Examining the A’s Epic Collapse

One of the biggest stories of the season’s second half has been the historic decline of the Oakland Athletics. They are flirting with accomplishing the extremely difficult feat of having the best record in baseball at the All Star break, and then missing the playoffs. Winning the final two games of their pivotal series with the Seattle Mariners this past weekend has sharply decreased the likelihood of that worst case scenario, but the collapse has been stark nonetheless. It’s convenient to tie the A’s second half results to the departure of Yoenis Cespedes in the Jon Lester trade, but the reality is a bit more complicated than that. There are many factors in play, but arguably the foremost among them has been the precipitous fall of two of their key offensive players – Derek Norris and Brandon Moss.

As we stand here a week and a half away from the end of the regular season, one can still make a very strong case that the A’s are the best club in the major leagues, despite the fact that they currently trail the Angels by 10 1/2 games, through Tuesday’s night’s games. Their run differential remains the game’s best, and over a large sample size, they have proven to be a balanced, resilient club. They are 3rd in the AL in runs per game, and 2nd in runs allowed. They play strong defense. They don’t have wasted spots on their roster, platooning often in the lineup, and getting valuable contributions from both the back end of the rotation and bullpen.

The A’s record crested at 28 games over .500, at 72-44, on August 9, though their winning percentage peaked at .625 a couple weeks earlier, on July 27. They are 18-28 since the former date, and 11-23 since the latter. Obviously, this is right around the time of the Cespedes trade, on July 31. Usually, when a contender acquires a high-end rental player like Lester at the deadline, minor league pieces are exchanged in return.

By dealing Cespedes, the A’s did weaken their lineup to strengthen their rotation. They did receive Jonny Gomes in the deal, but unsurprisingly, he appears to be toast, batting .250-.317-.269 since the deal. Sam Fuld was also re-acquired that same day, and has had to play quite a bit, batting a puny .217-.272-.344 in two stints with the A’s this season. Certainly, there has been an offensive dropoff with the departure of Cespedes, but there is that slight mitigating effect – sarcasm intended – of the acquisition of Lester and his 2.30 ERA in 62 2/3 innings since the trade. The offense was hurt, but the team significantly helped by the deal. As a club, the A’s were batting .254-.329-.406 through July 29 – since that day, they have hit only .223-.295-.335. It has been run creation, not prevention, that has keyed the club’s decline.

One under-the-radar reason for the A’s offensive decline has been the absence of John Jaso, placed on the DL on August 24 with a concussion. From July 29 until that date, Jaso went 8 for 52, batting .154-.214-.231 over that span. Jaso is no superstar, but he is exactly the type of versatile, undervalued piece that the A’s productive offense has been built upon. The timing of his decline exactly mirrors that of the club, but every contender has injuries, and many of them have occurred to players more valuable than Jaso. Another mitigating factor here has been increased playing time for Steven Vogt, who has contributed more than the A’s ever could have asked.

This brings us back to Norris and Moss. Both players were acquired in two of the more common ways utilized by the A’s. Gio Gonzalez was becoming too expensive for the A’s taste, so they dealt him to the Nationals for a substantial package that included Norris. Moss was a humble minor league free agent signing prior to the 2012 season, an undervalued asset that the A’s identified as a potential breakout power performer.

On August 2, Norris woke up with a .303-.402-.481 line, and Moss had a line of .266-.347-.526 as recently as July 24. Obviously, these guys were a big part of their great start, and they have been an equally large part of their recent struggles. Let’s first examine their overall 2014 plate appearance outcome frequency and production by BIP type data to get a better feel for their true talent level. First, the frequency data:

FREQ – 2014
Norris % REL PCT
K 19.7% 97 54
BB 11.8% 153 89
POP 9.4% 122 69
FLY 27.3% 98 42
LD 18.0% 86 10
GB 45.3% 104 69
————– ———- ———- ———-
Moss % REL PCT
K 26.5% 131 83
BB 11.0% 143 84
POP 11.0% 143 81
FLY 37.8% 135 96
LD 20.7% 100 48
GB 30.4% 70 3

There’s actually a lot to like in Norris’ full-season frequency profile. HIs BB rate is quite high, with an 89 percentile rank, providing some margin for error with regard to batted-ball authority. Though his popup rate remains quite high (69 percentile rank), it is way down from his massive 17.2% popup rate in limited 2013 duty. His liner rate (10 percentile rank) is low, but liner rates tend to fluctuate more than those of other batted-ball types, so positive regression could be in his future.

Moss is what he is, an extreme fly ball hitter (96 percentile rank). In my Chris Davis piece earlier this week, it was noted that Davis and Moss, along with Colby Rasmus, were the three most extreme fly ball hitters in the game in 2013. Such hitters are extremely risky, and the vast majority of the 17 2013 MLB regulars who had more fly balls (excluding popups) than grounders have struggled quite a bit in 2014. Moss strikes out a ton (84 percentile rank), but like many power hitters gets his walks (83 percentile rank). With such a high K rate, it is imperative that Moss make thunderous contact when he does put the ball in play.

To assess the relative authority of both players’ contact, let’s take a look at their overall 2014 production by batted-ball type, before and after adjustment for context:

PROD – 2014
Norris AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.299 0.687 98 66
LD 0.523 0.841 75 113
GB 0.342 0.378 202 126
ALL BIP 0.339 0.518 109 94
ALL PA 0.262 0.350 0.401 117 104
—————- ———- ———– ———- ———- ———-
Moss AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.363 1.062 194 246
LD 0.726 0.919 116 115
GB 0.242 0.264 100 110
ALL BIP 0.345 0.637 136 153
ALL PA 0.239 0.323 0.442 116 128

Both players’ actual production on each BIP type is indicated in the AVG and SLG columns, and is converted to run values and compared to MLB average in the REL PRD column. That figure then is adjusted for context, such as home park, luck, etc., in the ADJ PRD column. For the purposes of this exercise, SH and SF are included as outs and HBP are excluded from the OBP calculation.

There are major disconnects between Norris’ actual and adjusted production for each batted ball type. He’s been quite lucky on fly balls (98 REL PRD vs. 66 ADJ PRD), a fact that has been largely offset by his bad fortune on liners (75 REL PRD vs. 113 ADJ PRD). What cannot be ignored, however, is the extreme good luck he has experienced on ground balls. Norris is batting a stunning .342 AVG-.378 SLG on grounders for the season – a 202 REL PRD figure, over twice as productive as the average MLB hitter. This, from a relatively, slow, righthanded-hitting catcher. He does hit his grounders (and liners) fairly hard – adjustment for context only brings his ADJ PRD on grounders down to 126. Overall, his REL PRD on all BIP is above league average at 109, but is adjusted down to 94 for context, largely due to the grounder disparity. Adding back the K’s and BB’s is a net plus for Norris, raising his ADJ PRD to 104 – above league average production at a defense-first position is a very good thing.

Moss hurts the baseball, as a high-K guy must. He has a strong 194 ADJ PRD on fly balls, and such performance in a relatively pitcher-friendly park elevates it even further to a 246 REL PRD. Like Norris, Moss hits his liners and grounders quite hard, with ADJ PRD figures of 115 and 110, respectively. Overall, his above average fly ball frequency and authority drives his REL PRD on all BIP to a very high 153. His fairly extreme K rate takes a toll when the K’s and BB’s are added back, dropping his overall ADJ PRD to 128.

The full-season numbers paint both Norris and Moss as the productive offensive performers they are, both overall and relative to their respective positions. Let’s split both players’ frequency and production data into 1st and 2nd half data, using August 2 as Norris’ cutoff, and July 24 as Moss’, to see what has gone wrong.

