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A’s Adding Power for the Sake of Runs

Billy Beane has essentially divided his off-season into two parts. In the latter part he bought a couple of relievers to finish off an already strong bullpen. While that might have been the more curious part, it probably wasn’t the most helpful. In the first part of his off-season, however, Beane made upgrades to the offense, particularly in terms of power. The A’s certainly need the boost; the team produced a .122 ISO last season, third worst in the majors.

David DeJesus might not be renowned for his power, but he certainly represents an upgrade for the A’s. Last year the A’s gave both Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney plenty of playing time, and neither of those guys cracked a .100 ISO. DeJesus might have experienced a slight drop-off in power, a .125 ISO, but he has a .137 ISO for his career and has been around .150 in four of the last six seasons. If he takes over for Davis’s 561 PA in 2011, the A’s are already better off.

The two real power acquisitions came when the A’s traded for Josh Willingham and signed Hideki Matsui. While Willingham has had some health issues — he hasn’t played in 140 games since 2007 — he does bring the power while on the field. In 2603 career PA he owns a .210 ISO, and he had a .237 ISO in 502 PA in 2009. Even if he repeats his 2010 and comes to bat just 450 times, he’ll represent a considerable upgrade over Ryan Sweeney, who has a .100 career ISO and was at .089 through 331 PA last season.

Matsui, too, has a reputation for power numbers. In 2009 he produced a .235 ISO, and in 2010, away from the short porch at Yankee Stadium, his ISO was still .185. The only problem here is that he’s replacing Jack Cust, who produced the highest ISO on the A’s last year, .166. Yet he did that in just 425 PA. Matsui has over 500 PA in each of the last two seasons, and in three of the last four. He doesn’t represent as significant an upgrade over Cust as DeJesus does over Davis and Willingham does over Sweeney, but if he hits to his career levels and plays more than Cust did last year, he’ll provide a certain degree better production.

Oakland Coliseum certainly plays a role in this analysis, since it is one of the more¬†pitcher friendly parks, if not the most¬†pitcher friendly park, in the American League. Willingham in particular might find the transition tough. According to Stat Corner’s park factors, Oakland has a 77 factor for righty home runs, and 90 for righty doubles (average is 100). Nationals Park had a 100 HR park factor and a 95 doubles factor in 2010. So while he does represent the team’s biggest power upgrade, it might not be as drastic as his career numbers make it seem.

Matsui is moving from a 101 doubles environment and a 92 homer environment to an 86 doubles, 92 home run environment, so he too could see something of a drop-off. DeJesus could get a boost in homers, as Kauffman Stadium’s HR park factor is just 73 for lefties, but its doubles factor is 117. Since much of his power comes from doubles, he could see a negative effect in his new ballpark.

Even still, the newcomers appear to bring a bit more power than their predecessors. It’s not as though these players are going to become powerless in their new confines. Coco Crisp didn’t feel that effect. Though he had just 329 PA last season, he produced a .159 ISO, after producing a .150 ISO in 215 AB for Kansas City in 2009. Kevin Kouzmanoff experienced only a modest power dip, though he was coming from Petco Park, so perhaps he’s not the best example. We will, in all likelihood, see DeJesus, Matsui, and Willingham lose a bit of power in 2011, but they still present better options than their 2010 counterparts.

How important is power? In 2010 the correlation between ISO and runs scored was .77, so it does play a large role in the run scoring process. The A’s sorely lacked power in 2010, partly because of their park, but partly because they employed two mostly powerless outfielders to go along with their low-power first baseman, singles-hitting middle infielders, and moderately-powered third baseman. Adding these three players will go a long way in boosting the team’s power numbers, and thereby increasing its run scoring ability. With a greatly improved bullpen and a young, capable rotation, they’ve put themselves in a position to retake the AL West.