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All the Bad Things About Uber and Lyft In One Simple List

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Here’s the latest evidence that Uber and Lyft are destroying our world: Students at the University of California Los Angeles are taking an astonishing 11,000 app-based taxi trips every week that begin and end within the boundaries of the campus.

The report in the Daily Bruin revealed anew that Uber, Lyft, Via and the like are massively increasing car trips in many of the most walkable and transit friendly places in U.S.

It comes after a raft of recent studies have found negative effects from Uber and Lyft, such as increased congestion, higher traffic fatalities, huge declines in transit ridership and other negative impacts. It’s becoming more and more clear that Uber and Lyft having some pretty pernicious effects on public health and the environment, especially in some of the country’s largest cities.

We decided to compile it all into a comprehensive list, and well, you judge for yourself. Here we go:

They increase driving — a lot

The U.C.L.A. trips are an example of what is happening at a much wider scale: A lot more driving.

Uber and Lyft, for example, are providing 90,000 rides a day in Seattle now. That’s more than are carried daily by the city’s light rail system, the Seattle Times reports.

One study estimated that in cities with the highest Uber and Lyft adoption rates, driving has increased about 3 percent compared to the cities with the lowest. That’s an enormous amount of miles.

And transportation consultant Bruce Schaller estimates that the app-based taxis have added 5.7 billion driving miles in the nine major cities they primarily operate. (For comparison, in their first year of deployment across the U.S., e-scooters operated by private tech firms carried between 60-80 million trips.)

By the end of this year, Schaller has estimated all taxi ridership will surpass the number of trips made on buses the U.S.

uber ad

The promise of companies such as Uber and Lyft was that they would “free” city dwellers to sell their cars or not acquire them in the first place. And car ownership has declined among higher wage earners.

But a University of Chicago study found the presence of Uber and Lyft in cities actually increases new vehicle registrations. That’s because the companies encourage lower-income people to purchase cars, even advertising in some markets how people should put that new car to use — as an Uber.

They spend half their time ‘deadheading’

For every mile a Uber or Lyft car drives with a passenger, it cruises as many miles — if not more — without a passenger, a practice known in the industry as “deadheading.” Estimates of total deadheading time vary from 30 percent to as much as 60 percent.

Uber and Lyft’s policies make this worse by encouraging drivers to constantly circle to reduce wait times for users, according to John Barrios, the researcher at the University of Chicago, who has studied Uber and Lyft.

They operate in transit-friendly areas

Transit systems around the nation are losing riders to Uber and Lyft, which suggests that the companies are merely showing the need to beef up transit service across the country.

But if you drill down, something else is at work because Uber and Lyft primarily operate in areas that are best served by transit. For example in Seattle, about half the rides taken in Uber and Lyft originate in just four neighborhoods: downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, according to David Gutman at the Seattle Times. These are some of the city’s most walkable and transit-friendly areas.

Moreover, according to Schaller, about 70 percent of Uber and Lyft trips take place in just nine American cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, traditional taxi service, Schaller estimates, still serves more total trips in suburban and rural areas than the Ubers and Lyfts.

Why would Uber and Lyft use be so high in dense, transit-rich areas? Studies aren’t conclusive, but on average, Uber and Lyft riders, not surprisingly, skew rich and skew young.

In the top nine cities for Uber and Lyft people with incomes above $200,000 are by far the most likely to use the service. Lower-income people without cars in some less urban markets do use Uber and Lyft, but their use is dwarfed by those with high incomes, Schaller finds.

They mostly replace biking, walking or transit trips

In an ideal world, Uber and Lyft would be making good on their promise to reduce private car ownership because city dwellers would feel more comfortable selling their cars, thanks to the presence of Uber and Lyft.

But the data shows that Uber and Lyft mostly “free” people from walking and transit.

A survey of 944 Uber and Lyft riders by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston last year, found that 42 percent of riders would have taken transit if the services hadn’t been available. Another 12 percent (like those U.C.L.A students and their 11,000 on-campus taxi rides per week) said they would have biked or walked their journey. Another 5 percent would have just avoided the trip altogether.