FREQ – 2014
Norris – 1st % REL PCT
K 16.9% 83 42
BB 14.3% 186 98
POP 9.0% 117 66
FLY 27.7% 99 45
LD 20.9% 100 48
GB 42.9% 98 59
————– ———- ———- ———-
Norris – 2nd % REL PCT
K 25.5% 126 79
BB 7.1% 92 35
POP 10.3% 134 76
FLY 26.5% 95 35
LD 11.8% 57 1
GB 51.5% 118 90
————– ———- ———- ———-
Moss – 1st % REL PCT
K 24.0% 118 73
BB 9.4% 123 70
POP 10.9% 141 80
FLY 37.9% 136 96
LD 20.2% 97 37
GB 31.0% 71 4
————– ———- ———- ———-
Moss – 2nd % REL PCT
K 32.9% 162 98
BB 14.2% 184 98
POP 11.8% 153 84
FLY 37.3% 134 95
LD 23.5% 113 82
GB 27.5% 63 2

Some really interesting stuff here. Norris’ big problem has been the utter breakdown in his K and BB rates, going from 16.9/14.3 ratio in the 1st half to 25.5/7.1 in the 2nd. There have been some variations in his other frequencies, primarily, the absolute crashing of his liner rate to 11.8% after August 2, but the K/BB breakdown is the key item.

The biggest piece of info in Moss’ frequency profile is the explosion in his K rate, from 24.0% in the 1st half to 32.9% in the 2nd. This puts extreme pressure upon his batted ball authority for him to have any degree of success. The BIP production by half data should give further insight as to why both hitters have struggled so much of late:

PROD – 2014
Norris – 1st AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.327 0.816 129 90
LD 0.556 0.889 84 114
GB 0.382 0.421 251 120
ALL BIP 0.364 0.576 129 100
ALL PA 0.291 0.394 0.461 151 122
—————- ———- ———– ———- ———- ———-
Norris – 2nd AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.222 0.333 35 20
LD 0.375 0.625 40 106
GB 0.257 0.286 115 139
ALL BIP 0.292 0.406 74 84
ALL PA 0.212 0.268 0.295 66 74
—————- ———- ———– ———- ———- ———-
Moss – 1st AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.393 1.191 237 284
LD 0.680 0.880 104 109
GB 0.247 0.273 105 117
ALL BIP 0.364 0.715 161 180
ALL PA 0.265 0.336 0.522 141 155
—————- ———- ———– ———- ———- ———-
Moss – 2nd AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD
FLY 0.211 0.421 42 97
LD 0.917 1.083 175 143
GB 0.214 0.214 73 76
ALL BIP 0.280 0.373 65 76
ALL PA 0.167 0.291 0.222 61 68

The stark breakdown in Norris’ fly ball authority is the most eyecatching aspect of his profile. He is batting just .222 AVG-.333 SLG on fly balls in the 2nd half, an amazing 35 REL PRD that is adjusted even lower for context to 20. Norris is completely unable to elevate the ball in the air for distance up the middle and to the opposite field. He has hit a grand total of two fly balls at 90 MPH or higher in those directions all season, and of late, Norris has had a much harder time pulling the ball in the air. Through August 2, Norris hit 28 balls in the air to LF-LCF, and 14 to RCF-RF. Since then, he has hit 7 to LF-LCF and 7 to RCF-RF. Norris’ body and bat are slowing as the season progresses.

Knowing that he is unable to hurt them to fully two-thirds of the field, pitchers are learning that they can throw strikes to the outer half vs. Norris and not be hurt. His BB rate has plunged, and coupled with his almost nonexistent liner rate and the expected regression of his performance on grounders – .342 AVG-.378 SLG in the 1st half, .257 AVG-.286 SLG in the 2nd – voila, you have Norris’ 2nd half.

As for Moss, as it is for Chris Davis, it’s all about the pulling. Moss is arguably the most extreme pull hitter in the game today, and that inherently makes him streaky and risky. Looking at Moss’ 1st and 2nd halves is like looking at Raul Ibanez‘ 2013 and 2014 seasons. Not coincidentally, Ibanez was also on the list of extreme fly ball hitters in 2013. Moss has totally lost his swing in the 2nd half, a swing that is grooved to drive mistake fastballs on the inner half over the RF fence, and little else.

He’s gone from .393 AVG-1.191 SLG on fly balls in the 1st half to .211 AVG-.421 SLG in the 2nd, though context and a very small sample size bumps his 2nd half fly ball ADJ PRD figure up to 99. Moss needs to pull in the air to excel, and he has struggled to do so in the 2nd half – 72% of his fly balls were hit to RCF-RF in the 1st half, but only 50% have been pulled in the 2nd half. Moss also hits extremely “high” fly balls, another risky feature covered in the Davis article. If anything, Moss has been incredibly fortunate on ground balls, as he is the most obvious overshift candidate out there, with a 13.17 pull ratio (79 grounders to RCF-RF, 6 to LF-LCF). If he starts to hit .120 on grounders like Davis, Moss could disappear in an instant.

The A’s have largely built their club around players such as Norris and Moss, and deserve a great deal of credit for doing so. Both possess clear strengths, but also have clear shortcomings. As their careers have progressed, pitchers have begun to pound their weaknesses, and the onus is now on them to make the necessary adjustments. Moss has homered in two of the last three games, and even 70% of the first half version of Norris is valuable because of the dearth of offense at the catching position, so all is far from lost. We should realize, however, that perhaps the A’s and their offense weren’t quite as good as they appeared to be a couple months ago, and that their full season numbers only now represent their true talent level.



Print This Post





Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

it gets worse. Coco Crisp got a nagging neck injury in early July– he hasn’t really been healthy since, and he fell off the table. Craig Gentry also has been injured and missed significant time. More recently Vogt has been hurt, though his drop in production the past 6 weeks or so has been more of a classic regression to mean. The combination of Sogard, Punto, Callaspo (seeing him stride to the plate on a 4-40 tear with bases loaded and one out in 8th inning last night was simply criminal by Melvin– with Moss available!!) Gentry, Fuld, Gomes, Soto is simply one 230-300-350ish hitter after another– and for several the production hasn’t even been that good. Lowrie has also slumped bigtime (he was the other culprit with bases loaded in 8th last night). Basically Donaldson and Reddick are the only two A’s regulars– out of a total pool of 14-15, given platoon and injuries– that have kept their production level since mid July… And no one has improved these past two months…

Doug
Member
Doug
1 year 8 months ago

Two words – sample size. 4 for 40 isn’t really meaningful unless you can identify a reason for it.

Philip Christy
Guest
Philip Christy
1 year 8 months ago

How about a sample size of 442 PAs? .228/.296/.296, 71 wRC+.

Buns Slugsworth
Guest
Buns Slugsworth
1 year 8 months ago

Jeter’s line is .249/.298/.297 in 595 plate appearances.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
1 year 8 months ago

So Callaspo should retire too?

wallysb01
Guest
wallysb01
1 year 8 months ago

He should have retired 4 months ago. That way Melvin wouldn’t pinch hit him with the bases loaded and one out in a 1-run game.

Dan
Guest
Dan
1 year 8 months ago

I would love to read more of your articles, Tony, but your use of tables in which you just copy and paste from Excel is baffling. Please do yourself a favor in the offseason and get some pointers from Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan on how to properly format your data for this site.

Bill
Guest
Bill
1 year 8 months ago

Agreed. Love your work, but the tables are a bit rough.

Fred
Guest
Fred
1 year 8 months ago

I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Jack Zduriencik told him the same thing, and look what happened to Tony after that.

scatterbrian
Guest
scatterbrian
1 year 8 months ago

I assumed you were going to mention hyphenating stats that are commonly referred to as “triple slash”…

ChummyZ
Guest
ChummyZ
1 year 8 months ago

I don’t comment much here, but this is so on point that I need to chime in and agree. Those tables are a terrible eyesore, and as such, I only occasionally skim Tony’s articles despite the fact that I know he writes good content just because of the tables.

LG
Guest
LG
1 year 8 months ago

“Please change your great, free content for me because I don’t find it aesthetically pleasing.”

Psy Jung
Guest
Psy Jung
1 year 8 months ago

A minor point, but Fuld is on a 4 WAR/600 PA pace since joining the A’s, equalling Cespedes’ production for the Sox (and if you’re more willing to believe Fuld’s crazy UZR than Cespedes’, which you should, he’s actually been superior). Basically the Cespedes narrative is really stupid.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
1 year 8 months ago

I agree that the Cespedes narrative is false, but Fuld’s performance doesn’t really impact it. The narrative seems more built around protection in the lineup, and how losing your cleanup hitter can have more of an impact than just losing that individual hitter’s production. Fuld’s great defense and awful bat might put up a comparable WAR, but it doesn’t ease the burden from the other hitters.

