep the Rockies in almost every game. So next time Francis is out on the mound, cheer hard and cheer loud, for he has been much more solid to the Rockies than what some people might say.