Only about 17 percent — less than one in five — said they would have made the journey in a private car otherwise. (The remainder said they would have used a traditional taxi.)

Uber and Lyft just aren’t competitive price-wise with private car ownership, Schaller said, except in areas with expensive parking. Even with Uberpool and other shared services — which account for a small share of total business, Schaller says — Uber and Lyft increase car miles on urban streets. For each mile of driving removed, they add about 2.6 miles, he estimates.

They hurt transit 

Uber and Lyft are just crushing transit service in the U.S. A recent study estimated, for example, they had reduced bus ridership in San Francisco, for example, 12 percent since 2010 — or about 1.7 percent annually. And each year the services are offered, the effect grows, researcher Gregory Erhardt found.

Every person lured from a bus or a train into a Lyft or Uber adds congestion to the streets and emissions to the air. Even in cities that have made tremendous investments in transit — like Seattle which is investing another $50 billion in light rail — Uber and Lyft ridership recently surpassed light rail ridership.

Transit agencies simply cannot complete with private chauffeur service which is subsidized at below real costs by venture capitalists. And maybe that’s the point.

Erhardt, for example, estimated that San Francisco would have had to increase transit service 25 percent overall just to neutralize the effect of Uber and Lyft.

Worse is the tale of two cities effect: Relatively well off people in Ubers congesting the streets of Manhattan and San Francisco slow down buses full of relatively low-income people. By giving people who can afford it escape from the subway, Uber and Lyft also reduce social interaction between people of different classes and lead to a more stratified society.

They reduce political support for transit

As an added kick in the shins, Uber and Lyft degrade political support for transit. If relatively well-to-do people can hop in an Uber or a Lyft every time the bus or train is late, the political imperative to address the problem is reduced. The wealthier people substituting Uber and Lyft for transit trips have disproportionate political influence.

Cities are already capitulating. Last week, Denver partnered with Uber in a last-ditch effort to win back some riders who had jumped to the app.

In addition, right-wing ideologues have argued that Uber and Lyft make transit investment unnecessary.

They increase traffic fatalities

The University of Chicago study mentioned earlier estimated that Uber and Lyft increased traffic fatalities last year by an astonishing 1,100 — an enormous human toll. The study also found, surprisingly, that Uber and Lyft have no effect on drunk driving.

In addition, Uber and Lyft require basically no safety training for their drivers at all. In fact, the presence of these companies has motivated cities like Toronto to eliminate safety training requirements the city previous required for taxi drivers, in order to ostensibly level the playing field.

They hoard their data

One qualification with this list: Much of the information we have about Lyft and Uber is imperfect. The two companies make it difficult to study the social impacts of their activities because they jealously guard their data.

Last year, when Barrios released a study showing a lot of negative impacts from Uber and Lyft, Lyft corporate attacked the study calling it “deeply flawed.”

But Barrios had to use Google search numbers to estimate Uber and Lyft penetration in certain markets because even academic researchers don’t have access to Uber and Lyft’s raw trip data. If Uber and Lyft are honest in their denials, releasing their data could help disprove it. But so far, they have mostly refused.

Oh, and one more thing…

These are just the transportation related drawbacks. To say nothing of these companies treatment of their employees, or the behavior of their top management or their huge financial losses.

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dougalanlee
1373 days ago
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Portland, OR
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1386 days ago
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1174 days ago
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4 public comments
esran
1385 days ago
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Ways uber/lyft services are bad, above and beyond the obvious ones.
Bristol, UK
1174 days ago
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DGA51
1386 days ago
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Is there any positive?
Central Pennsyltucky
acdha
1386 days ago
Yes: they’re currently subsidized about 50% so they’re cheaper and many cities had huge problems with racism making it hard to get cabs for some people or neighborhoods. At least on the latter front there are now competing apps which make that harder to do without leaving a record.
1174 days ago
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tante
1386 days ago
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Simple list with ways Lyft and Uber are making city traffic and transportation worse.
Berlin/Germany
1174 days ago
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rocketo
1387 days ago
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We have to stop this
seattle, wa
1174 days ago
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Bartolo Colon is hitting eighth

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This is the Brazil-allows-seven-goals of lineup construction. Tell your kids where you were.