Roger
Guest
Roger
1 year 8 months ago

I thought about protection too. If that’s the correct explanation, we should see something in the pitch mix (type and location) these players have seen before vs after the trade and how that has impacted their overall performance. Is it correct? I have no idea. It might make a great follow-up article.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
1 year 8 months ago

Well, there’s also the psychological aspect as well, if people put pressure on themselves to perform better, or provide more power, with Cespedes gone. There are plenty of cases of players that don’t perform well because their team tries to change who they are (Carlos Gomez, for example) – and they don’t blossom until they go back to being the player that they were meant to be. If the other players did well when they weren’t the top dog, maybe it impacted them when they thought they had to suddenly be the offensive leader.

I’m not saying that’s true – but that’s what the narrative seemed to be built around, and I don’t think Sam Fuld’s defense and baserunning is a counterpoint to that narrative.

nilbog44
Member
nilbog44
1 year 8 months ago

And this is where I think WAR is full of crap.

Hank
Guest
Hank
1 year 8 months ago

Well the #’s he’s saying you should believe are absurd. Sure he’s a better fielder – but that doesn’t mean you should believe the quantification of it blindly:

2014 LF (A’s): UZR/150 of 62… no sane person would believe that or use that to determine a full season WAR.
2014 CF (A’a): UZR of 38. His career UZR/150 in CF is…. 9 (and that includes the 2014 data)

So even if you think he is an otherworldly LF’r (Gordon/Gardner type), both his defensive #’s are probably at least 30 runs (~3WAR) too high if you were to regress them. In all likelihood maybe even more.

The issue isn’t WAR, it’s the inability of people to understand the limitations of the models feeding that model.

Psy Jung
Guest
Psy Jung
1 year 8 months ago

That’s a misreading of what I wrote. I never said you should believe the numbers, just that Fuld and Cespedes are both currently running really stupid UZRs (Cespedes is at 32/150) and that given that Fuld has the superior defensive reputation, you should regress his numbers somewhat less.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

so, you’re saying the A’s aren’t hitting…?

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
1 year 8 months ago

So they’re saying blame anything but Beane’s decision to move Cespedes.

Bomok
Guest
Bomok
1 year 8 months ago

Yup. That’s what we’re all saying. And we all agree with each other ad brig facts to back it up.
You have a problem with that?

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

Here’s where I believe the Cespedes narrative isn’t stupid… (Fuld’s defense has been superb) Two things happened– first with the Shark/Hammel trade and then clearly with Lester: 1) the roles of all the key offensive players changed. Norris and Moss in particular were moved up in the order. We may think that is all hooey but we’re not professional baseball players. Cespedes was, in some ways, a larger than life figure– whether he had better than a 760-770 OPS or not– that probably took a fair amount of pressure off of his teammates; 2) A team that had thrived for 2.5 seasons on being the underdog, the team that upset everyone’s expectations, were told– BY THEIR OWN GM– they were now expected to win a WS– that they were the best in the land… They looked in the mirror and came to a different conclusion, and have been proving it ever since… Yes, there are injuries, and yes, their was outsized performance by several players in the first half– but the epic nature of this collapse suggests a lot more going on than even Tony’s excellent report.

My echo and bunnymen
Guest
My echo and bunnymen
1 year 8 months ago

If we assume that MLB players aren’t that smart I don’t see why they would look in the mirror and come to a different conclusion especially since, as this article states, they were the best team record wise in MLB. Personally, I still like this team for a possible World Series title this season (Shark, Hammel, Gray, Kazmir, and Lester) but I do agree with the order change. This can mess with player’s minds, for whatever reason. I just disagree with their conclusion they weren’t great since pretty much everything that most “normal” ballplayers would look at would be to the contrary.

Jackie T.
Member
Member
Jackie T.
1 year 8 months ago

I think you might be missing the point of this website.

Kenny
Guest
Kenny
1 year 8 months ago

Right. The point of this website is to deny the relevance of human and group psychology in the lives of young male workers, a denial that would surprise the human resource manager of every organization in the world, including those of us with detailed understanding of statistics.

Oh, by the way, I am aware that the A’s collapse cannot be “explained” by the Cespedes trade, or any other single-causality claim. There are merely reasons to believe that the trade was a bad gamble – one against the odds.

Given that the only explanation for the trade was to increase the A’s chances to win the World Series this year, and it did so (according to Baseball Prospectus – sorry I haven’t looked up the numbers on this website) by 1.1% (from 14.1% to 15.2), the only threshold those of us who do believe in the importance of human psychology have to overcome is to believe that there was a greater than 1 in 90 chance that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a reasonable watchword at the end of a baseball season. I believe that. And stated it in comments to this and other websites on August 1.

Kenny
Guest
Kenny
1 year 8 months ago

One more note about the above comment. People who write or follow sabremetrics are used to the belief that if you can increase the occurrence of a positive phenomenon by 1 in 90 that is worth doing. This is sensible on the time scale of a plate appearance – there will always be 90 more plate appearances. This is not reasonable on the timescale of a season – no A’s fan will see 90 more seasons where the A’s have a chance to win the World Series. Leaving aside the question of winning, and moving directly to revenue – in the 1 additional season where you win the World Series because of this trade you increase your revenue somewhat. In the other 89 seasons, you’ll lose more money in reduced t-shirt sales with the name of your most popular player (not best, but definitely most popular) on the back more than enough to offset any potential gain in revenue.

Billy Beane’s comment on the fact that August 2 was Cespedes t-shirt day: “yes, this is the marketing department’s biggest nightmare.” It is. My 11 year old daughter may never again choose to attend an A’s game.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

wut?

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

What Kenny is saying is undeniably true– Beane has lost his fan base.. whether permanently or not one can’t say. But as one, I can accurately report that we have a) given up on this team and b) don’t expect to see Beane very much longer to deel with the after-effects… When your only hope is “maybe a bad team can do well in the postseason whereas the good A’s s___ never did”– you know you’re in trouble… It may be that Beane (and all the rest of us) misjudged the character of his team as well as its offensive talent. Scott Kazmir made some very pointed comments after Tuesday’s game about the lack of professionalism.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

Paul and Kenny are you on AN?

The attitude among A’s fans I talk with there and in “real life” is much more mixed about the Cespedes trade and the dislike of Beane than you’re suggesting here.

You’re also inventing narrative, or at least really grasping at straws to support an emotional attachment to Cespedes.

“This is not reasonable on the timescale of a season – no A’s fan will see 90 more seasons where the A’s have a chance to win the World Series.”

This is completely irrelevant. We don’t need 90 seasons to make an additional 1/90 chance worth taking. These kinds of calculations and pro/con arguments have nothing to do with how many times a team might or might not be in WS contention.

“In the other 89 seasons, you’ll lose more money in reduced t-shirt sales with the name of your most popular player (not best, but definitely most popular) on the back more than enough to offset any potential gain in revenue. ”

Further insanity. Do you have the numbers on how many Cespedes T-shirt sales they lost that aren’t going to be replaced by fans just buying a different players T-shirt?

Didn’t think so.

You’re pulling shit out of your ass. Literally, this is BS. And I’m calling you on it.

Did you even look up how much a team stands to make from winning the WS, or how much each additional round in the playoffs adds to the bottom line? Then calculate the increased odds the Lester trade brought to making it to and winning each stage?

Nope, didn’t think so.

Please.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

I follow AN very closely. I would say that mixed feelings combined with natural hope for the best in the aftermath of the two trades has morphed into mind-numbing lack of faith in just about everyone on the organization– from Beane to Melvin to Chili Davis to the starters (other than Lester and Gray) to much of the bullpen (other than Doolittle– OOPS) to virtually the entire lineup.. And the sense that the team seems too willing to accept their fate– however accurate or inaccurate that belief is– is pervasive… The drumbeat of low-scoring and often stunning one run losses the past two weeks– a loss when Cook and Co. gave up the game (2 runs) in the 9th without allowing a hit; where O’Flaherty had two strikes and two outs in Chicago and hung a slider, where time and time again chances for big innings go wasted (last night) and come back to bite you, or the team simply rolls over and plays dead (20+ consecutive scoreless innings in Anaheim). My feeling is that the vast majority of A’s fan do not believe the team deserves to make the playoffs, and has little or no hope if somehow they still get in and face a 1 gamer against anyone, and particularly King Felix in either ballpark. Remember something pretty stunning. There were several days as recently as August where Baseball Prospectus simulation model rated the A’s as “100%” to make the playoffs– since they round by the hundredths, that means the A’s, in the model’s view, were at least 99.95% to make the playoffs– meaning they were a 2000 to 1 shot– or HIGHER– to miss the playoffs. 1964 Phillies can smile– this will be the worst collapse in MLB history if they miss out entirely.

