The Hidden Juggernaut in Oakland

One of my favorite toys here on FanGraphs is the Past Calendar Year split. I like the rolling 365 day line, as it gives us a good view of what a player (or team) has done in the equivalent of the most recent full season they have played. Because the MLB season started earlier this year, the totals don’t work out to exactly 162 games, but it’s close enough to give you the right idea at least.

Just for fun, here are the win-loss records for every team in the American League, using the data from the past calendar year filter.


Team Wins Losses Winning %
Athletics 108 60 0.643
Yankees 97 70 0.581
Tigers 96 70 0.578
Rangers 96 70 0.578
Orioles 96 72 0.571
Rays 90 77 0.539
Angels 84 82 0.506
White Sox 80 85 0.485
Red Sox 81 87 0.482
Royals 78 89 0.467
Mariners 77 90 0.461
Twins 71 94 0.430
Blue Jays 70 95 0.424
Indians 68 100 0.405
Astros 52 117 0.308

While the St. Louis Cardinals have steamrolled baseball for the first couple of months of 2013, the A’s have been winning games at an equivalent clip to STL for the past year. A .643 winning percentage over 168 games is an impressive accomplishment, especially considering that the A’s are still overshadowed by the Rangers, Tigers, Yankees, and Red Sox when people talk about AL contenders. However, none of those teams have even been with 10 games of Oakland over the last year.

Once again, Billy Beane, David Forst, Farhan Zaidi, and company have built a terrific baseball team despite limited financial resources. Unlike the A’s from the Moneyball era as chronicled by Michael Lewis, there really are no home grown “stars” that you can point to as the reason for the team’s success. This team was built almost entirely by acquiring undervalued assets via trade or free agency.

The team’s best player over the last year has been Coco Crisp, who has put together a pretty remarkable stretch of baseball in the last 365 days. Since June 13th of 2012, Crisp has played in 132 games, racked up 590 plate appearances, and has hit .293/.368/.494, good for a .370 wOBA while playing half his games in a pretty extreme pitcher’s park. As a center fielder who also happens to be one of the game’s premier baserunners, the total package adds up to +5.4 WAR, and that’s with UZR rating his defense as slightly below average.

This is not a fielding driven valuation. The only players with significant CF time who have posted a higher wRC+ than Crisp’s 138 over that stretch are Mike Trout (159), Andrew McCutchen (147), and Shin-Soo Choo (145), and those numbers don’t even account for Crisp’s baserunning. We’ve got him adding an extra 7.8 runs of value, so when you factor in that value, Crisp has been nearly Choo’s offensive equal while adding significantly more value with the glove. On a per plate appearance basis, Crisp has basically been the offensive equal of Andrew McCutchen.

Before the start of last season, the A’s signed Crisp to a two year, $14 million contract with a team option for a third season. He’s making $7 million per year to put up the kinds of numbers that are worthy of a down-ballot MVP vote. Crisp has been paid about $2 million per win since signing with the A’s; that’s a remarkable steal given the going rates for talent.

Right behind Crisp is Josh Donaldson, who has racked up +4.8 WAR in the last 365 days, and remarkably, that only covers 114 games and 477 plate appearances. Donaldson has actually hit even better than Crisp, putting up a .375 wOBA/141 wRC+, which is basically a dead on match for Evan Longoria‘s .376 wOBA/143 wRC+ over the same time period. Toss in his positive defense at third base, and Donaldson has played at an elite level ever since getting recalled from Triple-A last summer.

And Donaldson is one of those classic Beane acquisitions, as he was the fourth prospect in the deal that sent Rich Harden to the Cubs in 2008. At the time of the trade, Donaldson was a 22-year-old hitting .217/.276/.349 in the low-A Midwest League. He’d been taken 48th overall in the 2007 draft, showing some offensive ability in college, but this wasn’t a highly valued prospect who has finally lived up to the hype. Donaldson looked like a bust very early on and then improved enough to make himself a fringe prospect who might have a future as a bench guy. Moved out from behind the plate and with a new approach to hitting, the A’s have helped turn Donaldson into a quality third baseman.

After Donaldson is the one Oakland hitter who hasn’t struggled to get recognition for his success. Yoenis Cespedes was something of a splashy acquisition for Oakland, as they gave him a four year, $36 million deal as a free agent before the start of last season. The A’s aren’t generally known as big spenders on veteran international free agents, but they landed Cespedes by giving him a shorter deal that would allow him to reach free agency sooner. It has paid off in a big way, as Cespedes has been a +4.0 WAR player over the last year, hitting .277/.342/.504 in the process. For comparison, Cespedes’ deal with the A’s is basically Cody Ross‘ deal with the Diamondbacks, just with one extra year of team control. I’d call that a nice bargain.

Cespedes actually doesn’t lead the A’s in home runs over the last 365 days, though. That honor belongs to Brandon Moss, who has hit 31 bombs in his 489 plate appearances. The A’s signed Moss to a minor league contract at the end of 2011, after the Phillies outrighted him through waivers and every team decided to take a pass. Moss was called up on June 6th of last year and has mashed ever since, posting +3.2 WAR in the process.