Say, this is an interesting lineup.

Wait is that ...

It can't be, but ...

IT IS.

Colon-zoom_medium


That dude is hitting eighth. Outstanding.

Don't feel bad, Eric Young, Jr. It's not that you're worse than Bartolo Colon, it's just that getting Colon at-bats earlier than you is more important. Also, you must be pretty bad.

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dougalanlee
3064 days ago
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Terry Collins is a complete moron
Portland, OR
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"Gasland Part II": The Fracking Empire Strikes Back

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Movie sequels are typically reserved for superhero franchises (and occasionally Michael Bay). Not scrappy social-issue documentaries. But director Josh Fox's 2010 documentary Gasland, which was nominated for an Academy Award, helped spark such an enormous national interest into the negative impacts of natural gas drilling that he decided to make a sequel.

"When we put the first movie out we were astounded," Fox recently told Mother Jones. "We…never figured that 'fracking' would become a household word."

Gasland ended with coverage of a June 4, 2009, hearing by the House Energy and Minerals subcommittee that addressed the safety and risks of natural gas drilling. Fox narrates, "The FRAC Act is making its way through Congress, and industry is lobbying hard against it." The FRAC Act called for the removal of hydraulic fracturing's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and would have implemented federal regulation of the industry. But the bill never received a vote.

Gasland Part II premieres tonight on HBO and picks up in the spring of 2010, with Fox touring the Gulf of Mexico by helicopter. Below, oil from BP's exploded Deepwater Horizon rig streams along the surface. Through voiceover, Fox explains how difficult it was to get clearance to fly in the area. "Journalists would call up the FAA to clear flights," he says, "and BP would answer the phone." It's an emotional sequence, which immediately sparks a sense of injustice and opens up the film's broad theme of industry influence on government.

Here's the trailer:

Fox spoke to Mother Jones about his films and government policy immediately following President Obama's major June 25 speech on climate change:

Mother Jones: What are your initial thoughts on the president's speech and his push to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewables?

Josh Fox: It's remarkable to watch the president, with all the weight of his ability to command rhetoric with the bully pulpit behind him, make a clear speech about climate change and why that's so important for us all to focus on. And that is a rather remarkable thing to see. It's enormously powerful. So the emphasis on why climate change is important and why we should focus on it is amazing. It's exactly what we need. However, the plan itself is completely wrong.

By supporting fracked gas in the United States on a huge scale, both in terms of converting power plants to natural gas and export, and supporting fracked gas in other countries, he will undo all of the good that he's putting forward in his speech. We know now that fracked gas is the worst fuel you can develop with respect to climate change. The reason is very simple, which is that methane, when it's in the atmosphere, is up to 105 times more potent at warming the climate than CO2 is in a 20-year time frame—in this short window of time that we have now to tackle climate.

And what we're looking at now is: in the field, in the recent data that's coming in, up to 9 percent leakage in gas fields in Colorado and Utah. New York City, the transmission system is leaking methane into the atmosphere at a rate of about 3 percent. In Los Angeles, where they both produce and deliver natural gas, we're at a rate of 17 percent leakage. Which means, it's 17 times more powerful than coal.

So when you're saying we want less carbon emissions from our power plants and you're not looking at the whole life cycle of greenhouse gas, it's extremely ironic that you're sitting here making a speech about greenhouse gas emissions and advocating the development of a greenhouse gas. Methane: the second most important greenhouse gas in a 100 year time frame and the most important greenhouse gas to control in the 20-year time frame.

Watch more of Fox’s response here, via a Skype interview:

MJ: What about the mention in the speech that natural gas is "the transitional fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution, even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner economy of the future"? He also made that analogy of taping the breaks before slowing down.

JF: We're heard this over and over again. Natural gas is a bridge fuel. But it's not a bridge—it's a gangplank. It's either a bridge in space or a bridge in time. The bridge in time we don't need. We have renewable technology right now. We should not be converting or creating a single new natural gas fire power plant. We can do all of this with the wind and the sun. We should be moving vigorously towards renewable energy. The technology of which is right here right now.

