If anyone can use a friend right now, it would be the Mets embattled reliever, Frank Francisco. His general manager recently expressed little confidence in his transient closer. Most Mets fans seem to concur with Sandy Alderson’s sentiment. Frank-Frank is after all, coming off December elbow surgery. But considering the cabbage patch of remaining options, I thought he could use a literal and figurative shot in the arm right about now.
I’m not exactly breaking out my pom-poms for Frankie. Do the Mets need an upgrade at closer? Yeah, you bet they do – big time. Can he at least serve as the Mets eighth inning specialist next season? His chances are questionable at best. In fact, protecting him is a flawed argument. However, I thought we would amuse ourselves and delve into just how much Frank Francisco’s injury actually affected Mets fortunes last season.
First a little about Frankie’s 2012 season. After a quick glance at his stats, you can understand Sandy Alderson’s dismay. In return for a two year $12 million dollar contract, Frank Francisco’s first year numbers fell well short of the general manager’s expectations.
2012 Regular Season Stats:
games – 48
innings – 42.1
record – 1-3
blown saves – 3
era – 5.53
hits – 47; 10.0/9-inn
walks – 21; 4.5/9-inn
strikeouts – 47; 10.0/9-inn
WHIP - 1.606
Outside of Francisco’s ability to strike out batters at a handsome clip, there is not much about his line to marvel about. I however, do not believe his season was that cut and dry. I’m being kind of course. But here it goes.
In April, there was a three game stretch in which he surrendered six earned runs in two losses, for which he took a great deal of heat from the media. In ten appearances, and 9.1 innings pitched for the month, he only surrendered single runs in two other games. They just happened to be solo home runs. In all, he surrendered thirteen hits, and posted a 7.71 ERA. He won a game, lost a game, blew one save, and converted five saves in April. By no means is that a great way to start the season. Numbers wise, the month was not good at all. But his performance wasn’t too harmful. As a team, the Mets were 8-2 in the games Francisco pitched.
May was better. His hits-to-innings pitched improved. In 11.1 innings, he allowed twelve hits, which was better than April’s margin. In thirteen appearances, he posted a 4.76 ERA for the month, and lowered his season ERA to a 6.10 mark. Frankie blew one save and lost two games. But he posted nine saves to bring his two month total to fourteen.
In June, Frank Francisco was even better. He made eight appearances, and finally got his hits allowed under innings pitched. In 8.1 innings, he allowed seven hits. He blew only his third save of the season, while converting on four other opportunities. For the month, Frank posted a substantially lower 2.16 ERA.
Through nearly the first three months of the season, his season ERA spiked as high as 8.59 on May 14th. Then June rolled around. June meant interleague games, and interleague in New York City means Subway Series. By the time the Mets and New York Yankees met on the back end at Citi Field, Francisco had lowered his season ERA to a 4.97 mark. Heading into that Subway Series, all indications pointed to Frankie’s season getting better by the month. In game one against the Yankees, Frank-Frank recorded his eighteenth save of the season. The Mets were rolling along as well. The win was their fifth in the last six games, and eighth win in their last ten. The win also put the Mets seven games above .500 with a 39-32 record. After the June 22nd game against the Yanks, the Mets placed Francisco on the disabled list.
In Francisco’s absence, the Mets posted a 7-8 record to conclude the first half of the season with an overall 46-40 mark. When games resumed, the Mets free fall began. Frank Francisco did not return until August 4th. By then, the Mets had fallen too far. While their closer was on the disabled list, they could only manage a 13-23 record, and dropped below the .500 level never to recover. Outside the fact 2012 was rich with individual achievements and milestones, the month of July was a total fail in almost every respect. The Mets problems were numerous and multiplying fast. Offensively, the Mets first-half timely hitting eluded them and their general lack of power was finally catching up to them. On the mound, by July 22nd three of the original five starting rotation members from April were now injured. And if the bullpen was bad to begin with, they were catastrophic without Francisco.
In Francisco’s first game back on August 4th, he earned his nineteenth save of the season, giving the Mets a 53-55 record. Unfortunately, the team would go 10-16 the rest of the month. Frankie suffered through a brutal month while unsuccessfully trying to get restarted. He posted a 9.83 ERA for the balance of August, which elevated his season ERA back up to a 5.94 mark. However, the Mets were still 6-4 in games he pitched. Frank added four more saves to his total.
Frank Francisco improved substantially in September. He posted a 3.00 ERA before calling it a season on Sept. 16th. That didn’t lower his season ERA much. He threw six innings, surrendered two hits, walked two, and struck out five. He gave up no runs in all but one appearance during September. As noted, Francisco’s season ended on Sept. 16th. His next appointment was for off-season elbow surgery in the coming winter. How he responds from December surgery this season is anybody’s guess. But why not ponder how much better he could have been in 2012 if not compromised by injuries?
In part or otherwise, was there a correlation between Francisco’s injury and the Mets spiraling out of contention? Or, was Francisco’s absence and the Mets free fall just a coincidence? I don’t like to kick a guy when he’s down. So maybe I succeeded in getting some fans to not be so hard on him. He maintained a very good attitude last season. Nice guys don’t always finish last. Sometimes they finish fourth.