We don’t have time to go through all of the rest of the hitters the A’s have cycled through, but it’s just more of the same idea. They spent $1 million on Jonny Gomes last year, then watched him mash as part of a DH platoon with minor league lifer Chris Carter. Carter was used as trade bait this winter to land Jed Lowrie, who has given them quality production while holding down both middle infield spots. At catcher, they’ve gotten quality production from George Kottaras (acquired after Milwaukee DFA’d him), John Jaso (stolen from the Mariners for a couple of lower level prospects), and Derek Norris (the third prospect in the Gio Gonzalez trade). They got Seth Smith from the Rockies for a couple of nothing pitchers and Josh Reddick from the Red Sox for Andrew Bailey.

Basically the A’s entire line-up came from somewhere else. Donaldson is the closest thing they have to a home grown player, but he was drafted by the Cubs and acquired only when he looked like a busted pick. This is an offense of veteran players that the A’s targeted as undervalued by the other 29 MLB teams, and that motley crue leads the majors in runs scored over the last year. While playing in a pitcher’s park.

You can run the same story on the pitching side. The A’s signed 39-year-old Bartolo Colon for $2 million, then re-signed him for $3 million this year, and he’s been one of the better starters in the American League in each of the last two seasons. Tom Milone was the throw-in fourth prospect in the Gio Gonzalez trade, and has been an above average starter since the day he got to Oakland. A.J. Griffin is a home grown player, but he was drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, and he’s wildly outperforming all expectations for him as a prospect. Dan Straily was even more of a longshot, taken in the 24th round in 2009. The only premium arms they’ve relied on are Jarrod Parker (acquired from the Diamondbacks for Trevor Cahill) and Brett Anderson (acquired in the Dan Haren trade), and Anderson has been hurt for most of the last two years.

There’s not a Mark Mulder/Tim Hudson/Barry Zito trio of All-Star hurlers that every team covets here. There’s no Miguel Tejada or Jason Giambi. The 2012-2013 Oakland A’s are an almost complete embodiment of a team building a winner by targeting players who were undervalued by other clubs, beating everyone else with waiver wire pickups and secondary free agents who weren’t that highly regarded by the rest of Major League Baseball.

With a payroll of $50 to $60 million for each year, the A’s have built something of a juggernaut, almost entirely through bargain veteran acquisitions and looting other teams of their fringe prospects and role players. And they’ve run circles around the American League in the process.

This is probably Billy Beane’s best accomplishment. Getting this kind of production out of these players, in an era where nearly every team has an army of nerds looking for undervalued assets… it’s quite a story. And it’s one that probably deserves more attention than it has gotten.

Can they hang on to take the division from a very good Texas team once again? I don’t know. They’re fighting a bunch of really good teams, and they might not end up playing in October. There’s no “past calendar year” championship to celebrate, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize it anyway. 168 games playing .643 baseball with a shoestring payroll full of guys other teams didn’t see much value in. Kudos to the A’s front office. They know what they’re doing.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

Considering how Reddick, Young, Anderson, Parker, Norris, Rosales, Sogard, Moss, Cespedes, Jaso have all underperformed dramatically, this A’s team doesnt even look close to being at full strength. If those guys come close to how they were last year (some are showing signs: Parker is coming back, Jaso is looking better, Cespedes got BABIPd to death in his first 2 months, Moss slumped badly but looks to be getting back into gear) then this team might be crazy good.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Agree here. The A’s have compiled a good record while never seemingly running at *full* strength.

Reddick does look like he is gradually getting his timing and confidence back, which would be a huge boost for the lineup. Chris Young is baffling. He looks lost at the plate.

Can’t say that Rosales or Sogard are underperforming. Rosales is basically hitting better than he has in the past. They just are who they are.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

Crazy to think Young still has a place on this team, while Michael Choice is just sitting at AAA.

I’d rather see Grant Green & Michael Choice on the team, than Young or Sogard.

Tim A
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Tim A
3 years 2 months ago

Jemille weeks too. One thing I can’t figure out, is who goes out when Anderson is healthy. I would put him in the top 3 starters on the team, and with all five performing well right now I have no idea who goes.

Jason B
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Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

Are many teams at “full strength” for very long? Sure some seem to get a little luckier than others on the injury front, but every team does have and should have it’s fair share of injury setbacks to deal with. (The A’s depth has helped them stay afloat better than a lot of others, however.)

brendan
Guest
brendan
3 years 2 months ago

I’m an A’s fan, but I don’t agree that this team has more upside. Reddick/Young/Anderson and the underperformers doing better will be balanced by regression from Crisp/Donaldson/Colon, most likely.

That said, I’ll take it! winning 60% of games is fun for the fans, even if I agree w/ Dave that texas is probably the better team, and still the favorite to take the division.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

I’m not so sure that team batting success follows a strict equilibrium dynamic??? I see what you’re saying though.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

@Brendan I disagree with your regression candidates:

1. Crisp has shown a drastically altered approach at the plate: he’s drawing more walks, being more selective and striking out less. You’d be right if he were hitting .350 with a .400 BABIP but his K & BB %s are too much to ignore, and his BABIP is the same as it was last year and league average at .285. He has changed his game, that does not regress unless he decides to start swinging more on the first pitch like he used to. By the way, he currently has a massive 2.2 WAR in 48 games, over 162 (which, I know, he wont get to but still), is a 7.4 WAR season. Which is MVP-level. Pretty crazy, huh?

2. Donaldson has been good since August 14, 2012. He has never played badly in between those times. He actually is a very good ballplayer, his bat has gotten so fast through the zone, players who hit massive opposite field HRs regularly don’t tend to ever regress too much.