I think that what we're seeing is that folks are going to have to make this point very clear to the president: that fracked gas is not the way to go. And that this is a wholehearted embrace of fracked gas in that speech. And I really hate to be Debbie Downer right now, because everyone would love to say, "Yeah, we're finally doing something on climate!" And there are good things in this. Absolutely you have to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. That's a no brainer. The question is what do you replace them with? And if you're replacing them with gas, you're not actually creating a better situation with respect to greenhouse gas emissions in the lifecycle as a whole.

MJ: Do you know of or do you support any regulations that may actually be beneficial to cleaning up natural gas drilling?

JF: Once you've contaminated an aquifer, the contamination is pretty much there to stay. You can't get the volatile organics, the benzenes, the BTEX, you can't get that back out again. It's very difficult to do. So there's no such thing as really remediating aquifers. You can treat the water at the surface, but then you've committed yourself to centuries of water treatment, which is both costly in terms of money and in terms of energy.

What I have found out is that in terms of the well failure rate—when you're talking about "Why are these wells leaking?"—well, we know that the cement that is supposed to protect aquifers breaks down and cracks at enormous rates. So 5 percent of these wells leak immediately upon installation, and up to 50 to 60 percent of them start leaking over a 30-year period. So in a couple of decades you have half of the wells that are drilled right now, and you're talking about numbers in the millions of wells drilled, leaking. That's a huge crisis in terms of water contamination. There's no way to fix that problem.

MJ: So it's impossible?

JF: When you have a place right now, like places I know in Wyoming or Texas or Pennsylvania, where people are being toxically poisoned in their own homes by emissions that could be handled, or where people are suffering the effects of water contamination and need redress and need those companies to be responsible for the destruction of their homes, for the destruction of their lands, for the destruction of their towns, that absolutely has to be done. There are regulations all over the spectrum that have to be done to the existing situation right now. But the only policy that makes sense is a nationwide moratorium: no new fracking, no new fracked wells.

MJ: Regarding the film specifically, was there always an intention for the sequel? Even in the back of your mind?

JF: No, I don't think so. When we put the first movie out, look, we were astounded. The first movie was essentially intended for my basic, general area. Like a 25-mile radius around my house in the upper Delaware River basin. The fact that it went further than that, the fact it went to 30 countries and has a viewership in the tens of millions, 50 million in all these places, on television, is absolutely astounding. We also never figured that "fracking" would become a household word, that it would become such a huge issue. I think what we saw though is that our worry on this was concurrent with a lot of other people. That when the natural gas industry was knocking on my door, they were knocking on the door of millions of people. And that became something that Americans really needed to focus on.

For those people who are going to tune in strictly for the pyrotechnics, we have better and bigger explosions. That's a prerequisite of any sequel. But in terms of this, what we're really monitoring is watching the gas industry light our institutions, light our regulatory agencies, light our democracy on fire.

Watch more of Fox's response here, via a Skype interview:

MJ: There's a scene toward the end of the sequel where one of your sources calls you on the phone and describes an interaction they have with an EPA representative who was told by "higher-ups" to back off of their investigation into water contamination. Can you expand on what you know about that?

JF: EPA's a lot of great people. They're a lot of great scientists and their mission is to protect people. It's the Environmental Protection Agency, but it's really a people protection agency. And they're out there trying to do their job and do the science. And the level of depression and dismay and shock among mid-level EPA folks who are out there doing the work, and then to watching policy come in and take away the things that they're trying to do—sometimes I feel like there isn't enough Prozac in the world to make those people feel better about their jobs. They're going out there, they're trying to protect Americans and then time and time and time again they get their knees cut off at the policy level.

