Atlanta Braves August deals that mattered: Julio Franco
During the 15 seasons known as “The Streak” the Atlanta Braves made quite a few last minute additions to bolster their postseason chances.
Fred McGriff’s name is firmly etched as one of those players who made a difference for the Atlanta Braves but in 2001 it was another first baseman who reinforced the ranks: Julio Franco.
Watching an Atlanta Braves game early this week and following Twitter as well, I saw some Twitter critter ask if the Braves had claimed Julio Franco off waivers. It wasn’t mean but I realized there are a lot of Braves fans who don’t remember what he meant to the Braves from August 2002 through the 2005 season.
After he joined the Braves I became fascinated with the way he played the game. Franco the player always wore a huge smile when he played, enjoying every minute of it. Franco the hitter always seemed likely to deliver a game-winning hit.
His bat looked like a small tree, yet even at 44 years old he was lightning quick through the zone and could turn on anyone’s fastball. He drove the ball all over the field and hit it with authority in spite of having a stance that made hitting coaches cringe.
Here’s a reminder of his career in general and his short but important period with the Atlanta Braves
The batman begins
The Phillies signed Julio Franco as an international free agent in 1978. He first appeared in the Major Leagues in 1982 and later that year became one of six players traded to the Indians for Von Hayes. In 1983 he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Ron Kittle.
Kittle’s career ended 10 years later, never again approaching the 1.9 bWAR (2.9 fWAR) he generated his rookie year. Franco took a different path.
From 1983 through 1991 playing shortstop and second base, first for Cleveland and later for the Rangers, Franco amassed 1597 hits, posted a .302/.360/.411/.771 line that included 241 doubles, 40 triples, and 84 home runs, stealing 219 bases and accumulating 32.1 bWAR (31 fWAR). That puts Franco in some pretty elite company (tables sorted on OPS.)
|Cal Ripken Jr.||.822||1455||22-30||6397||5668||1599||308||28||231||644||.282||.354||.469|
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All of the players ahead of him except Lou Whitaker are now in the Hall of Fame.
Franco won the AL batting title in 1991, with a .341/.408/.474/.882 line, a .393 wOBA,146 wRC+, and posted 6.2 bWAR (5.9 fWAR).