Kenny
Guest
Kenny
1 year 8 months ago

Walter: I call bullshit all the time on arrogant number crunching managements That make decisions without consulting operations or marketing first. (Beane believes he does that for everyone’s good. Said so in an interview just the other day.) Lot of good it does me.

scatterbrian
Guest
scatterbrian
1 year 8 months ago

I don’t think the impetus was to marginally increase their playoff or World Series chances.

Chavez was showing that he peaked in the first six weeks. There were obvious concerns with Gray and Kazmir, who are now running out of gas. Milone got by on smoke and mirrors and now has a dead arm. The rest of the replacements were getting hit or hurt. They needed pitching…and remember, this is a team that only has one active member from their 2013 playoff rotation.

Bats Left, Throws Right
Member
Member
Bats Left, Throws Right
1 year 8 months ago

And scatterbrain, what did they need that pitching for then…?

scatterbrian
Guest
scatterbrian
1 year 8 months ago

Bats – I think I’m pretty clear why they needed pitching. If you’re just being a smart-ass, you’re not a very clever one.

Philip Christy
Guest
Philip Christy
1 year 8 months ago

So you’re claiming that a group of ballplayers, who at the time were the best team in the land, just couldn’t handle being told that they were the best team in the land? This is the reason for their collapse?

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

You got a better explanation? When 8-10 players slump at the exact time– with all of them regressing to close to their worst performances in the big leagues for any extended period– one has to start to consider a macro effect. Almost every one of these guys are either cast offs, former part time players, rejects from different organizations (Cespedes was the one clear esception) — because that’s the whole point with the A’s payroll, isn’t it? The other explanation– which really isn’t inconsistent with the first– is that the poor hitting/losing begat more poor hitting/losing which in turn caused more… Essentially a death spiral created by pressure and failure– neither of which relented for a second…

hbar
Guest
hbar
1 year 8 months ago

The same thing happened to the Padres–the pressure of trying to stay in third place in the division got to them, and the whole lineup (minus Seth Smith) failed to achieve their respective projected mediocrities.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

Paul. Most of those players that have slumped have had none trivial nagging injuries or they have been asked to do more than originally intended (ie. Norris catching almost every day and batting against RH starting pitchers, or Moss with a hurt ankle and Coco hurt neck).

But instead of relying on real physical evidence that players are hurting or doing things not originally intended, you want to jump to some meta-physical, unknowable explanation.

The Cespedes trade might as well be the next flying spaghetti monster.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

Baseball players get nagging second half injuries all the time.. why is the Norris OPS difference pre and post over 300 pts? Moss more than 400? Vogt over 200? Lowrie over 200? Gomes and Fuld both substantially underperforming? Freiman doing worse than he did last year in essentially the same role? Callapso falling through the floor? Same for Crisp? Gentry?

It is either the most bizarre coincidental failure of all time, or something related to the biggest single change– which were the two high-profile trades… I don’t believe in bizarre coincidences…

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

But you do believe in the bizarre. It would be quite bizarre to have the mere presence of another person essentially take half the roster from legitimate MLB regular/All-star to would-have-a-hard-time-in-AAA.

And you’re ignoring the injuries, lack of platooning. Norris in the first half wasn’t facing RHPs, at least not often. Now he faces them regularly, even caught a game while nursing his hip injury to do so on Monday. Oh yeah, and there’s that hip injury. That might have something to do with it…. Na? Must be the lack Cespedes mojo.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

Note that I go further than “lack of Cespedes mojo”, though i think that’s part of it… I think it is a collective choke– and choke is the precise word for it– of a team whose expectations got way too big for their actual abilities– particularly on offense… They look at the lineup cards– and when they see Calhoun-Trout-Pujols-Hamilton-Kendrick or Hunter-Cabrera-Martinez-Martinez, they see teams with better players. Period… It was a nice fairy tale in 2012-13 and the first half of this season– but when the weight of the world fell on this team, they simply collapsed… Please understand that they have the worst record in baseball since the losing began– and that is now over a 7 week period… and are consistently losing series to mediocre and bad teams, let alone the other contenders… It ain’t just injuries…

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
1 year 8 months ago

“You got a better explanation?”

Yeah, this article. The problem is, neither of your explanations have any data behind them so there’s no reason to think of your explanation as “better” or even “good” in any sense. Whereas the author dug up bunches of stats to make his own point.

As usual, a fan finds an emotional/psychological explanation valid even though said fan knows nothing about the psyche of any of the people involved. Pretty presumptuous to assume something like that.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

This article was interesting and informative. It examined two particular players whose declines have been staggering.. And even the data cited cannot explain the depth of their fall-offs.. what about the other 10-12 playwrs who have regressed? Can a .620 W/L Percentage transformation to a sub .300 W/L percentage be just injuries, bad luck and expected regression? We are dealing with one of–and perhaps the (i type this as Sonny Gray allows 4 runs in the top half of the first– in a game the bookmakers established the A’s as prohibitive (Minus 290– are you kidding me???) favorites) worst collapse in major league history… I simply think that when an outlier this extreme occurs, we all had better search for an explanation that is deeper than simply two guys stopped hitting for some reason…

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

Two guys stopped hitting for some reason? You can’t really think that’s what the argument is. That’s only PART OF IT, and the article above clearly states as much. Stop building straw men to knock them over.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

Everyone didn’t move up in the order. Moss often found himself batting forth behind Donaldson before Cespedes was traded, mostly with RHPs. Now with LHPs, Gomes is batting 4th (much to A’s fans dislike). The Cespedes narrative is frankly idiotic.

One Mississippi
Guest
One Mississippi
1 year 8 months ago

What I never got from Melvin, is why he changed anything at all? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and he made so many crazy changes so fast.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

Huh?

LF– Cespedes got traded… Fuld and Gomes have been basically a platoon.

CF– either Gentry or Crisp– and sometimes both– have been injured for most of the last two months. The other plays– or Fuld

RF– Reddick was injured early in the year and not performing… Moss plays here and even Vogt (A’s used to have a 3 catcher starting lineup before Jaso’s concussion– Norris or Jaso behind the plate; Vogt in right or at 1B; the 3rd DHing) … Reddick is more or less the regular now, but occasionally will sit vs a lefty… Gentry was a platoon substitute and more lately Gomes on occasion

3B– Donaldson

SS– lowrie– but he missed considerable time on DL– Sogard filled in

2B– all poor options. Sogard has actually hit pretty well since AS break and plays most days– Punto went on DL; Callaspo has gotten worse and worse.

1B– Kyle Blanks was a very effective platoon for a month or so– got hurt and hasn’t played in several months. Nate Freiman has not been as effective and Moss, of course, fell off the table with no HRs from July 23 until this past weekend…

C– With Jaso out and Vogt really not a catcher anymore, A’s got Soto.. Norris is beat up and has gotten alarmingly bad at throwing runners out… His pitch-calling has come into serious question and had some clear issues with Lester in a recent start.. But Soto was hurt too which necessitated Hammel batting twice as Norris was forced to move behind the plate mid-game from DH spot.

Anyway, my point is any changes Melvin made were pretty much dictated by injuries, losing Cespedes, and poor performance. The most questionable big decision he made was, when Doolittle missed 3+ weeks, naming Eric O’Flaherty as closer rather than going with a committee or using Gregerson. Three or four games were lost in the late innings with Doolittle out– but of course he was the one who blew the game last night…

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

Reddick has always been sitting vs lefties in the last 30 days or so. Another thing I don’t like.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
1 year 8 months ago

Beane changed things not Melvin.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

And Beane made basically two changes… He said I want Lester-Shark-Hammel instead of Milone-Straily-Chavez (Pomerantz took himself out of the loop for two+ months by foolishly breaking his non-pitching hand in a post-game tirade); and in doing so, he replaced Cespedes with Fuld/Gomes… The starting pitching has been demonstrably superior than it would have been (and Gray and Kazmir both slipped as anyone could see they might– hence, the trades); the offense has been the reverse… Anyone can understand why Beane did it– he nor anyone predicted the offense would slip this bad…

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
1 year 8 months ago

Yeah, that’s it.

