2012 Organizational Rankings: #28 – Oakland

Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings last Friday. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston

Oakland’s 2011 Ranking: #18

2012 Outlook: 38 (25th)

Oakland’s neither here nor there right now, but there might not be a better team to help us through the new methodology. After all, they dropped ten rungs, and in some ways it’s business as usual in the bay.

We know going into these rankings, for example, that the current team isn’t (and hasn’t been) very good. Last year, they allowed 24 more runs than they scored, and then they spent the offseason trading away three of their top five starters, their All-Star closer, and their fourth outfielder and best left-handed reliever. Some projections have them only allowing 50 more runs than they score this season — seems almost generous after all that — but no matter what, those moves don’t really put them in a position to win more games than they won last year, right?

Their squad this year, on strict projected “W”s, might rank higher than 25th, but making this a more intuitive exercise allows us to factor in the fact that the rest of that division is pretty good. Even if they are better than their ranking here, their likelihood of reaching the postseason is probably around 25th. Lo and behold, Las Vegas has only awarded five teams in baseball worse odds of making the World Series than the Athletics.

2013+ Outlook: 50 (15th)

Trading away cost-controlled assets in the prime of their careers does tend to make a team’s Minor League system more interesting, on the other hand. This perpetual optimism floated the the Athletics to 18th in the overall rankings last year, and it does keep them afloat off the bottom of this year’s rankings, even as they sink.

But at some point, you have to dock a team for their actual on-the-field results. Even when it comes to assessing their future talent.

The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, and since the last wave of future talent was just traded away en masse this past offseason, it’s worth wondering what happened with it. Did the Athletics just randomly fail to amass as much talent at one time as they did in their past two cycles of success? Or was this last sell-off a sign that the team’s approach to collecting talent is flawed? Is this all still a question of resources, considering they spent the third-lowest figure ($3.1 million) to sign their draft picks last year? Answering those questions has major implications for how you rate the future talent for this current iteration.

One thing you might notice is that, while the last crew of young, successful, co-peaking Oakland Athletics boasted multiple position players among their number, this past group couldn’t claim the same. So much depends up on a Yoenis Cespedes standing beside a laughing Jemile Weeks while Michael Choice swings in the cage.

Financial Resources: 30 (30th)

The Athletics made $16.4 million in operating revenues last year, better than 12 teams. They’re a money-making machine.

Or:

The Athletics are worth $321 million, worst in baseball by Forbes’ valuations, and among only four teams in baseball worth less than $400 million. Their overall revenue was second-worst in baseball, and they were one of only six teams that brought in less than $175 million. They don’t have a new stadium or a television network. They can’t even get a new stadium until they somehow get the Giants to agree to allow the Athletics to move to San Jose.

It’s unclear if there’s really still fifty levels of crap in between the Athletics and the rest of the poor teams — after all, the Rays, Pirates and Royals are all worth less than $350 million and bring in less than $175 million in revenue ever year, just like the Athletics. But it is clear that they’re still at home at the bottom of the rankings in this category.

Baseball Operations: 54 (10th)

And here you see the change in methodology loud and clear. In the past, a top-ten front office would score you a better ranking than 28th, no matter how bad the rest of the columns looked. But this year, with the thought in mind that front offices look pretty fluid, and the availability of smart, analytical executives might be more plentiful than we first thought, this category isn’t receiving the same weight that it once did.

It makes sense intuitively, too. You can like what Seattle is doing in the front office, or think that the Cubs have accrued quite the braintrust, or believe in the new group in Houston — but how long will it take in each case? Will these current regimes even manage the rebuilding feat in front of them?

What does it mean to award a front office good marks separate from the results on the field? It means that you think you know what they stand for, and that you agree with the same tenets they believe in. In Oakland’s case, we might have more available information about their supposed likes and dislikes. They’ve long been a sabermetric darling, and there was some book about the whole thing. But they’ve always had their detractors, they haven’t managed to win it all in the Moneyball era, and now they are fresh off an five-year postseason drought. Their successes have been legendary, but seem further away in the rear-view mirror than ever.

Overall: 39 (28th)

For every positive about this team, there’s a negative. The current team has something like ten outfielders but no third basemen. There’s a bevy of starting pitcher prospects, but are any elite? There’s plenty of power in their corner outfield / first baseman types, but will any of them make enough contact? There might be light at the end of their stadium battle, but how far off is that light? And the front office that gets the sabermetric seal of approval, for the most part, is also the same front office that spent $10.5 million on two years of Brian Fuentes?

