It seems that the demotion of under performing players is en vogue this year; Dontrelle Willis, Brett Myers, and now Jeff Francoeur. When it comes to demoting these pitchers, I can see the value of giving them time to rediscover their form in the minor leagues -- pitching is more about the repetition of mechanics than hitting -- but when it comes to Jeff Francoeur demoting him was the wrong move -- because his problems hitting major league pitching cannot be fixed by hitting minor league pitching.
We all know that Frenchy is a free swinger -- that's why some of his love him, but it is also one of his flaws. Announcers often quip that he's never met a pitch he didn't like. But this is not a habit that will be broken at double-A Mississippi. The minors are full of fastball pitchers who locate their pitches nearer to the plate than major league pitchers -- and Francoeur's free-swinging style will no doubt find more pitches to hit in that fastball paradise. The nature of pitching at the double-A level plays right into the bad habits of Francoeur's approach to hitting.
Another reason not to demote him is that we really have no one better to replace him with. We're filling in with Greg Norton and Jason Perry, one of whom is hitting worse than Francoeur since his arrival from Seattle, and there is a reason the other has never made the major leagues in six previous professional seasons.
The right thing to do would have been to continue to let Francoeur work out his problems in Atlanta. He's a major leaguer and that's what they're expected to do. This demotion is possibly a further indictment of at least one other member of the Braves -- hitting coach Terry Pendleton. TP has often practiced a hands-off-I'll-wait-until-you-come-to-me-for-help approach, but it is becoming more apparent that this approach is not working for everyone. It didn't work for Andruw Jones, who likely needed someone to get in his face and tell him what to do; and it also doesn't seem to be working for Jeff Francoeur, who needed TP to tell him to ignore everyone else except him and his advice -- Pendleton needed to be the one to straighten out Francoeur.
This demotion could also pose a serious threat to Francoeur's psyche. This is a player who was held up by the Braves as the new face of the franchise. I understand the need to not have that face struggling, but punishment is not the way to fix him.
In all likelihood Jeff Francoeur will rip into Southern League pitching for the next two or three weeks, and his replacements in the majors will fail to provide any positive replacement value. We'll see Frenchy back up after the All-Star break, after swinging at double-A fastballs for a fortnight, and he'll fall right back into the same bad habits he had before he was demoted, because the problem is not that Francoeur can't hit professional pitching, it's that he can't hit major league pitching. The adjustments he has to make to be able to hit in the majors simply cannot be realized in the minors, this time in the minors will only reinforce his bad habits.