We're not living in a society that science actually dominates the conversation. We're living in a situation where some science is allowed and a lot of it's about policy. And when your science runs into a policy roadblock, all of a sudden the science starts to disappear. You have a lot of the folks, mid-level EPA, not just calling the residents, saying, "Oh by the way, although the head office said this was all fine: Don't drink your water." A lot of people calling me, saying, "Oh, by the way, Josh, there's a report that you need to know about it's in this office. I couldn't take it with me when I resigned, but you can find out how to shake it loose." A lot of calls like that.

MJ: In the first Gasland you show a letter you received in the mail from a natural gas company, which offered to pay nearly $100,000 to lease your land for drilling. But you didn't accept the offer. And you've stood firm against it over these last few years, considering that you could have benefited financially.

JF: Absolutely not, I absolutely would have not benefited financially.

MJ: Even with the $100,000 offer?

JF: If they had drilled across from my house, the property value goes to zero. But there's more than just financial benefits in this world. When you live in a watershed area, in a pristine area, and you could watch this whole place fall apart in front of your eyes, you don't sell your soul for a buck. It's just not the way it works. And when you actually understand what this means, when you understand the thousands of truck trips, the leaking wastewater pits, the pipelines bisecting the woods, the volatile emissions that are going to creep into your window every night, the water contamination when we live off of a natural spring that has been there for 100 years. The costs far outweigh the benefits. Not just to the American people and the person who's near the well, but in the long run.

MJ: At the end of the film you have that quote as you're in the halls of Congress, being prevented from filming the hearing, and you say that "they're burning the Constitution as a relic left behind." Where do you stand as an optimist or pessimist considering just how much of a fight you've got?

JF: The first line in the first Gasland is: "I'm not a pessimist. I've always had a great deal of faith in people that we won't succumb to frenzy or rage or greed. That we'll figure out a solution without destroying the things that we love." I have not lost that sense.

It is an incredibly hopeful experience watching communities come together and actually reassemble democracy. The democracy's been taken away from us. But they're reinventing democracy out there in rural Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh. We had 1,700 people come to our grassroots tour in Pittsburgh. Seventeen hundred people on one night to watch a movie. Unreal. A thousand people in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; 800 people on one night came out in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There's something really happening and really moving, and it's exciting and it makes me very optimistic because it is going to be the engine for how we really combat climate change. Which is strong communities.

MJ: Do you have it in you to keep pushing your message and continuing for what could be the next few years?

JF: Five years went by in the blink of an eye working on this. I don't think this is really about fracking anymore. It's about who we are as a people, and that's something that you can work on for your whole life. It's about our democracy. And it's incredibly inspiring to watch communities rally and people come together. And it's happening on an enormous scale. We're just starting to learn how many people out there who are working on this. There's an anti-fracking organization in every tiny little town throughout the entire southern tier of New York state. What other political issue can you say that that exists about? None. And a fracking organization in every little town across Pennsylvania.

It's remarkable to watch and just be a storyteller and a journeyman and watch it and talk to people. It's the next phase of authorship of this country's energy future. It's gonna come from the people. It's not gonna be deus ex machina or Obama ex machina, or science ex machina. It's gonna be the people. It's not going to be a wind energy company that comes in and saves the day. It's going to be the people who figure this out. And I'm watching them figure a lot of stuff out and be very intelligent about how to make climate choices and how to make democracy choices, how to make energy choices. So I have faith in that. And it doesn't get me tired—it gets me really excited.

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dougalanlee
3432 days ago
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It’s What’s Inside the Pie That Counts

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Cake calls out from the center of the table, knowing you will come back for more. The pie is humble, rarely getting its dinner-party due, but it is whimsical and deeply evocative.
    


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dougalanlee
3438 days ago
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The moral of the Jeff Francoeur story

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With the Royals designating Jeff Francoeur for assignment, there have been all sorts of retrospectives and reevaluations. One of the best comes from Joe Posnanski, who reminds us how ridiculous it was that the Royals were the team mesmerized with Jeff Francoeur's latent potential. Just a perfect match. And all across Royals land, there was much rejoicing.

But it's worth remembering just how we got here, and why teams kept giving chances to Francoeur, why they thought he could help. And before you respond with some variation of "lol Royals", remember that the 2010 Rangers had Francoeur on their roster. That was a smart team. It doesn't take a front office filled with dummies to give Francoeur a chance. A three-year contract? Yeah, that's probably what it takes. But a tools bucket like Francoeur will always get a chance.