3. Colon. He throws one pitch. He throws it for a strike. That is his game plan, and he’s been doing it for years now. Now if youre saying that that 1 pitch, the 89-93 mph fastball, is suddenly going to drop to 82-84 mph, then I guess I can’t argue but I have no idea why that would happen so suddenly, so, again, you dont have a leg to stand on with that though.

BookWorm
Guest
BookWorm
3 years 2 months ago

The possibility of a 100-game suspension for Bartolo Colon could certainly cause him to produce less for the remainder of the season. I’m not saying I would agree with that suspension, but it’s a possibility that he might not add much more to this team in 2013.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
3 years 2 months ago

At least in the last start against the Yankees Colon was touching 95 at the end of the outing. It’s scary that a guy that old with that body can bring it like that.

scatterbrian
Member
Member
scatterbrian
3 years 2 months ago

@BookWorm

We need more facts on Colon and a 100-game suspension. We don’t know when Colon’s dealings with Biogenesis occurred, just that he’s associated. It’s possible that his association led to the 50-game suspension last season.

Mike D
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Mike D
3 years 2 months ago

Sogard has ‘underperformed’?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah, generally speaking I don’t like the notion of “players A, B, C, D, E, and F have underperformed and are sure to get better!” but then the person turns around and explains away why players X, Y, and Z are NOT candidates for downward regression; they’re sure to keep this up, and/or this time it’s different! Best shape of his life! New approach! Etc.

Basically, it’s not a particularly credible approach.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

Did you even read what I wrote? There’s stats and much better reasons than “best shape of his life”, which I didn’t say.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

You’re right of course. Scores and scores of guys will improve, no one will tail off or get hurt. Got it.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
3 years 2 months ago

Is any team ever at “full strength?” Do you think no one on the A’s are over-performing either?

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

No one’s really overperforming, Lowrie maybe? Donaldson is but he hasn’t had a bad stretch yet, he’s raising his ceiling – we dont know how high it will go. Maybe he’s turning into a superstar 900 OPS+good D 3B.

Young & Reddick are .240 hitters, not a .170 hitters. These arent mysteries.

NS
Guest
NS
3 years 2 months ago

Ceilings can be raised, but never lowered. Gotcha.

Mariner
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Mariner
3 years 2 months ago

A’s overshadowed by A’s. Not trying to be a editor or anything just thought it would make more sense. Great article though.

Bobby A.
Member
3 years 2 months ago

Dave, can you please write a “Moneyball 2” fan fiction just for fun?

Jaack
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Jaack
3 years 2 months ago

I agree, but write it like you are a 13-year old girl, like all fan fictions.

David
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David
3 years 2 months ago

10 yrs aftr ppl talkd bout da okeland athletes, billy bean was sittin at his desk thinkin bout da mysteries of lief wen his office door opened.

it was hermione granger (SUSPRISE LOL)

hermione said “i will use magic to help the okeland athletes play better basketball” and cast the super secret special awesome spell “abra cadabra steroidskazam”

and then they made out and voldemort died. the end

wobatus
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wobatus
3 years 2 months ago

I’d prefer it were Hermione Gingold

Scraps
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Scraps
3 years 2 months ago

+1

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
3 years 2 months ago

(that is, wobatus’s.)

Steve
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Steve
3 years 2 months ago

I, as well, feel like a lot of A’s players are underperforming. They’ll only get better, barring any unfortunate injuries.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Nah, they’re not underperforming. They’re just differently performing.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Good article. The last few weeks I was thinking that the A’s have been pretty under-analyzed by the saber community this year.

Some other points for further reflection:

— Hiro Nakajima has yet to see major league action. There are positive accounts of his improved hitting in AAA however.
— A’s have so little confidence in Jemile Weeks at 2B that they have left him in AAA and instead have recently platooned Sogard/Lowrie.
— They’ve also successfully weathered DL stints from key players. Crisp, Cespedes, Reddick and Brett Anderson have all been (or still are) on the DL.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

Grant Green has nothing left to prove at AAA either, and is hitting very well there. I have no idea why Sogard is seen by the front office as a better option than Green, who can play 7 positions, but wins are wins.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Well, Sogard does have that elite warning track power

david
Guest
david
3 years 2 months ago

sogard is a cult player on a cult team.

BOG
Guest
BOG
3 years 2 months ago

Green plays 7 positions but all of them badly.

Train
Guest
Train
3 years 2 months ago

A true island of misfit toys.

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 2 months ago

Probably the best comment yet–– I can see the movie title now Moneyball 2: A True Island of Misfit Toys

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Pixar’s just around the corner. They’ll do it.

ralph
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ralph
3 years 2 months ago

Coco Crisp is showing some outrageous strike zone control (only Aoki better as far as BB/K ratio goes):

ralph
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ralph
3 years 2 months ago

I put hyperlinked “outrageous strike zone control” to show the BB/K leaderboard, but I guess hyperlinks aren’t really highlighted in comments.

Bab
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Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Outrageous ‘fro control too.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
3 years 2 months ago

He clearly is outperforming his career numbers .275/.332/.411 .743

Krog
Member
Krog
3 years 2 months ago

After a disastrous stretch in the 2000’s where the A’s couldn’t develop a position player better than Bobby Crosby, its nice to see them taking other organizations castoffs and turning them into good major league hitters.

