"It's brought a whole 'nother dynamic to my game," he said.
No kidding. His previous season high in the Majors was eight last year, all with the Mets. Even in the Minors, his best was 14 in 2003 with Class A Rome, Ga., when he was a frisky 19 years old.
"First of all, dropping 30 pounds helps, being able to run a little bit," Francoeur said. "But I give a lot of credit to Siss [baserunning coach Doug Sisson], too, because when I used to get on first base, that never-ever really came to my mind. Now when I get there, I'm more concentrated on the pitcher's moves, the times -- if I can get to second, things like that. The way I play, I should be able to get 20 steals."
It took him a while to get to 20. He reached 19 on Aug. 13, but didn't get his 20th until Tuesday at Oakland, 23 games later. Meantime, Francoeur had been thrown out five times, as many times as he'd been caught in accumulating the first 19 steals.
"For a while there, when I was stuck on 19, I picked a couple bad spots to go on," Francoeur said. "I think I was trying too hard to get to 20 instead of just letting it happen. Stealing bases can be like home runs -- sometimes you're going to get three or four in a week and then you don't get any in two weeks. It's one of those things where you've got to be smart. For a while, I got stupid there."
Francoeur got together with Sisson to get his approach "re-defined," as manager Ned Yost put it.
"He's an opportunistic base stealer. He's got to pick his spots, he can't just go," Yost said. "He got a little excited there for a while when he was trying to get 20 and now we've got him back on track."
Francoeur knows his limitations.
"I'm not Juan Pierre or Ichiro where I can get out there and steal on anybody," he said. "I've got to have the right situation."
The Royals, going into Friday night's game, were leading the American League with 136 stolen bases. The Padres led the Majors with 157.
The Royals had seven players with at least 10 steals: Alcides Escobar, 22; Chris Getz and Francoeur, 20 each; Melky Cabrera, 18; Alex Gordon, 15, and Eric Hosmer and since-departed Mike Aviles, 10 each. If Jarrod Dyson is recalled from Triple-A Omaha this month, he'll probably join that group; he has nine.
"We don't have any really true base stealers. Esky can steal a base, but we've got to pick our spots," Yost said. "When I set out at the beginning of the year to improve our baserunning, the last thing I expected to improve on was our base stealing. I wanted to improve on our turns, our secondary leads, going from first to third. But we've done a nice job of learning how and when to steal bases."