Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jeff Schultz Doesn't Believe in the Process

I don't always agree with the AJC's Jeff Schultz on baseball. In fact, I rarely do. He's a blowhard who too often doesn't understand baseball while sticking to cliches. I've wrote on here before that Schultz and I didn't see eye-to-eye on letting Tim Hudson go and signing Gavin Floyd the offseason before the last. It was the smart decision. But Schultz, who is far more comfortable analyzing football, only really focuses on names over facts. Typically, I don't think much of it, but Nick on Twitter pointed out an awful column Schultz wrote and after a few tweets where I was amazed by his remarks, I figured I might as well review it in blog form.

The article, which carries the title, "Reflecting on Braves' deals: Were they worth it?," hit the AJC website Tuesday afternoon. The odd thing is that Schultz concedes that grading trades which were heavy in minor league talent is difficult a half-season after the trades, but yet, he does it. As if he had an article quota to fill or something.

His first target: Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins

Schultz doesn't miss an opportunity to stick to Wren, who - in Schultz's mind - "botched the previous Heyward negotiations and signed him for only two years." Now, none of us were in the room with Heyward and/or his agent, but I imagine Wren tried the same thing John Schuerholz once did with Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur - similar offers to both Heyward and Freddie Freeman. But the AJC cadre of shills never miss a chance to attack Wren. To suggest the problem was created by Wren not giving Heyward a long-term extension after the 2013 season is just revisionist history. Heyward is a tough guy to value. Sabermetrics love him considerably more than more traditional stats. Regardless, the idea that not giving Heyward a long-term deal and buying out his free agent years is just piling on. Anywho, Schultz gives a B grade to the deal, ignoring Jenkins (I don't) and the injured Walden. He suggests the deal is win-win and it might be this year. But a running theme in Schultz's rush to attach grades is that these deals weren't made for 2015.

His next target: Trading Justin Upton (now known as The Good Wife Upton) along with Aaron Northcraft for Jace Peterson, Max Fried, Dustin Peterson, and Mallex Smith

Here's how I know Schultz doesn't care one bit about looking at these deals with much context. He saves all of six words for Mallex - "Smith was just promoted to Triple-A." Not a word about his .340/.418/.413 slash with Mississippi before the promotion. Yes, when you relegate this deal to J-Up for Jace, it looks pretty bad. Schultz gives the deal a C+ grade, which is damn near impressive considering his next two grades. While it took me time to warm up to this deal, it was a very good collection of talent for the Braves and they brought in four young, talented players for a guy who would be gone by midseason. Not too shabby. Would J-Up have made this Braves team better? Yeah, but who plays second? And would two more wins really help?

3rd target: Evan Gattis and James Hoyt to the Astros for Michael Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz, and Andrew Thurman.

Here is where Schultz begins to truly go off the deep end with his criticisms. He focuses on Gattis's homers and RBIs - because they are easy numbers for him to understand. He ignores Gattis's .268 OBP. Gattis has stepped up to the plate 340 times and made 255 outs. But you don't hear about that from Schultz. No, he focuses on Gattis's homers and RBIs because those numbers tell him more. He suggests that had Gattis been brought back, he would have played left and shared catching duties with A.J. Pierzynski considering Christian Bethancourt's struggles. This completely ignores that Gattis is kept off the field by the Astros because he can't really play either left field or catcher, but I digress. Gattis is a massively overrated player because of his story. The Astros are learning that. Of the 15 AL teams, only the A's are getting worse bWAR from their DH. Schultz gives this trade a D. Unless that D stood for DamnGoodTradeMr.Hart, Schultz is a boob.

Final target: Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres for Cameron Maybin, Matt Wisler, and company

Let me start by saying that he grades this an A in economics and an F in baseball. His journey to that grade is pretty horrific. "The loss of Kimbrel destroy the bullpen because Hart had no time to prepare for the deal by acquiring other relief help." This is bad analysis even for Schultz. Before this trade, Hart had signed both Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, took a flier on Josh Outman, and added other low-risk, high-reward guys. To suggest that trading Kimbrel wrecked the pen is a stretch. It made it moderately worse, but it was the poor performances by others that wrecked the pen - performances the Braves couldn't really foresee. Now, Schultz, in his haste to make a point, glosses over Maybin's first half ("a nice surprise, but he's not a long term answer"). Why not dive into Maybin's performance a little bit? For that matter, why not mention why he's not a long-term option or do you think guys in their age-28 years are preparing for retirement. For some reason, Schultz doesn't even touch on Wisler, who has a 3.10 ERA in five starts after entering the year ranked in the Top 40 by Baseball America. Not a single word in the trade analysis. His grade is cute and all, but ultimately lacking in context. Would Kimbrel have made the team better? Not even sure. At his best, he's a 2-to-3 win player. Maybin can be that and more. As can Wisler. The Braves used one trade to upgrade their CF and eventually, their rotation and all it cost was a luxury they didn't need (an expensive closer). Grilli filled in nicely before his untimely injury. Again, Kimbrel would have made the pen better and maybe, just maybe, the team. But it would have cost them offense. It would have cost them starting pitching. Those two are more important than a shutdown guy in the ninth. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face, Schultz. And getting rid of Melvin and not paying his salary? The only possible grade for this deal is A+. Unless you're Michael Scott and you grade it an A++.

I get that not every Braves fan is going to know all the in's and out's of the Braves' moves. From a simple stand point of giving up A for B, the Braves might look like losers. But Schultz knows better than to appeal to this fan. The goal of any good journalist, of which I am not, is to both inform and entertain. This article does nothing to inform because it neglects several key points that better explain the deals. Its entertainment factor? Ehh, he mentioned Jimmy Buffett. Way to stay with the times.

If he's not going to seriously approach baseball analysis, Schultz ought to steer clear of it.

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