Nodaclu
Guest
Nodaclu
3 years 2 months ago

Ironically, Chris Young’s swing reminds me a lot of Bobby Crosby’s – long, looping, full of holes, with occasional flashes of freakish power that make you want to smash your head against a wall and wonder why he can’t make any adjustments.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Seriously. If CY doesn’t pull hard, he’s not getting on base. But when he connects he launches them deep into left.

Mac
Guest
Mac
3 years 2 months ago

Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez were A’s products that got away. Just about the only two times Beane has made “win-now” trades and both prospects turned out to be solid MLB OFers.

The A’s are so good at pitching development though, they’ve just started switching batting prospects over to pitchers (Doolittle). Play to your strength.

jirish
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jirish
3 years 2 months ago

That made me laugh. You are so right about the A’s developing pitching. They have been good at that for a long time.

RMD
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RMD
3 years 2 months ago

God, I hope Michael Lewis is hangin’ around the front office again this year.

dustin
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dustin
3 years 2 months ago

As an A’s fan, I hope not.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

How come? I happen to think Michael Lewis is an excellent writer, and he brought a lot of recognition to the ball club.

Hitler But Sadder
Guest
Hitler But Sadder
3 years 2 months ago

Speaking of Moneyball; the A’s have a (VERY) enlarged, framed cover of the SI issue with Brad Pitt wearing an A’s hat hanging in their locker room…. It hangs just to the left of Reddick’s beer helmet (not joking).

Billy Beane
Guest
Billy Beane
3 years 24 days ago

Because “Moneyball” was like a textbook with my intellectual capital handed out to the other 29 MLB teams…

CabreraDeath
Member
CabreraDeath
3 years 2 months ago

As a Pirates fan, Oakland is a pretty easy team to pull for in the American League. This article illustrates that rather well.

Also, I can’t believe the power they’ve received from Brandon Moss. As a Pirate and a somewhat ‘wanted man’ in the Jason Bay deal, he was excruciating to watch. Every once in awhile, he showed flashes of starting RF. However, he more often showed ‘bust’ or ‘AAAA player’, even more than just ‘4th outfielder’. The success he’s had is crazy, from my vantage point.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
3 years 2 months ago

Moss proves that its not just the Jays who can take flawed guys with high ceilings and figure out how to fix them. Moss is on the same level as Encarncion and Bautista in my opinion. He just should be in the OF or DHing, he isnt good at 1B.

Nate Freiman is a pretty great story too, straight from AA to the bigs and he’s mashing lefties to the tune of 78 PA vs LHP: 909 OPS; 24 PA vs RHP: 237 OPS, which has to be one of the biggest splits ever.

Urban Shocker
Guest
Urban Shocker
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t think E5 was that much of a reclamation project-the Reds just didn’t want his glove in their everyday lineup. The bat has always been plus.

Adrock
Guest
Adrock
3 years 2 months ago

The A’s briefly had Encarnacion two winters ago after the Jays DFA’ed him. Fortunately for Toronto, they released him almost immediately. Beane is awesome, but not infallible.

Nodaclu
Guest
Nodaclu
3 years 2 months ago

He’s talked about this to the local press. His take is that when he was in the minors in Boston (at AA I believe) they asked him to completely re-tool his swing to hit more to the opposite field and for a higher average.

He struggled with this approach all the way until being signed by the A’s last spring. Chili Davis asked him the last time he felt like himself at the plate. Moss replied that it was early in his first season at AA before the Red Sox retooled his swing.

With precious little video from the period, they rebuilt his swing to resemble what it did early in his minor league career.

From that moment on, the mashing commenced.

He has 15 home runs by mid-June in Sacramento, and never stopped hitting them once he came up. What surprised everyone was the .21 average, as his new/old approach was expected to produce dead-pull power with a lower average and lots of strikeouts.

In other words…the left-handed Chris Carter. :)

Nodaclu
Guest
Nodaclu
3 years 2 months ago

Ugh…I need to re-read what I write for typos before hitting send. Moss had 15 home runs in Sacramento my mid-June LAST YEAR, before coming up and surprisingly hitting .291.

mlbfan23
Guest
mlbfan23
3 years 2 months ago

A’s just the past 2 seasons have gone through a ton of 1b

carter, kila, allen, barton, moss, freiman. they even tried a 1b conversion of michael taylor in spring. Hard to believe it ended up a 1b conversion of moss that added some stability. Moss fills that role as a platoon 1b, with solid/decent defense. I still think his ultra aggressive plate approach needs to improve. But for a minor league free agent hes exceeded expectations.

scatterbrian
Member
Member
scatterbrian
3 years 2 months ago

You briefly touched on it here. Chili Davis is the foundation of the A’s success at the plate over the last year and a half.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Haven’t looked at the numbers in detail, but I hear Chili Davis’s overriding hitting philosophy is basically take pitches until you get a hittable FB. Than whack the shit out of it.

Works well for guys like Crisp, who is known to be an excellent FB hitter.

David Wiers
Member
Member
3 years 2 months ago

I love this.

Sactownbull
Guest
Sactownbull
3 years 2 months ago

Good piece but not one mention of the bullpen is rather odd… that’s a pillar of this team’s success. And I agree with what Steve said above, this team is only sniffing it’s true potential right now… also with the amount of talent stockpiled in AAA this could be a 3-5 year run even if the A’s don’t get their new park and lose a few quality players in free agency. If they do get a new park and increased revenue stream, look out.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Agree that A’s bullpen has been great. But I might be in the minority when I suspect Balfour will start declining relatively quickly. Losing velo, higher BB% and allowing an unsafe amount of hard contact. I believe he is FA next year so I’d let another team overpay.

