Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco was out of the starting lineup for five games last week.
Friday night, Franco was out of the lineup again.
The latest night off had nothing to do with the sore thumb that bothered him last week. This was performance based.
“Poor guy, he's scuffling,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He's swinging wild again. Every time he swings, his helmet falls off … just like the roof falls off.”
Franco, who turned 24 three weeks ago, is wrapping up his first full season in the big leagues. He is hitting .246 with 22 homers, 75 RBIs and a .714 OPS in 137 games. The production is solid, but not on par with what the third baseman did last season when he hit .280 with 14 homers, 50 RBIs and a .840 OPS in 80 games.
Franco has struggled since the All-Star break, hitting .242 with just a .696 OPS.
Since Aug. 23, he’s hitting .203 with no homers, four doubles, three RBIs and a .470 OPS. He hasn’t homered since Aug. 18 and has just two in his last 144 at-bats.
“He’s caught up in something and he can’t get out of it,” Mackanin said. “That’s why I gave him a day off. Mentally, it’s a drain on you. You try to figure it out. Nothing is working. That last at-bat he had [Thursday night], he looked like he was trying to hit the ball out of the stadium. That would have been a perfect time to say, 'I'm just going to try to hit a single up the middle.' Just the time to work on it, in-game.
"It looks like Maikel is trying to do too much."
Phillies officials would like to see Franco not be so pull-happy and homer conscious. He’s strong enough that putting a good swing on the ball and trying to use the middle of the field will result in home runs when he makes good contact.
Sometimes less is more.
Mackanin recently talked about that with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who had similar issues as Franco as a young player.
“Schmitty told me that after his first year when he struck out a lot, he went to winter ball and purposely tried not swinging as hard to see what would happen," Mackanin said. "The first time he did, he hit a double off the wall. And he came to realize that he didn't have to swing as hard as he was swinging. And from that point on, it changed his whole career around. That's something that a player has to come to that understanding. Just take the macho out of hitting. If the line drive is only 90 miles an hour instead of 110 miles an hour, it's still a line drive.”
Franco would like to play winter ball in the month of November back home in the Dominican Republic and work on becoming more selective at the plate.
The Phillies really could stand to bring in a good veteran bat to take some pressure of Franco next season. Mackanin has already expressed his desire to bring in a “professional hitter.”