On Sunday, Yunel Escobar botched a double play and a run-down play in the first two innings, leading to several runs at Baltimore. Braves manager Bobby Cox became so incensed that he benched his starting shortstop — in the third inning — and later referred to him as lackadaisical.
It was right about this time when I started wondering: “Is there some reason why Jeff Francoeur is the only Brave who is central to trade rumors?”
Yunel Escobar is currently third among NL shortstops in VORP. Kelly Johnson is in a dreadful slump, but last year, he finished fourth among NL second basemen in VORP. Jordan Schafer has all of 195 major league plate appearances upon which we can judge him. Jeff Francoeur is dreadful this year, he was dreadful last year, and anyone who knows the importance of the ability to tell the difference between a ball and a strike knows that Francoeur will continue to be dreadful until he learns this skill (a rare, but possible occurrence). If the question is whether the Braves should trade Escobar, Johnson, or Schafer as opposed to Francoeur, then the only argument in favor of that proposition is that the former three players have trade value, whereas Francoeur does not. I don't recall the Padres being interested in Francoeur during their trade discussions with the Braves this winter. Escobar was the apple of their eye and that was before Francoeur repeated his horrendous 2008 with an equally bad 2009.
What bothers me about Schultz's analysis is that he gets carried away with irrelevant data. Yunel Escobar is a good hitter who has made a couple more errors more than the average major league shortstop. He made a few mental goofs last week, but that should be compared against a sample size of hundreds of at-bats and fielding chances. Schultz uses Escobar's benching on Sunday to make a ten-cent moral judgment. It's easy to point the finger and say "that's the bad guy"; it's not as easy to actually look at the massive sample size of data that we have for major league players and make judgments based on that.