Also, the Resop experiment failed and converted former 1B Doolittle looked suddenly mortal recently. Overall good with. Blevins, Cook and Neshek still solid .

wally
Guest
wally
3 years 2 months ago

“I believe he is FA next year so I’d let another team overpay.”

That’s exactly the A’s mentality with closers. Use them until they get expensive then put someone like Doolittle take over until he hits FA or trade him when he gets close to FA.

Sactownbull
Guest
Sactownbull
3 years 2 months ago

Agree on Balfour

rustydude
Member
rustydude
3 years 2 months ago

I’m a Balfour owner and I’m very nervous. 100% LOB. Really? Unsustainability, thy name is Balfour.

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 2 months ago

Balfour has been walking a tightrope of disaster all season, however that is the Balfour way. The A’s should just work on developing Doolittle’s change-up a bit more (last night he had it going in full force) and hand him over the reins next season.

scatterbrian
Member
Member
scatterbrian
3 years 2 months ago

How is this possible? 4/28 vs. Baltimore:

Nolan Reimold flied out to right.
Nate McLouth doubled to center.
Manny Machado doubled to left. Nate McLouth scored.
Nick Markakis grounded out to second. Manny Machado advanced to 3B.
Adam Jones struck out swinging.

Machado stranded.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Re: Doolittle and changeup . . .

A changeup would be nice, but I actually think increasing movement on his relatively flat fastball might be even more effective in the short term than developing a whole new pitch.

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 2 months ago

RE: RE: Doolittle and Changeup…

I agree with you 100 percent, but think of my comment as a thought experiment stemming from the 2 changeups he threw last night in the 8th inning.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

I might have missed those two changeups. How did they look?

Sactownbull
Guest
Sactownbull
3 years 2 months ago

@Forrest Gumption

Do you watch the A’s every day? If so not sure how you can say Moss is not good at 1st… it’s amazing how far he’s come in such a short time there.

Nodaclu
Guest
Nodaclu
3 years 2 months ago

Agreed. Watching Moss nearly daily on TV, I’d put him at average to just a hair below average at first – quite an accomplishment for a guy who’s only been playing there regularly for about a year.

With that said, what Josh Donaldson has done in about the same amount of time while moving to a much tougher defensive position (3B) has been nothing short of amazing.

Mr. Jones
Member
3 years 2 months ago

“It’s not hard, tell ’em Wash.”

“It’s incredibly hard.”

Hitler But Sadder
Guest
Hitler But Sadder
3 years 2 months ago

@Sactownbull I watch the A’s everyday and yes Moss has made massive strides defensively going from well below average to only slightly below average, I still wouldn’t use the word “good” to describe him… more like adequate. Although he has become the late inning defensive replacement for Nate Freiman who is– at best–– awkward at 1b, so maybe I am misguided.

@nodaclu I am in the same boat as you with Donaldson, he has been a gift to the A’s. Although his defensive pedigree was much higher than Moss’ that shift to 3b and the well above replacement level in which he is playing it is amazing.

Sactownbull
Guest
Sactownbull
3 years 2 months ago

For all the talk of Barton’s “picking” abilities I’ve seen him come up with more balls in key situations than Barton has

mlbfan23
Guest
mlbfan23
3 years 2 months ago

I think its morew about melvin and his staff and players exceeding expectations. As an A’s fan im waiting for a decline and a rough stretch but at least over the paast year it hasnt happened. I’m not too thrilled with their current farm system and as we know with their financial limitations their contention window is very small. They have 4 former 1st rd choices in AAA, but they seem flawed. Maybe in 2 yrs when a good amount of this roster is up for free agency beane either needs to make more trades or hope the below avg farm system produces some impact starters. As mentioned this really be done by 2nd tier free agents and castoffs from other teams. Only 3 home grown draft players on their roster

Hitler But Sadder
Guest
Hitler But Sadder
3 years 2 months ago

Didn’t they already lose 8 of 10 at one point this year and fell 3 games below .500? Also I wouldn’t be too concerned with their farm system because it is adequate (Stockton is actually looking very promising) and, as Mr. Dave pointed out above, their building philosophy has changed. However, as an A’s fan I feel you and I am always waiting for the bottom to drop out.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
3 years 2 months ago

In what world is Chris Carter a minor league lifer?

Tim_the_Beaver
Member
Tim_the_Beaver
3 years 2 months ago

The general feelings I have heard from saber-minded fans is that the A’s are pushing the platoon strategy to a greater extent than any other team. Certainly 1B, catcher, DH, OF, 2B(?)… Basically every position that there isn’t a single guy to be “The Guy”. I’d love to see the smart people at Fangraphs explore this in greater depth

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah, this would be an interesting subject to dig into. I’d be *particularly* interested in how the A’s FO intentionally constructed a lineup that depends simultaneously on (a) platoon splits and (b) multi-position utility players. It seems like an intricate dance.

mlbfan23
Guest
mlbfan23
3 years 2 months ago

Their platoons arent doing that great this yr surprisingly.

1b has been solid though, more on the freiman end.

Most A’s fans dont think much of sogard and rosales. Theyre wanting to see hiro, weeks, or green get a shot. Or an upgrade through the trade market.