Billy Beane
Guest
Billy Beane
1 year 8 months ago

one can still make a very strong case that the A’s are the best club in the major leagues

Dammit, man, are you saying that my shit doesn’t work in the regular season, either?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 8 months ago

Yeah, with that lineup, that’s an increasingly difficult claim to make…

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
1 year 8 months ago

The talk about a Giants, A’s world series when they both had the best records in their leagues seems to have jinxed both of them. I have data to support that jinx, it’s ugly, very ugly.

lowcountryjoe
Guest
lowcountryjoe
1 year 8 months ago

My favorite comment. I’m not joking, either. Someone with the wisdom to point out that some **** just doesn’t have a good explanation. And the humor to suggest — in a forum chock full of self-appointed expert analysts — that maybe, just maybe, we’re trying too hard to ascribe some reasoning to chance & randomness.

Andre the Angels Fan
Guest
Andre the Angels Fan
1 year 8 months ago

Christmas came early this year.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

The A’s were the best team in baseball. Then Billy Beane made some really bad trades, and the A’s proceeded to collapse. Make all of the excuses that you want, and say “but correlation is not causation” as much as you want to, but those are the facts. Billy made some terrible, horrible, stupid trades and the wheels fell off of the A’s wagon.

Billy had it all in the bag, but he just couldn’t sit still and could not resist trying to mess with things. And he mortgaged the teams future doing so, which makes it far worse than it would be anyway.

Moral: if it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it.

Paul M
Guest
Paul M
1 year 8 months ago

I hardly take Beane off the hook here (see above) but neither McKinney nor Russell were going to contribute this season (jury out about mortgaging future– but is a distinct possibility) — so the net effect of his trades on the current roster was to replace 3 starters– all mediocre (Milone/Straily), injured (Pomerantz) or overperforming (Chavez– with three better options (one of best in sport (Lester); solid above-average (Shark) and decent (Hammel was bad then good, so maybe he has been decent overall with the A’s) — and in doing so, replace Cespedes… On the latter, offense was weakened directly (Neither Fuld nor Gomes has hit at all well) and particularly indirectly. What none of us can truly know is would the latter have happened anyway??

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

What we can and do know:

1. The A’s were the best team in baseball.

2. Billy made some incredibly bad trades.

3. The A’s then collapsed.

4. Isolating number two from number three is an impossibility.

Kris
Guest
Kris
1 year 8 months ago

The titanic let some poor people on the ship, and then it sank! Isolating these two is an impossibility.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Kris, that’s just ignorant.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

If you want that done correctly, the Titanic was designed with a central propeller that could not reverse, which prevented the ship from turning sufficiently to miss the iceberg.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

Inquisitor.

Those two arguments you just made are not equivalent. Please, in bullet format, put together your Titanic argument as the trades above. I think you have shot at understanding the flaw if you do.

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
1 year 8 months ago

You should take a logic class, because that is horrible. Or maybe at least read the wikipedia page on it. Also both trades made the team better in 2014. Tell, me are Lester and Shark the reason the team isn’t winning?

Number 4 is ridiculous. We have no reason to think the Moss and Norris struggles or injuries to other players were caused by trades which improved the team.

Son of inquisitor
Guest
Son of inquisitor
1 year 8 months ago

I got out of bed this morning, then the sun came up. I better continue getting out of bed every day, lest the sun never rise and the earth become an inhospitable ice ball…

Return of the inquisitor
Guest
Return of the inquisitor
1 year 8 months ago

I watched a TV program about a monkey and then Joan Rivers died. I can’t watch any more primate-based programming, I don’t want to be responsible for killing off any more Hollywood legends.

The inquisitor and beyond
Guest
The inquisitor and beyond
1 year 8 months ago

I remember right before the Twin Towers fell that my left elbow itched slightly. Now I know that whenever I get that same itch, a horrible terrorist attack is destined to occur on American soil. You cannot separate those two events, you just CANNOT.

Andy
Guest
Andy
1 year 8 months ago

What we can and do know:

1) The A’s had the best record in baseball
2) Beane made some trades to improve SP
3) The A’s have struggled, not beginning with those trades, but not soon after
4) The A’s still have the best run differential in the majors, and will almost definitely finish in the top 2.
5) Human beings evolved to be able to see patterns, an ability that often has had great survival value, but which is woefully inferior to statistical analysis for understanding complex phenomena

Andy
Guest
Andy
1 year 8 months ago

soon after, not “not soon after”

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Would one of you self-appointed geniuses please try to explain to me how you can isolate number two from number three?

Oh, wait, you can’t. You are unwilling to believe that number two was a cause of number three, and therefore you claim that it couldn’t have been – with zero proof. Horse apples. There is no way that you can claim number two was not a cause of number three.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

2 comes before 3.
2 caused 3.

That’s your whole point and you’re asking us to provide proof that you’re wrong?

Not how it works….

OFR
Guest
OFR
1 year 8 months ago

Samardzija has allowed zero runs in five starts this season. None of this starts were a W for the Athletics.
Is this Sharks or Beane’s fault? Was Sharks performance bad?

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Let me quote Paul M:

“It is either the most bizarre coincidental failure of all time, or something related to the biggest single change– which were the two high-profile trades… I don’t believe in bizarre coincidences…”

Bobr
Guest
Bobr
1 year 8 months ago

Here is how you separate #2 and 3.

There are two ways to define an “incredibly bad trade”. One is that you receive terrible value for good value. That is clearly not the case here. Lester is a great value and while Cespedes has real value, he is not a clearly better player than Lester.

The second is that even if the values exchanged are similar, the value received is not appropriate for you team. Here is where the issue lies. Did the As need Lester more than Cespedes? At the time, it was entirely reasonable to think they did. The offense was humming, and losing a low OBP, good power hitter might be a problem, but given the team’s depth not necessarily a critical one. On the other hand, the rotation was very questionable given the lack of experience going deep into a season and the demonstrable fact that many starters were outperforming their career norms.

So the problem with your statement is that you include your conclusion in your statement of cause. In logic, it is the “begging the question” fallacy, i.e. including the conclusion in the premise. You are saying that the trades were bad, but that is only true if it is the reason for the collapse, and that is what you have to prove. Just looking at the values exchanged, the trades are not bad at all.

Now if trading Cespedes really did affect the other players and caused the hitting slump, then it was a bad trade. But that is what you have to prove. You can’t include it in the statement that it was a bad trade until you demonstrate that it caused the slump, and simply knowing it happened just before the slump is in no way a demonstration. Lots of things happened before the slump.

And incidentally, teams often lose major offensive contributors-sometimes without acquiring other talent-and don’t slump. Consider the Orioles and the plight of Chris Davis (and Wieters and Machado). Why have they weathered that storm while the A’s haven’t? Suppose the Orioles had traded Davis for Lester in the last off-season? Would that have been a bad trade? Was Cespedes contributing more to the A’s in 2014 that Davis to the Orioles in 2013?

lowcountryjoe
Guest
lowcountryjoe
1 year 8 months ago

Bullet point#2 is just your opinion. I don’t happen to share that opinion. And I THINK most people who follow the sport would agree that Billy Beane’s decision to trade for the three starters he did, significantly improved the starting rotation. That any of this team’s post-season advancement aspirations would likely improve because the rotation match-ups would be that much better.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
1 year 8 months ago

LMAO this conversation is brilliant.

Kris
Guest
Kris
1 year 8 months ago

The hitting couldn’t possibly have slumped if Beane didn’t make those trades!

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

See above.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

And bear in mind that team confidence, team chemistry and team morale are often very fragile things.

Dan
Guest
Dan
1 year 8 months ago

They can’t be that fragile. For instance, you’re yanking them out of all kinds of tight spaces and turning and twisting them into all kinds of shapes, and the concepts seem to be holding up just fine.

