Phillies Maikel Franco needs to make a simple, fundamental adjustment at the plate
I’ve watched The Shawshank Redemption about 576 times over the years and I’m always amused by Red’s question asking, “I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”. It’s true. I couldn’t possibly care less about the footwear a man puts on. However, when it comes to hitting a baseball, I pay an awful lot of attention to a man’s feet. When it comes to the footwork of Maikel Franco, my obsession has reached fetish level. Is that weird?
Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin has benched the flailing Franco a few times over the past ten days to get his head straight. The time-out has been well deserved as the embattled third baseman has not exactly blistered the ball to a slash line of .238/.250/.381/.631 during his past ten games.
To put things in perspective, those numbers actually better than his season totals. Franco has lost his way en route to a .215 batting average with only six home runs in 2017 so far.
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Mackanin can make his third baseman ride the pine all he wants to try and buoy Franco’s brain. It’s really a matter of what Franco does during his time-out that matters. Hours spent in the cages won’t add up to much if Franco’s head isn’t working in unison with his feet.
After all, batting is about the A and B connection between the mind and the metatarsals. The hands? Well, if you’re a Major League ballplayer, the hands are what got you to the show in the first place. They’re point C in the equation. A batter only needs to trust his hands as long as point A and point B are in sync. Since last season, Maikel Franco has had a major A and B disconnect, one from which a batter cannot simply “C” his way out.
Franco’s struggles are even more frustrating because his open stance is designed to drive the front foot towards the ball. If he employs the open stance the way he should be, he’d be a productive, perennial all-star. But, instead of stepping towards the outside corner pitch, Franco’s front foot steps up and down which keeps his hips, arms, body and head away from the plate. This renders his hands mostly useless, leaving just the end of the bat in the strike zone.
Only brute strength saves Franco on the rare occasion. His open stance is heavily flawed at the front foot and the results are seen in his spray chart.
That’s a flock of fly ball outs in blue to the right side of second base with only a few home runs in that direction. There’s also a garden of green ground ball outs to the left side. This is yet another by-product of a batter pulling off pitches on the outside corner.
The Phillies were fully aware of Franco’s faults after the 2016 season ended and it was clear when they signed Howie Kendrick. He was brought in for a veteran voice in the locker room and at the cages. Kendrick was seen daily during Spring Training hit-whispering into the ears of the youthful Phillies batters, most of all Maikel Franco. After all, Howie Kendrick’s spray chart was a ton more colorful and right-side heavy over the past four years.
Kendrick is currently busy rehabbing a strained oblique injury in Lehigh Valley. But latest developments have Kendrick no longer whispering, but breathing down Franco’s neck.
This can be interpreted as the team either trying to ignite a fire or they’re legitimately ready to rehab Franco’s bat down in the minors. Since that news broke, Franco has gone 1 for 9 with three strikeouts with Howie Kendrick only days away from returning to the Phillies lineup.
It remains to be seen how Maikel Franco would handle a demotion to the Iron Pigs lineup. But, it’s evident he’s not making the proper adjustments to remain the lethal hitter we all expect him to be. Perhaps it’s the type of measure a 24-year-old needs to put it all together again. Whether in Lehigh Valley or Philadelphia, his success will be determined based upon his decision to put his best foot forward.