Chris Young has been a total disaster. He was brought in to fill that jonny gomes role and hasntdone much. I believe he’s their highest paid player on the roster. His bat speed looks slow to me and cant lay off breaking pitches away

Seth Smith and Moss are better off as platoon type but with cespedes, crisp injuries theyve been forced to play vs lefties more and they struggled not surprisingly.

Matt
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Matt
3 years 2 months ago

A’s fan here and really like Sogard. I’d like to see them replace Rosales though.

Young I believe will come around. More worried about Reddick.

G.G. Allin's Micropenis
Guest
G.G. Allin's Micropenis
3 years 2 months ago

And as per the usual, the mainstream press is about as nimble as tar-covered rock. While they’ve been cooing like babies about the A’s taking high schoolers in the first round of the draft “THIS IS SO UNLIKE MONEYBALL OAKLAND DERP!” in reality the A’s doubled down. In essence, fukc college players – let’s draft from other team’s farms and from international leagues.

You’re a genius and still a step ahead, Billy. And by the way, Bartolo is 40, baby!

Ben
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Ben
3 years 2 months ago

Did GG have a small penis?

G.G. Allin's Micropenis
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G.G. Allin's Micropenis
3 years 2 months ago

No. He had a micropenis.

Nik
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Nik
3 years 2 months ago

Man what a difference a competent GM makes. In the meantime I have to watch Delmon Young every night.

mlbfan23
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mlbfan23
3 years 2 months ago

Beane had a rough stretch from 2007-2011 which included two rebuilds over that span. Maybe part of it was a terrible manager in geren, players underperforming, etc. Barton, Buck, Suzuki etc core not performing to expectations. I remember 2009 and 2011 beane built teams to contend. Adding players like giambi, holliday, orlando cabrera, willingham, dejesus, matsui, etc. Neither those years went as planned. Then in 2012 in what everyone though was a potential 100 loss season, everything changed

Todd
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Todd
3 years 24 days ago

Beane was laying the foundation for the ’12 run during those rebuilding periods in ’07-’11 though, adding players via trade and free agency such as Donaldson, Crisp, Reddick, Cespedes, Norris, Anderson, Moss, Carter, Gomes, Milone, Parker, Balfour, Blevins, Cook, etc… (none were drafted by the A’s, though I suppose YC52 basically was)

Beane’s true masterpiece (to date) was in the offseason between ’11 and ’12 season though, which involved picking up a few players just mentioned. His trades/pickups during that winter were dead-on.

Shlum
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Shlum
3 years 2 months ago

Delmon Young provides value. Entertainment value.

Ritornello
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Ritornello
3 years 2 months ago

If you type ‘Delmon’ into Google and wait for the search suggestions, you get two interesting choices at the top:

Delmonico’s steak
Delmon Young

Which do you choose?

Hitler But Sadder
Guest
Hitler But Sadder
3 years 2 months ago

It would seem that R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus would disagree with you in his piece today for ESPN Insiders (worst service ever): Be Wary of the Athletics. http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9379778/be-wary-oakland-athletics-mlb. After reading both articles it appears Anderson should read your article because it disproves his main argument that the A’s cannot beat quality teams.

brendan
Guest
brendan
3 years 2 months ago

still, 9-0 vs. houston this year. that has def helped the A’s

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 2 months ago

That helps anyone in the West, which is good because that division was redonk last year.

brendan
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brendan
3 years 2 months ago

not the angels!

Bab
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Bab
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t buy this type of argument. As a good team, you are *supposed* to beat inferior teams.

Shlum
Guest
Shlum
3 years 2 months ago

STL is 8-2 against MIL. And what have you to say about STL?

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 2 months ago

I think discrediting wins is one of the worst habits baseball writers have fallen into in the last few years. Typically, even the best teams will lose at least one game in a three or four game series to the worst teams.

Matt
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Matt
3 years 2 months ago

Yes, getting 9 wins has helped them. Does it matter who they came against?

The Angels got swept in a 4 game series against Houston the other week.

Uninterested Cat
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Uninterested Cat
3 years 2 months ago

The only thing keeping the A’s from a really feel-good story is their continual embrace of known PED users. They took back Jason Giambi, tried out Manny Ramirez, and are sticking with Bartolo Colon.

After the team figured so prominently in the BALCO fiasco, I wish they’d project a cleaner image. I know it’s probably silly to expect that from any major league front office, but I really can’t cheer for people like that.

Bab
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Bab
3 years 2 months ago

The lady doth protest too much methinks

Hitler But Sadder
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Hitler But Sadder
3 years 2 months ago

We are still talking about this?

Shlum
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Shlum
3 years 2 months ago

Hah. I guess so . . .

Bab
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Bab
3 years 2 months ago

It seems an arbitrary reason to detract from the success of an entire team.

As if, you meet the woman of your dreams, but you can’t feel good about it because she screwed a couple of other dudes like five years ago. Weird logic.

BookWorm
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BookWorm
3 years 2 months ago

“Sticking with” Colon meant a one year/$3MM commitment. Trying out Manny Ramirez led to nothing. Giambi was given one year/$4MM after the Yankees paid him $23MM in his last two years of his previous contract. Even on a team with a small payroll like the A’s, these are not major investments in “known PED users.”

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Not to mention — if you believe that the MLB’s substances policy HAS ANY DETERRENT EFFECT WHATSOEVER, than those players named for PED use will be LESS likely, not more, to use PEDs during future competitions.