The future is unclear, but Oakland fans can hold on to one sure thought in unsteady seas: their general manager thinks unconventionally and is unafraid of making bold moves. It’s just these sorts of intangibles, things that don’t always show up immediately in box scores if you will, that can give Athletics fans hope.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

52 Responses to “2012 Organizational Rankings: #28 – Oakland”

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  1. some guy says:

    Got the A’s right in my bottom 5 prediction. White Sox and Mets still to go.

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    • pastadiving jeter says:

      *slow clap*

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    • John Franco says:

      I think that’s probably right, but don’t sleep on the Twins.

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      • Michael says:

        The real John Franco would NEVER read FanGraphs

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      • Shane H says:

        The real John Franco would be watching episode after episode of the Soprano’s Or behaving just like one of the characters in a dark Italian Restaraunt.

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      • j6takish says:

        I don’t know if the Twins are going to be as low as last years performance would indicate. They have always been a team that has succeeded despite questionable front office/coaching decisions. They had an awful season last year because literally everything that could have ever went wrong happened to go wrong all at once.

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    • Bronnt says:

      I think you’re underestimating the Mets, but I could be wrong. That team, even while suffering from financial calamity, still has more resources than about half the league. At least, in terms of franchise worth and revenue. You expect them to suffer for a year or two, and then thing should be straightened out well enough for them to rejoin the spenders.

      And even if they’re a last place team in the NL East, I do like a lot of guys who are their roster. I think they’re outside the bottom 5.

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    • Dennis says:

      You were wrong. Pirates and Padres round out Fangraph’s bottom 5 for 2012.

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  2. LexDiamonds says:

    Is that a William Carlos Williams reference in there? What’s next? Monkeys in space?

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  3. David Wiers says:

    This is so depressing.

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  4. “So much depends up on a Yoenis Cespedes standing beside a laughing Jemile Weeks while Michael Choice swings in the cage.”

    A William Carlos Williams reference in an article about the A’s? This has made my day.

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  5. chuckb says:

    This article seems to offer a lot of questions (literally) with very few answers. That may be fitting considering the state of the A’s right now but I would have like to have seen more evidence within each of these sections explaining the ranking. It’s not that I disagree with the ranking but that the 2013+ outlook should have some reference to Marc Hulett’s prospect ranking of the team. Should the A’s baseball operations team still be ranked 10th? If so, why? I read nothing in that section explaining the relatively high ranking of that group.

    In the article’s defense, there was evidence for the low ranking in the financial resources category but I would like to have seen more evidence in the other sections that help to explain the A’s ranking.

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    • Shane H says:

      Given what they have to work with and their track record tenth seems about right. Billy B>Jack Z!

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    • Baltar says:

      I think you have a misunderstanding of the 2013+ rankings. Last year, the rankings in this category were based entirely on prospects and only the prospect “experts” got a vote. This was almost universally criticized and has been changed.
      Also, this author is not responsible for the rankings; he is just trying to give a brief summary of why they are what they are, so asking for “proof” is not really reasonable.
      I agree that the A’s were overrated on Organization. I believe this is just a carryover of the love that Billy Beane perhaps deserved several years ago but has done nothing to justify since.

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      • chuckb says:

        That’s not at all what I was saying. I didn’t even suggest I disagreed with the ranking. All I was saying was that I wanted more in the write-up that explained why the A’s were ranked where they were. The 2013+ outlook had a very short reference to Cespedes, Weeks, and Choice, and almost nothing else about the team’s future prospects. There wasn’t even a reference to Marc Hulett’s ranking of their farm. That, to me, is relevant and I think should have been included. Other references to the A’s younger players should have been included as well.

        Moreover, I never asked for “proof”. In fact, I was quite careful not to. I asked for “evidence” and “explanations.” What justifies this ranking? That’s it.

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  6. Why do you call me Phantom of the Opera? says:

    Wait, doesn’t Spock end up dating Shatner in the 44th episode?

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  7. DrBGiantsfan says:

    If other teams are in similar financial situations, doesn’t the success of Tampa Bay and the emerging talent of KC start to call into question whether Billy Beane really is a top 1/3 GM? I mean, one reason he had to trade away his team was because he’s drafted so poorly for so long. Then there is the head scratching signing of Cespedes, the even more bizarre announcement that he is the starting CF despite strong evidence he is not ready for that role, the obssessive collecting of AAAA 1B/DH types. Just maybe the A’s problems are rooted more in the baseball side of the front office than in the ownership/financial side.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      The A’s are far more successful over the past 10 years than either the Royals or the Rays. Especially for small payroll teams, major league talent is very cyclical.

