Our Year in Review series continues as we take a look at what Frank Francisco did for the Mets’ bullpen in 2012. After compiling 17 saves with a 3.55 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, Francisco and teammate Jon Rauch were brought in by Sandy Alderson to solidify the back end of the Mets’ bullpen. As I am about to recap, Francisco’s first season with the Mets was one with very few highs and many lows.
Performance on the mound:
From the beginning of Spring Training, Frank Francisco struggled big time, appearing in 11 games going 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA. Needless to say, Spring Training statistics should never be taken heavily into consideration, however, Francisco’s early performance did anything but give Mets’ fans confidence in their new closer. Despite his struggles, Francisco managed to start off his inaugural season with the New York Mets strong by earning saves in his first three saves opportunities — pitching in the first three games of the regular season — against the Atlanta Braves. After the first two weeks of the season, Francisco’s season went down a spiral downfall, ending the month of April with a 7.71 ERA with five saves in six opportunities.
Francisco’s most memberable outing of the season — in my opinion — came on May 13th, against the Miami Marlins. With the Mets up by two runs going into the bottom of the ninth inning, Francisco failed to retire any of the three batters he had faced that afternoon. After giving up a single to Greg Dobbs — which allowed the tying run to advance to third base — Terry Collins elected to make a call to the bullpen and remove Francisco. Frustrated with his outing, Francisco elected to let home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor know he was extremely discontent with his ball-strike calling. As a result of Francisco taking such action in showing up the umpire, he was ejected from the game. The Mets subsequently went on to lose the game, 8-4, thanks to a walk-off grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton.
That frustrating performance by Francisco pretty much sums up what a horrendous season it was for the eight-year veteran reliever. During the post-game following Francisco’s meltdown, Collins publicly made it known that he was considering other options to fill-in the closer’s role to replace Francisco. Throughout the year, Francisco struggled to show any real signs of consistency with closing out games. Despite being brought in to help shore up the Mets’ bullpen, Francisco was a major part of the bullpen woes that was ranked next to last in the National League with a combined 4.65 bullpen ERA, trailing only the Milwaukee Brewers, who compiled a 4.66 bullpen ERA during the 2012 season.
Areas needed to improve upon:
Command issues: Throughout the season, Francisco showed an inability to consistently have command of both his primary and secondary pitches. On top of getting hit hard — allowing 47 hits in 42.1 innings pitched — Francisco needs to limit the amount of base on balls given up, as he issued 21 walks in 2012.
Inability of controlling tempo during key situations: As listed as before with my example of Francisco getting tossed by the umpire, he usually let his emotions get the best of him. This isn’t anything new to Francisco, as some fans may recall the ugly incident that took place during his rookie season in 2004, when he threw a chair in the stands, which ultimately hit and broke a woman’s nose. As a closer, it is important to note that one must control the tempo of the game under crucial circumstances. This by no means is an easy task, however, it is a quality top closers’ possess, and Francisco desperately needs to learn this if he wishes to have any success here in New York.
Durability: A number of injuries also played a role in Francisco’s first season with the New York Mets. After appearing in the first game of the series against the Yankees on July 22nd, Francisco endured a five-week stint on the disabled list with an oblique injury. In September, Francisco dealt with what reporters were told as elbow soreness, and was ultimately shut down for the remainder of the season on September 26th. We can only hope that Francisco will use the off-season to not only heal his injuries, but also improve on his durability in hopes of a different 2013 campaign.
Projected role in 2013:
Given the fact that Francisco is on the books to make $6.5 million in his final year of his contract, combined with his dreadful 2012 season, I can only guess he will be back in a Mets’ uniform in 2013. Whether or not he will be the closer, is a different subject. I think it is possible for Alderson to sign a low-risk, high-reward reliever to step in and compete for the closer’s role. Then again, the Mets currently have multiple holes to fill and will only have a limited amount of money to spend on the 2013 payroll. Bobby Parnell is one internal candidate that can replace Francisco in 2013, if not traded this off-season.
Contract status/chances of being traded:
Frank Francisco signed a two-year, $12 million deal in December of 2011. As mentioned above, he is scheduled to make six million in the final year of his current deal with New York. Given how poorly he pitched in his first year, I don’t see Francisco as a player who holds any trade value, if any at all. I do expect him to return in 2013, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was moved to the seventh or eighth inning role.