Of course, it only holds true if you accept at least a weak version of the deterrence theory.

Uninterested Cat
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Uninterested Cat
3 years 2 months ago

I know it’s ridiculous to expect, but how great would it have been if the A’s had said to Colon, “Hey, look, we don’t want PED users on this team.” (Or just not re-signed him without embarrassing him publicly.) And made it their policy not to sign any players caught using PEDs?

I was a season-ticket holder with the A’s until recently, when I moved farther away from the stadium. I was there for the four straight ALDS Game 5 losses, which ate me up inside. Knowing now that Giambi was on steroids the whole time really diminishes the quality of those memories.

It’s not a choice for me– it’s just how I feel. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else for feeling that way. I just don’t get as much enjoyment when my team has PED users on it.

Rick
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Rick
3 years 2 months ago

I understand how it must have been tough as an A’s fan to lose those game 5’s. But I don’t understand how Giambi playing for the Yankees when the A’s lost game 5 to the Red Sox and the Twins has any connection????
Not to mention, obviously there’s not a team in baseball that doesn’t sign PED users.

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 2 months ago

If the disinterested feline cannot root for teams that have ties or have accepted the previously PED accused or convicted, then unfortunately he/she has no MLB teams they can root for (other than their favorite).

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Nicely put

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 years 2 months ago

You must not be able to root for anyone.

Uninterested Cat
Guest
Uninterested Cat
3 years 2 months ago

Honestly, PEDs have indeed reduced my enjoyment of baseball overall. I wish it weren’t so, because who wants to have less fun watching something than before. But that’s the way it is.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 2 months ago

Well, enjoy your fruitless search for purity in the world

Beasy Bee
Member
Beasy Bee
3 years 2 months ago

@bab The search might be fruitless, but I’m not about to hinder someone from hoping.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 years 2 months ago

I haven’t researched this, but I’m willing to bet that Brandon Moss is the only opening day starting 1B to have spent time in CF this year. That kinda shows how badly the A’s OF was beat up during their brief rough stretch this season.

Rick
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Rick
3 years 2 months ago

Can Moss be considered a utility player: he’s played left, right, center, first and third this year.

Chief Keef
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Chief Keef
3 years 2 months ago

Josh Reddick isn’t nearly as good as he was the first half of last year. For the rest of his career people will be talking about his upside, when really he just played way over his head for a few months.

Sactownbull
Guest
Sactownbull
3 years 2 months ago

I think you’re selling Reddick short. Even if he just becomes a 265/320/440 type guy, he’s an asset when you factor in the type of defense he plays. I mean the guy has already won a gold glove and is playing just as good a RF as he did last year. When he’s not in RF the A’s aren’t nearly as strong a team.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 years 2 months ago

Reddick is .215/.285/.393 over the past calendar year, so that .260/.320/.440 seems very optimistic at this point. His start of 2012, while it can’t be ignored, is looking more and more like an outlying blip.

Don’t get me wrong, his defense is great and having the Reddick Cannon in right is always a great deterrent for other teams running so he still provides value, but he just doesn’t look good at the plate.

wobatus
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wobatus
3 years 2 months ago

.280/.327/.457 in a half season with the Red Sox in 2011. i discount this year since he’s been hurt. He had some good minor league seasons so I think his overall numbers are pretty representative and he maybhave growth.

Bab
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Bab
3 years 2 months ago

I’m not ready to give up on Reddick just yet. He’s a little headcase-y but he does have a rocket of an arm that is highly accurate to boot. Look at his throwing motion, it’s like a slingshot. His glove is great and he is also becoming a very good baserunner.

As of now, he looks like the kind of hitter who hasn’t really nailed down his identity at the plate. For example, he is often considered a natural dead-pull hitter, but how many times this season has he actually showed that trait? A’s fans would be thrilled if he hit 240/320/440 with mid-range power.

channelclemente
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channelclemente
3 years 2 months ago

Beane’s guys are playing some remarkable baseball. Maybe Fisher, et.al. will take the tarp off for the playoffs this year?

Ivan Grushenko
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Ivan Grushenko
3 years 2 months ago

I’m loving every minute of the unbeatable A’s, but I’m with whomever thinks they’re not as good as the Rangers or Tigers or probably even the Red Sox or the Rays with Price and Myers. Still, an amazing story. They are tremendous fun to watch.

Jason B
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Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

Seconded, all the way ’round.

rubesandbabes
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rubesandbabes
3 years 2 months ago

This is a nice article but this last one calendar year of the A’s is not really to be explained in the baseball context. The A’s play like the 1927 Yankees, and then they don’t have any ace starter or reasonable catcher, and lots of stuff like that. It’s just a wild ride.

Checking some sloppy history/trade revisionism in the article:

-Tom Milone was not a “thrown-in” on the Gio deal. He was the #1 or #2 guy along with Peacock. Or maybe Cole was considered the gem and Milone was #3, big diff at this point. Anyway, Milone was the last player agreed upon to swing the deal, but no throw-in. When Milone was traded, he had already hit a homer on the first pitch he ever saw in MLB.

-If Jaso was “stolen from the Mariners for a couple of lower level prospects,” why did Fangraphs rip on the Mariners with both barrels for trading for Morse? Ian Krol, anyone – ever heard of him? AJ Cole? And it wasn’t a ‘couple of players,’ a third pitcher Blake Treinen was moved to the Nats, too. Three is a few.

