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Jeff Francis More Valuable To Kansas City Royals Than What Most Believe

The Royals starter has been solid on the mound despite a misleading win-loss record.

Sure, he's no Cy Young. But Jeff Francis should not be winless.

It has to be frustrating to pitch every five days on a winning team and sit at 0-5 like Jeff Francis, in a year where he's hopefully reestablishing himself as a major league starter. He's definitely had his ups and downs and, at times, he's been the very reason behind his winless record. But there have also been several games even early in 2011 where he's pitched late into the game and kept the Royals close.

So what gives? The latest 3-0 loss to the Tigers gives Francis six quality starts on the season in nine total games. The 4.83 ERA is mostly a product of three straight games where Francis was definitely getting shelled, games which jacked up his peripherals and make him look like a candidate to be eventually replaced by one of the prospects. But Francis is actually exactly what the Royals need -- even at this point -- with an ability to ease the burden on what will be an overworked bullpen given that most of the young starters will likely go five or six innings at most.

In addition to the bargains found on offense (i.e. Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer), Francis is another bargain at $2 million in base salary. Incentives should push that to $4 million after Francis makes his 15th start on the season and goes over 110 innings (he's about halfway to both), but that's still well worth what he's giving the Royals. It's frustrating then that a quick glance at Francis' stat sheet would read so poorly -- enough that some fans might be missing what Francis is bringing to the team.

The latest complete game loss is just another example of the Royals failure to take advantage of the decent outings that Francis is giving them. And while he'll never be mistaken for an elite pitcher at this point, the dearth of solid starting pitching across the major leagues gives Francis a value that's higher than what most will see at this point.