The Toronto Blue Jays have some of the best bloggers on the Web and this writer loves checking them out. Writers like Tao of Stieb, Navin Vaswani and others provide priceless entertainment. And after reading them religiously for the past season, when it was announced that the Mets had signed Frank Francisco, the Fan's first reaction was to scoff. After all, "Fat Frankie" as he was called north of the border was often the cause of derision and scorn. But if this observer has learned one lesson over the years, it's, "check your facts." Francisco isn't half as bad as perceived.
When looking at a deal, the first thing this writer does is check Fangraphs' valuation of a player over the last several seasons. Judging by that, the Mets overpaid Francisco. According to the reports, Francisco is due to receive $12 million over the next two seasons or an average of $6 million per. But WAR might not be the best way to value closers. You also have to look at the pay scale top closers are getting around baseball and it's also helpful to check Win Probability. Francisco's deal is relatively cheap compared to other established closers and he's posted solid WPA scores his entire career.
Francisco has played his entire career with his home parks in Texas and Toronto. Both places are hitters' paradises. And the numbers bear out that Francisco has been hurt by pitching at home in his career, particularly the last two seasons when his fastball has fallen off by a MPH or two. In 2011, Francisco's OPS against was .793. His OPS against was .598 on the road. Six of the seven homers he allowed last year were in Toronto and fifteen of his nineteen extra base hits allowed came at home.
His season in Texas in 2010 was similar. That season, Francisco's OPS against was .743 at home and .603 on the road. Four of the five homers he allowed in 2010 were hit when Francisco pitched in Texas.
So perhaps we shouldn't pooh-pooh this deal made by the Mets. Francisco should fare well in Citi Field even if they do bring the fences in. If he is as successful at home in Citi Field as he's been on the road the past couple of seasons, the Mets should have themselves a fine relief pitcher.