Cespedes is the A’s top player/producer/whatever, not Coco.

But Coco has been so great too – Want some stat geek perspective? Jut go back one year and read what the informed saber bloggers were saying about him then – mainly embarrassing disregard for Coco on sites like this one, and AN, too.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 2 months ago

Milone was definitely the throw-in. He was considered the fourth best prospect in that deal, and actually barely a prospect at all. There was a lot of debate among A’s fans about whether he had any shot of sticking in a major league rotation.

He was just a classic Beane acquisition and has worked out better than anyone imagined. I liked it at the time but I was hoping for Buerhle-lite. He’s turned out to be much better than that.

BX
Guest
BX
3 years 2 months ago

Cole was the gem, not Peacock.

Again, that Jaso/Morse/Cole/Krol/Treinen swap was all kinds of even for all 3 parties. The A’s are getting the most immediate help, but that doesn’t make the trade less even. I don’t see how that trade is a steal for anybody. The A’s traded the centerpiece of the Gio Gonzalez deal.

Peacock took significant steps backwards last year, but Cole didn’t really.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 2 months ago

Thanks for recognizing this and writing a great article. The last calendar year of the A’s has been the most fun I’ve ever had being a baseball fan.

This team is a stone cold pack of misfit cast-off weirdos. It’s full of guys that even hardcore A’s fans wanted no part of at the time they were acquired.

You’ve got the middling prospects who busted multiple times (Moss, Donaldson), the vets who even at modest salaries were thought to be overpaid when they signed (Crisp, Balfour), the platoon-types that were given away for almost nothing (Reddick, Young, Smith, Jaso), the trade throw-ins (Milone, Cook), the first baseman they turned into a lights out reliever in less than a year (Doolittle), the washed-up former ace nobody else wanted (Colon), the late-round draft pick starters (Straily, Griffin), and the Rule 5 pick who nobody thought had any place on an MLB roster (Freiman).

But my favorite player on this team other than Coco? Eric Sogard. He perfectly embodies the team as a whole. He’s the ultimate underdog. You look at him and you see a zero-tool guy who should be playing Catan with me, but instead he’s starting for the best team in the majors. It defies all logic, which is why it’s so much goddamn fun.

Oasis
Guest
Oasis
3 years 2 months ago

How can someone drafted the previous year be a bust multiple times? Use your brain.

Donaldson hit .346/.440/.605 at Boise the previous year. THE YEAR HE WAS DRAFTED. The stupidity is catching …

Oasis
Guest
Oasis
3 years 2 months ago

One more thing. Calling Donaldson a middling prospect is also revisionist history at it’s finest. He was #7 in the Cubs’ system according to Baseball America that year. Guess who was #8? Jeff Samardjzia

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 2 months ago

#7 on a team prospect list is pretty much the definition of a middling prospect. And it was even worse after he got to the A’s.

Here are his ranks within the A’s organization, courtesy of Sickels:

2009 – 19th, C+
2010 – 9th, B-
2011 – 13th, C+
2012 – 13th, C+

That was a bad system most of those years and he couldn’t even crack the top 10. Actually, calling him a middling prospect is probably generous.

It doesn’t matter that he was the 48th pick. By the time the A’s tried him at 3rd he was 26 years old, had been no more than a medium to low-end prospect for several years, and was an extreme longshot to stick.

Oasis
Guest
Oasis
3 years 2 months ago

Wow, I can’t believe nobody called Dave for by far the most ludicrous statement this entire article.

How the hell can anyone be “a busted draft pick” ONE YEAR AFTER BEING DRAFTED? That’s just plain ol’ country stupid. And it’s not like he was a 40th round draft pick. Donaldson was taken in the Supplemental 1st round. It’d be like calling Addison Russell “a busted draft pick” because he’s batting .215 this year.

Plus Donaldson was NOT the 4th prospect in that deal. He was the ONLY player in that deal that hadn’t played in the majors at that point. Eric Patterson came up in 2007 as did Sean Gallagher. Matt Murton came up in 2005. I knew back then Josh was the player with the most upside and many other Cubs’ fan agreed.

Stop with the revisionist history!

Fircoal
Guest
Fircoal
3 years 2 months ago

It’s not revisionist. Maybe a bit off, but when I was looking at the past articles for that trade not many people were saying much about the upside of Donaldson, he looked more like the throw-in.

the hottest stove
Guest
the hottest stove
3 years 2 months ago

This post seems to imply that the Cardinals have only been really good over the course of a few months… St. Louis has been playing above .600 for the last calendar year as well. Why not give the AL and NL totals in the table?

Bab
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Bab
3 years 2 months ago

This article is not about the Cardinals. I believe there’s about 656 other articles this season about the Cardinals you can refer to.

the hottest stove
Guest
the hottest stove
3 years 2 months ago

Exactly my point… The reference to the Cardinals made no sense at all within the context of the article. I didn’t bring up the Cardinals. The author did – for no reason.

Penumbral Hoodie
Guest
Penumbral Hoodie
3 years 2 months ago

Your team might be richer, but the A’s are smarter and have way bigger balls. *shrugs* That’s just the way it be.

ReleasetheMckracken
Guest
ReleasetheMckracken
3 years 2 months ago

I thought Moneyball was exactly “acquiring undervalued assets”, whether they be through trade or free agencyo or the draft, not “home grow(ing)” stars…

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