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
1 year 8 months ago

Tell me of the research you have made that show this. Otherwise, quit giving opinions while wording them like facts.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Stop with the nonsense. Here, argue with Paul M:

“It is either the most bizarre coincidental failure of all time, or something related to the biggest single change– which were the two high-profile trades… I don’t believe in bizarre coincidences…”

lowcountryjoe
Guest
lowcountryjoe
1 year 8 months ago

You know what else can be a fragile thing? The emotional state of a fan when their favorite players are traded and the team just happens to perform poorly — whether the explanation can be explained or not [it doesn’t matter because it is still painful].

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
1 year 8 months ago

For someone who calls himself “The Inquisitor”, you appear to be one of the least inquisitive people here.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Think so? I have an answer. You don’t.

Dungeon Master Dayton Moore
Guest
Dungeon Master Dayton Moore
1 year 8 months ago

You don’t understand what inquisitive means do you?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
1 year 8 months ago

Why is anyone taken the opinion of someone who calls themselves “The Inquisitor” seriously? He is clearly too busy persecuting anyone who is different to have put any rational thought into this.

Sigmund Kurzweil
Guest
Sigmund Kurzweil
1 year 8 months ago

All of which paints an accurate picture if baseball players were robots. But they’re not, they are human beings – and none of this touches upon the psychological elements. You blithely write off the “Cespedes narrative,” presumably because his reputation doesn’t match his numbers, but the “human element” shouldn’t be ignored. It may be that, as some commentators have said, Yoenis was the soul of the offense.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Exactly. Players are not robots, and deliberately disrupting the best team in baseball is ignorant at best and incredibly stupid at worst.

Sigmund Kurzweil
Guest
Sigmund Kurzweil
1 year 8 months ago

Well to be fair, I fully supported the Cespedes-Lester trade because on paper it was a good one. The A’s were trading an overrated player who was above average but not a star. They were getting back one of the dozen or so best starting pitchers in baseball. A no-brainer.

But of course this doesn’t taken into account psychology, clubhouse dynamics, on-field chemistry, etc.

I think Tony makes a good point, and certainly the A’s were due for some regression. But I do think that it is more than coincidence that their “collapse” occurred contemporaneously with Cespedes’ departure.

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
1 year 8 months ago

He is only ignoring what has no basis in the data. No one thinks players are robots, but there’s still no reason to think that the “human element” played a part because there’s no evidence for it. Present some evidence rather than pretending to know these people’s psyches. Take part in the scientific method like the author, rather than just thinking up things that you think seem to make sense.

Sigmund Kurzweil
Guest
Sigmund Kurzweil
1 year 8 months ago

The scientific method, in this case, doesn’t tell the whole picture – it only looks at numbers and performance on the field, not the human beings generating those numbers.

You make a false assertion that “no evidence” equals no reason to think something. If I smell a dead animal but can’t see one, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one somewhere around. “Evidence,” in this sense, is relying upon vision alone. There are other forms of “evidence,” other senses to draw from.

Now I don’t know whether the “Cespedes narrative” is true or false, but lack of evidence isn’t evidence against. I’m merely saying that it should be considered. I’m also saying that psychology ALWAYS plays a role where human beings are considered. Baseball fans, especially statheads, tend to forget about the more human element.

By the way, I happen to be in the field of psychology. Many psychologists, in particular researchers, want to reduce psychology to a science only. But it isn’t only science, especially clinically – it is also something more similar to an artistic skill-set.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Finally a voice of reason. Human brings are not robots, and morale and chemistry are fragile things.

It’s sad that most people here believe that players are mercenary robots who have no human emotions or feelings whatsoever.

T-Bone
Guest
T-Bone
1 year 8 months ago

As an A’s fan, I am telling you the team would have actually been worse off without those trades.

During their August/September slump, at least the starting pitching has been pretty good. Without Lester/Samardzija/Hammel, the wheels very likely would have come off their pitching (in addition to the hitting). The two best SPs prior to the trade, Gray and Kazmir, have struggled much more than the 3 new SPs during the slump (Lester and Shark in particular have been quite good). Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone, both pre-July trade SPs, have been awful since the deals. Dan Straily, another SP option before the Cubs trade, is a #4 SP at best.

Without the trades, it would have been a distinct possibility that Drew Pomeranz would have been the A’s best SP after the All-Star Break. He was coming off an injury in July also, so that result would have been difficult to anticipate. But it looks likely it would’ve been true.

The offense was destined to struggle post-ASB with or without Cespedes. He was not nearly valuable enough to make up for all the shortcomings the offense has experienced, much less the entire pre-trade A’s team. Lester has been more valuable than Cespedes would have been, had the A’s kept him. At the very most, the A’s-Red Sox trade has been a wash.

All the people pointing to Beane’s “poor” trades seem to be ignoring how effective those acquired players have been (minus the disappearing Jonny Gomes), and how the players on the pre-July-trades A’s team have been injured and/or ineffective. Basically, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, with the only exceptions being Josh Donaldson and perhaps Josh Reddick.

wallysb01
Guest
wallysb01
1 year 8 months ago

T-bone, that was way to reasonable.

scatterbrian
Guest
scatterbrian
1 year 8 months ago

The human element shouldn’t be overblown either. These guys are professionals, and their collective confidence shouldn’t rest on the presence of one player. If Oakland’s offense was so fragile that losing Cespedes led to this collapse, then it was a house of cards and was destined to fail anyway.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 8 months ago

A lot of this was foreseeable given that Cameron and many commenters (including me – toot!) made these exact points: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/jon-lester-and-the-as-fascinating-big-bet-on-2014/ While on the surface it appeared that Oakland had a surplus of offense to trade given that they were leading the league in runs at the time, much of that came from sources highly unlikely to sustain that level of production.

Nick Emptage
Guest
Nick Emptage
1 year 8 months ago

Watching all this unfold in real time has . . . not been fun, but I can’t argue with the analysis here. I was shocked when Cespedes was traded, and I really miss watching him play in Oakland, but it’s not like they dealt away Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera. Cespedes is incredibly gifted as an athlete and very fun to watch, but he hasn’t yet pulled all that skill together to provide consistent play that matches his “superstar” reputation. The A’s collapse has a lot to do with terrible luck (12 1-run losses since the trade), and Melvin has made some odd moves, but mostly this is about players struggling to produce offensively because they’re hurt. Injuries (to Moss, Norris, Crisp, Donaldson, Lowrie, Gentry, Vogt, etc.) have mitigated the platoon advantages the team enjoyed when they were healthy, and the individual players are finding it harder to get the job done.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

And that’s the truth. The injuries have both sapped effectiveness of several key players when playing and when not playing taken away the platooning advantages of those that are that lead to some of the big offensive numbers in the first half.

Nick Emptage
Guest
Nick Emptage
1 year 8 months ago

You’re absolutely right about how much they leveraged platoon effects earlier in the season.

Nick Emptage
Guest
Nick Emptage
1 year 8 months ago

Sorry, multitasking fail there.

BaseballGuy
Guest
BaseballGuy
1 year 8 months ago

OK, and I’m sure you all will be the first in line to say that the reason other teams are playing poorly is because of injuries. The Rangers recently set a record for most players used in a season. The Rockies have sent 16 (!) different SP’s to the mound this year. The Braves were destroyed by SP injuries too. What you’re really saying is the A’s are a middling team by talent, that suffered a rash on injuries and became a bad one. And you know what, I think you’re right.

wallysb01
Guest
wallysb01
1 year 8 months ago

BaseballGuy, middling team would be taking it too far. There were some players that, in the early part of the season, were over performing and couldn’t be expected to keep it up.

I’m thinking, say, Callaspo, Milone, Chavez, Vogt, Norris, Blanks, Freiman. These were guys put in platoons that hit out of their minds and a couple of guys expected to be the back end of the rotation that pitched like #2 starters. However, the core of the team that was getting most of the ABs in their positions (Donaldson, Moss, Reddick, Lowrie) and other parts of the platoons (Like Jaso, Sogard, Puntu) were hitting roughly to expectations. So there was room for regression in the individual performances, but not everywhere.

However, the early season A’s were also underperforming in W-L record relative to their on-field performance. So, a little regression in the individual performances and a return to neutral team-wide luck would be at least partially off setting. Maybe the A’s weren’t quite as good as we thought, but they were still one of the best teams in the league no matter how you try to slice it.

