Friday, January 3, 2014

Jeff Schultz Doesn't Like Me

I loved Tim Hudson.  Sure, he was gritty, though I despise that term.  If the adjective can be used to describe David Eckstein, it’s not a term you want to receive.  Hudson arrived after the 2004 season in a trade from the A’s and received an extension after posting monster seasons for the A’s that included four seasons of 4.8 fWAR or better before the trade.  He never was that good in Atlanta, but he was rarely bad, posting at least a 2 fWAR in six of the eight years he reached 20 starts (and that likely would have been seven of eight at Eric Young Jr. not shattered his ankle). 

Was he ever the ace that the A’s grew to expect out of him?  Well, we can define ace, but let’s just say the Braves and Hudson expected better results.  Outside of his 2007 campaign where he posted a 3.46 FIP and 4.6 fWAR, Hudson was just good enough to make us forget what he wasn’t.  And since Hudson was a good guy, his value morphed from on-the-mound results to his leadership abilities and philanthropic work. 

Entering free agency at 38 and coming off one horrific injury, the smart money was on the Braves retaining Hudson’s services for another year.  The Giants threw a wrench in those plans by signing Hudson to a two-year, $23M with a full no-trade clause.  Don’t think that Hudson demanded a no-trade clause to come back to Atlanta and Wren wouldn’t relent.  As a 10 year veteran with five years of service with the same team, Hudson had full no-trade privileges already.  And whether the Braves were willing to pay him $11M in 2014 is debatable, but it seems likely that Atlanta was not willing to pay Hudson $12M in 2015 when he would turn 40 that summer.  The Braves wanted Hudson back, but not on Hudson’s terms.  And Hudson made the right call for him and for his family.  He was familiar with the Bay Area and quickly struck for a two-year deal when most thought he would get only one-year with an optional season added on. 

Instead, the Braves lost their “trusty vet” and added Gavin Floyd.  And they will likely be better for it.

I’ll explain, but as a little side story, I got into a little twitter tiff with AJC’s Jeff Schultz back in mid-December.  You might remember Shultz from the multitudes of “if you take away the Braves winning streak” narratives that were supposed to piss all over a 96-win season.  When the Braves signed Floyd, Schultz had enough.  They went “cheap,” he complained.  They didn’t make a big move so all is lost.  Some people ate it up, but when I brought up that Floyd out produced Hudson from 2010-2012, Schultz threatened that he would block me for my “stupidity.” 

While he didn’t make my contention any less true, Schultz did play the role of the casual fan who believes offseasons are based on what “name” you acquire.  Well, the Mariners acquired the biggest name this season so they must be sizing themselves up for a ring.  The facts are fairly clear.  Taking out Hudson’s injury-filled 2009 and Floyd’s ruined 2013, Floyd out-produced Hudson 9.3 fWAR to 7.7 fWAR, yet people complained that Floyd was no better than Maholm (same time frame – 5.3 fWAR). 

Now, Floyd is not Jeff Samardzija and if you value traditional, team-based statistics, you will be exceedingly underwhelmed (70-70, 4.48).  Once you delve into the numbers, you see a guy who started to figure it out in 2009.  He set a career high in K/9 while posting a 4.2 fWAR.  He began to work his cutter and breaking stuff more instead of relying on his fastball to get him over.  He posted a 4.0 fWAR 2010 the following season while adding his lowest FIP of his career 3.46.  After another good season, he had a letdown 2012 and lost almost all of 2013 to injury. 

Floyd is not Hudson.  For one, he strikes out a lot more guys.  The last time Hudson posted a K/9 rate of seven per nine innings or better was in 2001 - his second season in the bigs.  He nearly got there the following season, but never came close since.  The last time Floyd posted below a 7 K/9 was 2008.  Hudson relied on groundballs to be effective and therefore, he relied on his infield which briefly saw the most asinine thing in history - his own personal shortstop Jack Wilson.  Meanwhile, hitters will get plenty of Floyd's pitches into the air.  

Floyd is also a lot younger.  He turns 31 later this month and already has proven himself to a better pitcher in the recent history.  Why would it be stupid to think he would continue that trend?  Well, he is hurt and should miss the first month – maybe two – of 2014.  However, on the mound, Floyd is simply better.

It wasn't the sexy move...but the Braves didn't have to make a sexy move.  They needed a good pitcher and in Floyd, they got one.  And for a team with a lot of unknown contract issues with so many players in arbitration, inking a one-year, make-good contract is the sensible option to paying too much on the free agent market for Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, or giving up whatever talent you have in the system for Samaradzija.  

I should block Schultz for his stupidity, but I love his attempts to be sarcastically funny.  It's cute.

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