It's not just the tools that everyone's remembering. Francoeur used to be a huge deal when he was a rookie. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting despite playing in only 70 games. Here's what he did in his first 23 games in the majors:

AB: 81
HR: 8
AVG: .432
OBP: .439
SLG: .827
BB: 0
SO: 16

Let's compare that with Yasiel Puig's first 23 games:

AB: 89
HR: 7
AVG: .427
OBP: 457
SLG: .708
BB: 3
SO: 18

You might not remember Francoeur being as exciting or electric or scintillating as Puig, but that's a bit of revisionist history. Francoeur was every bit the big deal that Puig is now.

Francoeur_si_medium


He looked the part. He was a seven-tool player, in which the last two tools were gregariousness and paying for other people's pizza. He had a ridiculous arm. He could run a lot better back then. And he made hard contact with everything he saw. Now, the point of this isn't just to rip Puigmania in a subtle, backhanded fashion …

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… I mean, not entirely. It's to remind everyone that Francoeur at-bats used to be event at-bats. He used to be someone you'd turn on a highlights show just to see. And while it might seem like he slunk into his Royals-fated shell right away, that's not entirely true. He had an OBP under .300 in his first full season, but he was still just 22 and hit 29 homers. Check out the list of players who hit more than 25 homers before turning 23. There are some cautionary tales in there (Wily Mo Pena!), but there are also a ton of Hall of Famers and Hall of Nearly Greaters on the list.

In Francoeur's second full season, his average came back up, and his walk rate was his best yet. He was 23. If WAR's your thing, he was worth three wins. He won a Gold Glove.

Here's where we get to the moral of the story. Player with tools comes up and flashes early greatness, but eventually fails because of poor plate discipline, and here's what you're thinking:

Jeff Francoeur could have been great if he paid more attention to his plate discipline.

Makes sense. It's also the wrong moral of the story. Because Francoeur did pay attention to his plate discipline. A great deal of it, actually.

One scout called him "the most confused hitter in the game" -- a label that Francoeur doesn't dispute. He's sensitive to the criticism of his free-swinging approach, and at times he's put excessive pressure on himself to remake himself as a hitter.

"People forget that I just turned 25," Francoeur says. "I've been up since I was 21, and a lot of people come up when they're 24 or 25. I have 3½ years in the big leagues, but I'm still learning how to hit."

I remember another quote -- possibly apocryphal, because I can't find it now -- that described Francoeur as teary-eyed when it came to the subject of his poor plate discipline. He wanted to hit .350 with a .450 OBP. He wanted to hit .450 with an .800 OBP. But instead of that moral of the story up there, use this one:

Plate discipline is hard to develop if you're not born with it.

And "born with it" is obviously ambiguous and oversimplifying. But what Francoeur represents to me is the manifestation of this idea: Plate discipline isn't about going up to the plate and thinking, "Don't swing don't swing don't swing." It's about the millisecond between swing and take. Some players have neurons that fire quickly enough to make that millisecond count. Some don't.

Some players have that electrical flash when their muscles start to contort in response to a slider that has a chance to bounce in the other batter's box. If you entered the chemical reaction into Google Translate, it would translate into "No." Jeff Francoeur didn't have that flash, that chemical reaction. There was nothing stopping the chain reaction of muscular activity that happened between initial pitch recognition and the decision to swing. Nothing will ever stop it. And when reaction time slows with age, it gets worse.

It's not because of a lack of desire or a stupid approach, though. Jeff Francoeur had five tools, but he lacked the sixth one. And while you (maybe) can lift weights to get more power and (possibly) work on swing mechanics to produce more contact, that split second of yes/no will forever be elusive. It's still possible that Francoeur can help a big-league team in some capacity. But it won't be because of a new, patient approach. Guys like him remind us that it's not always a matter of practicing hard and doing the right thing.

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dougalanlee
3438 days ago
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Portland, OR
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