And injuries are seen by some as a lame excuse, often brushed off as “every team deals with injuries”. But why is it at all logical to expect each team to hurt by injuries equally? Damned near every part of the A’s starting line ups has been out with injuries or battling injuries that have effected their performance at some point in the last 2-3 months (seriously, Coco, Gentry, Reddick, Moss, Puntu, Lowrie, Jaso, Vogt, Norris, Freiman, Blanks, plus Doolittle). Basically, we’re talking everyone except Donaldson (who’s a little banged up too, but maybe at the level not worth complaining about), Sogard and Callaspo, and newbies like Gomes and Fuld.

That’s a pretty catastrophic string of injuries. Throw in a few slumps (like Moss and Norris mentioned in the article, and others like Lowrie and Coco while not hurt) and some regression in the pitching (i.e. Sonny and Kazmir), and ta-da, you have a historic collapse.

This aint rocket science.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 8 months ago

This is probably going to sound silly, but could this be some kind of case of diminishing returns, where the return on equal offensive performance for the A’s would be more than an equal defensive/pitching (Say, Fuld) performance for the A’s due to already having a lot of the latter? I’d guess not, but I figured I would ask.

T-Bone
Guest
T-Bone
1 year 8 months ago

The starting pitching would having been much worse off without the Cubs and Red Sox deals. The wheels were coming off the A’s SPs in July, and with Gray & Kazmir struggling since, it could have gotten downright ugly without the three reinforcements (Samardzija/Hammel/Lester). What the A’s would have had in their rotation (Chavez, Milone, Straily) wouldn’t have been effective post-ASB, much less in the postseason.

Nick Emptage
Guest
Nick Emptage
1 year 8 months ago

Also worth noting in when evaluating the trade: Cespedes was almost certainly not going to sign an extension with the A’s, nor would Beane have been likely to match what the open FA market would pay him (justifiably). This was part of the reason I liked the trade: maybe getting a few months of one of the best starting pitchers in baseball is better than getting nothing for a player when he leaves for the Yankees/Dodgers/Sox/etc.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

You get the draft pick from Lester leaving one year earlier than would have been the case with Cespedes too. Plus, Beane saves the $10M or something similar, Cespedes was due next year to find someone else. All and all, it really wasn’t a bad trade, regardless of the outcome. I think losing Russell could be more painful long term.

Nick Emptage
Guest
Nick Emptage
1 year 8 months ago

Agreed on Russell. I wasn’t crazy about the Samardjia trade at all, for the simple reason that I didn’t think he was good enough to warrant a stud prospect like Russell. If they’d passed on Samardjia and dealt Russell for Lester instead I’d have been much happier. But, of course, Beane had to make the call before he knew Lester was available . . .

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
1 year 8 months ago

I can agree with this too. The A’s project to have a pretty big hole at SS and the infield in general when Russell will be making it to the big leagues, and the cheap cost control of Russell is a big advantage for a small budget team like the A’s. They got a good to great pitcher for 1.5 years of cheap control, but I don’t think that was quite enough for a SS prospect that can provide lots of surplus value to build around for years to come.

The Cespedes/Lester trade was much better. Cespedes didn’t look to provide much surplus value in 2015, and Lester>Cespedes for the rest of 2014. A team like the Sox, who were out of the 2014 race but can reasonable expect to contend in 2015 and also have enough of a payroll to not worry too much about surplus value, also made a good move. A good win-win move for both sides I think.

Beane dumped a player he was probably planning on dumping anyway but did so in a way that netted him an ace for the rest of the year. That was a very savvy move. The Shark/Russell trade is defensible as it was a win now move to try to fend off the Angels and win the division, it’s just that now they lost the division and they don’t have Russell either. If they were a team like the Red Sox who didn’t worry about payroll it wouldn’t be a big deal but again, they paid for Shark with young cheap talent that helps keep teams like A’s going. At least they do get a relatively cheap year of Shark next year.

Beane made some big bets on this year, and unfortunately for him, baseball happened.

ASK
Guest
ASK
1 year 8 months ago

They won’t get a draft pick when Lester leaves.

Don Negri
Guest
Don Negri
1 year 8 months ago

Most of the player related points have been thoroughly debated here. My frustration stems from Melvin’s unwillingness to adjust strategy to account for the problems we’ve all acknowledged. In particular, when you have a runner on third with one out or less. Since our hitters are terrible at driving them in, why not use the bunt (Fuld has done it twice, both times successfully). This extends even to runner on second with no outs….when National League managers routinely use the sacrifice bunt. For some reasons, Melvin still seems to be always playing for the “big inning” or that ever elusive three run homer (2014 is not 2012). And sending up Gallaspo to pinch hit? ??????

Anyway, expect some real house cleaning in the off season, and hopefully at least two solid FA acquisitions.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
1 year 8 months ago

When they do the typical A’s thing everyyear, they do great. As soon as they ditch the whole moneyball thing and acquire expensive contracts, their team goes to shit.

This isnt the A’s!

Plus why they dealt Cesp for Lester ill never know. Everyone was saying another great trade but they gave away their best power bat for another arm they didnt really need. Madness, and it’s cost you Billy. Shows you can actually have enough pitching after all…

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
1 year 8 months ago

Maybe the famous ‘putting the phone down and waiting for them to call make to make an offer’ trick didnt work this time.

Malcolm-Jamal Hegyes
Guest
Malcolm-Jamal Hegyes
1 year 8 months ago

So…..what do you Orioles fans think about all this?

hookstrapped
Guest
hookstrapped
1 year 8 months ago

I wish our run differential was as good as theirs?

*kicks can*

Hank
Guest
Hank
1 year 8 months ago

Is C/DH now considered “versatility” (John Jaso)? He has played 1 inning at 1st base – is that part of the reason for calling him versatile?

Brian McCann has more versatility, and I doubt he would be labeled as a versatile player (well perhaps if he played for TB or Oakland?) I get that these teams like to mix and match players but Jaso is a platoon catcher who DH’s some… not sure how that makes him a versatile player.

Jeff in Alameda
Guest
Jeff in Alameda
1 year 8 months ago

I have a couple issues with this article. First of all, it doesn’t even mention that Cespedes currently has 95 RBIs, WHICH WOULD LEAD THE TEAM! I mean you can’t win in baseball if you don’t score runs and Cespy is a proven thumper in the middle of the line up. Without him in there as protection, Moss, JD and the rest are simply getting exposed. He was an All-Star for crying out loud!

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
1 year 8 months ago

you’re trying a little too hard.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
1 year 8 months ago

I guess my sarcasm detector is broken because I can’t tell if this is supposed to be sarcasm or not.

Ed
Guest
Ed
1 year 8 months ago

Their run differential remains the game’s best

Actually, no – they fell behind the Angels in that category too last night.

Nick Emptage
Guest
Nick Emptage
1 year 8 months ago

OK, one more thought on this. In some ways, “Moneyball” is one of the more obnoxious aspects of following the A’s: when a best-selling book and hit movie have been created to describe the brilliance of your team’s management, it’s almost unavoidable that that ends up driving the discussion around the team. I read/hear a lot of people who believe Beane is a genius who never makes mistakes, and any time the team struggles I read/hear a lot about how sabermetrics are nonsense and Beane’s approach is flawed; and there’s not a lot in between. But the truth is almost certainly in between those extremes. Beane deserves enormous credit for wringing huge numbers of wins out of a limited roster budget, and in general I think he’s done well to leverage analytics to win more bets than he’s lost. But he does make mistakes, and as we’re seeing now, sabermetrics can’t overcome the determined cruelty of the baseball gods. Trading Russell and Cespedes amounted to a gamble that his roster would stay healthy enough to make a serious run at a World Series, and I don’t think it was a bad gamble: there’s no predicting the timing of injury troubles, and the AL playoff field looks wide-open to me this year.

