Monday, May 14, 2012
Frank Francisco may tip his pitches
By Matt Ehalt
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- As Mets closer Frank Francisco has struggled lately, the team is concerned that the right-hander may be tipping his pitches. Francisco was tagged for two losses in the weekend series against Miami, including a blown save Friday night.
"We think he might be tipping the pitch," Mets manager Terry Collins said before the Mets faced Milwaukee Monday.
Francisco gave up a run but managed to record his ninth save in the 3-1 win over the Brewers. He gave up two hits and walked a batter to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but retired the final two batters to preserve the win.
"I love challenges. And when we go through tough times, if you're a true player, you have to fight," Francisco said. "You get in the hole and you have to fight to get out. If you don't fight, you're going to live in the hole forever, so that's what I do. If I fail I'm going to get up and I'm not going to stay down."
Collins said the Mets saw some things on video that make them believe that the right-hander is tipping pitches. Francisco didn't definitely declare that he's been tipping his pitches, but he has noticed things on video and knows that something needs to change. He said he is going to make some changes just to stay on the safe side.
According to PitchFX data on brooksbaseball.net, Francisco had thrown a fastball and splitter 89 percent of the time this season entering Monday's game. He's tossed his fastball 63 percent of the time and the splitter 26 percent. This indicates he's been primarily a two-pitch pitcher, which could play a role in how Francisco would be tipping one or more pitches.
Sunday, Francisco threw 14 fastballs and one splitter, according to the website. Friday, he was tracked as throwing 12 fastballs, four splitters and three curveballs in his 19 pitches. Over those two outings, he surrendered five earned runs and five hits over 2/3 innings.
Francisco, who is 1-3 with an 8.59 ERA and has nine saves in 11 chances, said he dealt with tipped pitches last season with Toronto. He believes it happened early in the season. Francisco went 1-4 with four blown saves in 21 chances for the Blue Jays last year.
"I change my set," Francisco said of his remedy for tipping pitches last year. "I used to have my glove low when I went up, but I don't know how to explain it. We can do something simple, sometimes we think it's nothing, it can be a huge deal."
The Mets manager said there is nothing physically wrong with Francisco, and there are some other things the Mets would like Francisco to consider, though Collins did not want to delve into specifics to avoid giving away information.
"My job is not to tell the Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds how we are going to pitch the ninth innings," Collins said before the Mets began a pair of two-game sets against the aforementioned teams. "So we're going to see how are suggestions are going to work."
Entering Monday's game, there had been questions of whether Francisco would remain the closer. Collins said he does not like experimenting and wants to stick to the plan the Mets had when they left spring training. The team had considered a closer-by-committee option, but decided to stick with Francisco "for the moment," according to Collins. Francisco signed a two-year, $12-million deal this winter.
"This guy has a history of closing. This guy, we brought him here for a reason," Collins said before the game. "We talked about doing a couple things different today and we'll see what the outcome is. He said if it doesn't work, he'll understand, but in his mind he truly believes he's actually making good pitches, which we have seen by the video that they were good pitches. So patience may prevail for a short time."
Francisco liked how he threw against Miami on Sunday, although he was tagged for three runs. He was ejected for arguing strikes, but Francisco said he hit the glove and said, "I think I got screwed a little bit." He believes it would have been a different game had he gotten some strike calls, such as in the at-bat when he walked John Buck.
Before Collins officially told the media that he would be sticking with Francisco, the reliever had talked with the manager and was encouraged with the meeting.
"I think he trusts a lot and he gave me a lot of confidence," Francisco said. "I think we don't know what's going to happen but I think he's doing the right thing cause I believe. First, I believe in God, and then I believe in me. I think I can do the job and just things not going my way right now but whatever happens, happens. I'm here to help the team and help the team to win."
After recording the save Monday night, Francisco consistently talked about the fight he's enduring and also credited his manager for having trust in him to do his job.
"I know right now I'm going through a tough time," Francisco said. "If you're a fighter, you have to fight, that's what you got to do. Fight through these moments. I expect some good times. I know sooner or later that will come."
Matt Ehalt is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com