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      • I don’t think the As are more successful than Tampa Bay since 2005, when new ownership assumed control from Namoli, which is a fairer comparison. Jonah Keri wrote a book about that.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Not a fairer comparison, because Tampa Bay had a crapload of talent from the pre-Namoli years. But point taken.

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      • Georgethev says:

        The Rays stockpiled top draft picks for 10 years before having their success.

        Why do people keep forgetting this?

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  8. PL says:

    “The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, and since the last wave of future talent was just traded away en masse this past offseason, it’s worth wondering what happened with it. Did the Athletics just randomly fail to amass as much talent at one time as they did in their past two cycles of success?”

    Simply put, one mistake was made. If you add Carlos Gonzalez to the 2010 team that finished .500, they suddenly become playoff contenders looking to buy and perhaps take the division. The Matt Holliday mistake ruined the team from 09-present.

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  9. vivaelpujols says:

    Eh, I think you might be overstating the case against the Athletics:

    he team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, and since the last wave of future talent was just traded away en masse this past offseason, it’s worth wondering what happened with it. Did the Athletics just randomly fail to amass as much talent at one time as they did in their past two cycles of success? Or was this last sell-off a sign that the team’s approach to collecting talent is flawed?

    I don’t know why 5 seasons would be a sign of anything, especially when you consider that the A’s were one of the best teams in baseball in the early 2000′s with the same approach. Even if they haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years, they’ve averaged 77 wins a season, which is pretty solid.

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  10. gonfalon says:

    woo hoo, the Pirates have clinched a rank among the top 90% of teams!

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  11. max says:

    As a Mariner fan, I am happy to see Oakland this low. But I admit I am surprised. The group of prospects they acquired in their trades this offseason, not to mention Cespedes, seems solid and fairly deep.

    Then again, they’re still in Oakland and not making money and such……nevermind

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  12. Baltar says:

    Congratulations to FanGraphs methodology changes. You have now corrected the 2 most obvious over-rankings from last year: Baltimore and Oakland.

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  13. TK says:

    The Pirates outside of the bottom 3 seems strange.

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  14. xeifrank says:

    I have the A’s ranked higher in my 2012 Org Rankings, mostly due to their minor league system and the wins they are able to get out of such a low payrolled team. Someone like the Pirates should be here imo.

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  15. MajorDanby says:

    ah, but you forget…moneyball was nominated for a people’s choice award.

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  16. Bronnt says:

    I can’t totally agree with Oakland’s placement, but so far, I’m feeling very good about the changes to this series.

    My big question, is there anyone besides the Yankees who might plausibly be #1?

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    • xeifrank says:

      Texas, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Boston

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      • Will says:

        I think the revenues category eliminates the Rays.

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      • xeifrank says:

        Will, yes the revenue category likely hurts them in the FG formula. I would probably override it in the case of Tampa Bay as they have shown since 2008 (97, 84, 96, 91 wins) they have been able to succeed “despite” the low revenues.

        Any category that can eliminate an organization from a top ranking based on something almost completely out of their control should be revisited in how it is applied to the rankings imo. That is meant as a contructive criticism as I enjoy this series.

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      • All good options, but what about the Angels? 2013+ Outlook & “Overall Management” are hard to discern because of new management, but the LaTroy Hawkins signing is promising.

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    • ThundaPC says:

      Using the spreadsheet, the Texas Rangers have a serious shot at #1. That’s where I had them before I made some minor adjustments to the revenue numbers. I think it will come down to the separation between the Yankees and Rangers in financial resources. With the increase in attendance for the Rangers plus the windfall they’re receiving from the new TV deal, that organization is becoming monstrous in a hurry.

      Tampa Bay is going to get slammed the most by this current set of criteria. Baseball Ops, which the Rays are strong in, carries less weight whereas Financial Resources, which the Rays are massively weak in, carries more weight this year.

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  17. Matt says:

    The rangers?

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  18. Big Oil says:

    The Fangraphs Crowd is 3-3 so far, correctly calling the bottom three orgs.

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  19. Matt says:

    I love what the A’s did this offseason. Took their farm system from bottom 5 to top 10, and I’m not convinced they actually made the major league squad worse. I think this team betters their 2011 record. I’m a lot higher on the A’s going forward than this.

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  20. Not an A's Fan says:

    What Oakland is doing this year is just unimaginable in every possible way.

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