As fans of a team that falls short of expectations, it’s always tempting to interpret their collapse in terms of something that’s predictable or fixable. If your GM is blinded by arrogance or hubris, you can fire him and get someone humbler; if your players are chokers, you can cut them and get new players with “intangibles” or “will to win” or whatever; if your players were never good enough, you can get rid of them and get new ones. Unfortunately, the reality is that random chance sometimes intervenes in ways that are painful to watch, and sometimes bad outcomes can’t be anticipated. And we end up blaming things like fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse instead of, you know, crippling injuries to key players.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
1 year 8 months ago

Signing Cespedes seemed like a really un-Beane-like move in the beginning, so I have to say I was not so surprised when the trade happened. I would rather not say that Beane was starting to buy into his own hype as the master of ‘Building Something Out of Nothing’, but the thought is there. What is probably more accurate is that Beane is (at least this season) following the traditional script of the contending team and going against his history. If anything, this will probably reinforce his “buy low, sell high, find diamonds in the rough” strategy that had served him so well for so long.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Now Billy has built nothing of something.

Larry Bernandez
Guest
Larry Bernandez
1 year 8 months ago

I think it’s possible that the A’s still would have been better with an inferior player in Cespedes. Although he isn’t as great as people say he is, the A’s had plenty of depth in their rotation. They did not, however, have the same amount of depth in their batting order. Sometimes an inferior player is worth more if he fills a bigger void.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

What does their schedule strength since the trade look like? Seems like they’ve played a lot of hot teams. To me, this analysis is great. A lot of people almost predicted this, saying that there were many players over performing to get the As to that outstanding record. Then they came to earth and simultaneously played a lot of hot teams (Royals at the time, Angels). The issue is more with people’s perception that the Athletics were a .600+ team when they really weren’t. Beane tried to hedge against regression and it didn’t matter.

Cozar
Member
Cozar
1 year 8 months ago

Given the assertion that Moss has “a swing that is grooved to drive mistake fastballs on the inner half over the RF fence,” it makes me wonder if losing Cespedes in the lineup has allowed pitchers to work around Moss more effectively, reducing the number of mistake fastballs he sees.

Also, looking at their losses this month: 5-6, 1-2, 3-4, 3-4, 4-5, 1-2, 0-1, 2-4, 3-6, 1-6, 2-7. Seven 1-run losses followed by a 2-run loss to the Mariners, before being routed by the Rangers. That’s an awful lot of close losses that could easily have been turned around by a single swing from Cespedes.

I’m not so silly to think the A’s would be cruising to a division title if they had kept Cespedes, but if he was around to help them win just 1 or 2 of those close losses they wouldn’t appear to be in such danger of missing the playoffs entirely.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
1 year 8 months ago

But even if Cespedes had with a single swing made one of those 2-1 games 2-2, it’s just as likely whoever replaced Lester would have given up more than 2 runs. So the loss on 9/3 to the Mariners would still have been a loss, or the win against the Angels on 8/23 would have been a loss.

The 2012 team went 68-33 to end the 2012 season, and 26-11. They weren’t as bad as that 26-35 stretch to open the season. It gets magnified now because its the end of the year. It happens.

Not that I believe in karmic payback, that 2012 team also came from 5 out with 9 to play. Sometimes slumps, injuries, etc just coalesce randomly. And I’m sure there’s pressure. The bat turning to proverbial sawdust in tight hands. But it seems mostly fairly random, although Tony’s analysis of the hitters strengths being avoided and weaknesses probed seems right.

Cozar
Member
Cozar
1 year 8 months ago

It’s really not just as likely. A pitcher only plays 1 game out of 5. Even if Cespedes plays in 4.67 per 5.

Cespedes could get big hits in two games of a 5-game stretch, only one of which the A’s still lose because of a bad pitcher. Or maybe Cespedes only helps in one game, on 9/2, and then on 9/3 they lose by 3 points instead of just one. That’s still one net win.

Pitching wins championships, but hitting gets you there. Of course, the As are still leading the wild card race, so the odds are this trade will ultimately have been a smart risk.

Mike
Guest
Mike
1 year 8 months ago

We had a good thing Beane. We had Cespedes.

wiggly
Guest
wiggly
1 year 8 months ago

You got us a good thing, Beane. You got Lester.

Mike
Guest
Mike
1 year 8 months ago

But everything ran like clockwork…

Justin Bailey
Guest
Justin Bailey
1 year 8 months ago

Are you saying that everything was running like clockwork because of Cespedes alone?

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 8 months ago

I’m in the empire business

Randy
Guest
Randy
1 year 8 months ago

The only problem I have with the article is the borderline asinine suggestion that the A’s may still be the best team in baseball, because of run differential. I know I’m oversimplifying here, but isn’t that like saying that, if a team goes 40-122, but wins those 40 games by a score if 16-0, and loses those 122 games by a 1-0 score, they are the best team in baseball?

hookstrapped
Guest
hookstrapped
1 year 8 months ago

Great but unlucky, I think, is the corollary phrase we’re looking for.

Danmay
Guest
Danmay
1 year 8 months ago

As an A’s fan, I agree that it’s difficult to make a sound argument that they are still the best team in baseball; however, what the now second best run differential does suggest is that they have a lot of talent on their roster. They may not be playing at the peak of their talents currently, but the talent has been shown to be their and it isn’t as if there are any flawless teams in the majors.

Regarding your 40-122 team: When a team has a record that is worse than their run differential would suggest it “aught” to be, then you should expect to hear analysis suggesting that they are better than their record indicates. You’re particular example is beyond absurd though. I don’t care how many centuries baseball exists for, that level of unbalanced scoring will never come up.

Randy
Guest
Randy
1 year 8 months ago

It reminds me of the old joke that goes: ‘If you have one foot in a bucket of ice and your other foot in fire, you should be perfectly comfortable’

Economics joke guy
Guest
Economics joke guy
1 year 8 months ago

“You would be perfectly comfortable ON AVERAGE” is the proper (and marginally funnier, perhaps) punchline.

Jose
Guest
Jose
1 year 8 months ago

Could we compare the Cespedes trade to a Cano-less Mariners?

Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Guest
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
1 year 8 months ago

From SF Chron:
“Fuld was asked how the A’s, once considered the majors’ elite team and predicted to play deep into October, are handling the high expectations.

“That’s certainly a factor,” he said. “Baseball’s a tough game. It’s not a game played purely on emotion like some other sports where you rely on that energy, and success follows. That’s not necessarily the case in baseball. Pressure can be a bad thing if you don’t handle it the right way. You see it in the game a lot. When you get expectations placed on (teams), it can be a challenge.”

Yeah, but what does Fuld know? He’s just a player…

Brooks
Guest
Brooks
1 year 8 months ago

Fuld knows how to speak in platitudes.

Randy
Guest
Randy
1 year 8 months ago

I agree, Ramblin’. There’s still a tendency in advanced analysis to treat players like collections of ones and zeros, and completely discount the role of emotion. I’m not exactly a Luddite, but to deny that human factors come into play, is just silly.

Tom Schneider
Guest
Tom Schneider
1 year 8 months ago

I’m sorry but the A’s collapse is a couple of matches compared to the raging tire fire that is the Brewers collapse. When will that story be written?

Justin Bailey
Guest
Justin Bailey
1 year 8 months ago

I’m afraid never, because the Brewers collapse isn’t as surprising or interesting.

Helladecimal
Guest
Helladecimal
1 year 8 months ago

To be fair, if Beane’s personnel moves were actually a bona fide disaster, team performance would dip but likely to a lesser degree than we are seeing now. For a team to decline this rapidly and to this extent, it’s likely due to multiple simultaneous uncontrollable factors. Injuries, bad timing of slumps, competition, “bad luck”… The A’s have been dominant in the regular season for the last 2.5 years, and part of their success is that the lineup was remarkably resilient — periods of bad performance were smoothed out by surprise contributions elsewhere. Roster balance and depth on this team has been entirely disrupted, to the point where the platoon system is ineffective. The A’s have also leaned on hitters who have not made necessary adjustments in their plate approach as the league started to figure out how to exploit their weaknesses. The total team concept is now suffering from lack of buy-in, from Kazmir lashing out against the defense and Lester becoming a sort of game savior with no margin for error. Time is out of joint.

Bumping to much
Guest
Bumping to much
1 year 8 months ago

Does anyone know the A’s record with and without cespedes in the lineup from when he signed to when he was traded?

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
1 year 8 months ago

Very contrasting I would imagine. Their record with him in the lineup would be immense, he makes all the difference to them.

wpDiscuz