The Mariners And A’s Are The Exact Same Team

There’s something rather interesting going on over in the AL West; the only four team division in baseball is really only offering three different teams this year. There are still four franchises, but Oakland and Seattle have apparently decided to put the exact same team on the field this year.

If you go to the team pages here on the site, it’s impossible to avoid the similarities. We’ll start on the mound, which is where both teams strengths lie.

SEA: 2.78 BB/9, 7.26 K/9, 0.55 HR/9, 44.6% GB%, .290 BABIP, 5.8% HR/FB, 3.10 FIP, 3.50 xFIP
OAK: 2.97 BB/9, 7.11 K/9, 0.55 HR/9, 49.4% GB%, .288 BABIP, 6.5% HR/FB, 3.18 FIP, 3.45 xFIP

Both pitching staffs have accumulated +7.7 WAR which puts them in a tie for first place in the American League. In both scenarios, the starting rotation has done the bulk of the good work, with both teams receiving quality performances from every member of their rotation.

Both staffs have also had to adjust to losing their closers to injuries, as David Aardsma and Andrew Bailey have spent the entire year on the DL. Replacement closers Brandon League (three consecutive blown saves) and Brian Fuentes (AL leading six losses) have both struggled at times, but their bullpens have been rescued by nondescript afterthoughts with similar names – David Pauley in Seattle, David Purcey in Oakland.

While the pitchers are the strength of both organizations, the position players are another story. Billy Beane and Jack Zduriencik both put together rosters of players who had good defensive reputations and hoped to get enough offense from a few key hitters to make up for the fact that neither team had much in the way of power. Well, the no power aspect has turned out to be true, as the Mariners are last in the Majors in home runs with 24 – the A’s have 25, and are only ahead of the M’s in launching balls over the fence.

Additionally, the defense part of that “pitching and defense” strategy hasn’t exactly played out for either team yet. The Mariners have the worst UZR in the American League at -16.8, just fractionally behind the A’s, who stand at -16.4. Both teams tried sacrificing defense for offense in left field, going with Milton Bradley and Josh Willingham respectively, and it hasn’t worked out in either case. Bradley has already been released, and while the A’s are likely to stick with Willingham, you do wonder if they might eventually move him to DH if Hideki Matsui doesn’t start hitting soon.

Speaking of DHs, the Mariners are using ex-Athletic Jack Cust at the position. While he’s still walking as frequently as normal, he still has yet to hit a home run all season, and his lack of power has forced the team to use the likes of Adam Kennedy and Miguel Olivo in the clean-up spot at times. The A’s can empathize, as they also have a high walk hitter in the middle of their order who has yet to leave the yard – that being Daric Barton.

The similarities extend even to the standings. The Mariners are 22-24, while the A’s are 22-25. Both teams are 11-12 at home; Seattle has a half game advantage on the road, where they are 11-12 compared to the 11-13 mark the A’s have put up away from the bay. And, to top it off, affter yesterday’s games both teams are currently the owners of five game streaks – the Mariners have won five in a row, while the A’s have lost five in a row.

I don’t think either GM set out to have a roster like this, as both teams made moves over the winter to try and improve their on their offensive problems of a year ago. In both cases, however, it hasn’t helped, and the teams are being carried by epic performances from their starting pitchers.

It will be interesting to see how both teams choose to play out the rest of the season. The A’s had hopes of contending this year, but they might have to admit that there are too many problems on the offensive side of things to keep up with a healthy Rangers team. The Mariners are still trying to rebuild around some young talent, but given last year’s disaster and dramatic declines in attendance, there might be some organizational pressure to add talent and try to see how far a great rotation (and not much else) can carry them.

Both teams are going to have some decisions to make in the next few months. They might have the two best rotations in the American League, but both teams face similar problems elsewhere on the roster. If you ever needed evidence that pitching doesn’t win championships by itself, you can simply point to this year’s A’s and Mariners rosters as prime examples. Great pitching is nice, but you need to be able to hit and field too.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

35 Responses to “The Mariners And A’s Are The Exact Same Team”

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  1. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Both ballparks are pitcher friendly. Safeco more because it’s hard to hit HR’s there. Oakland more because of a huge foul territory which suppresses BA. Either way, both teams have to pay a premium to get veteran hitters, take risks, or grow their own. Theoretically, they could make up for it with great plate discipline but it’s tough to have great plate discipline if pitchers don’t have to think twice about throwing strikes.

    Ackley is probably the prototype of the type of hitter these teams need to draft and develop. Hits for average with gap power and enough speed to take the extra base and steal a few.

    UZR seems to be a pretty labile stat and not one you want to try to build a team around. If they draft and develop players with athleticism and speed and emphazise defense in the minors, UZR should take care of itself.

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  2. marlu says:

    They look so like the same team, I would say to them, “You want ice cream cone?” Both of them say yes.

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  3. Kev says:

    David Purcey is a lefty, BTW.

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  4. wobatus says:

    Should they be even worse than their records suggest? Their pitching has kept them right around .500, and the A’s have acdtually scored 169 runs and allowed 165. But their era is not only lower than their fip, it’s more than half a run lower than their xfip. The M’s have been outscroed by 9 but their era is also below their xfip, but just a tad. Or are their xFIPs higher due to the ballparks, or is it adjusted for ballpark?

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    • Matt says:

      Both teams are pretty solid defensively, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see them continue pitching better than their defense independent stats suggest they would.

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      • wobatus says:

        The article notes their collective team UZRs are -16 though. Not much of a season to go on yet, of course, and Franklin Gutierrez coming back should help. I was thinking their e.r.a. may be better than their xFIPs because of the park effects. Their pitching is prety good either way, but the A’s e.r.a. seems unsustainable.

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    • joser says:

      BPs 3rd order wins suggests they’re both actually about a win better than their records suggest.

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      • wobatus says:

        But 3rd order wins adjusts for equivalent runs based on hits, walks, etc., and ballparks, and opponent pitching and defense, but not for batted ball profile and reversion to mean on that basis. Not sure if opponent d is calculated using uzr either.

        So I am still left with the question of what would their records reflect if expected opponent runs scored were somehow based on their xFIP. That may be balanced out by the other adjustments made in the 3rd order record calc at BP.

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  5. GiantHusker says:

    Very interesting article, Dave! The similarities are remarkable!

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  6. Ken Allen says:

    Daric Barton is not a middle-of-the-order hitter. He has hit second in every game he has started this year.

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  7. Ted Williams Head says:

    xFIP does, it replaces HR/FB ratio with the average of 10.6%

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  8. Dave says:

    Funny that over the weekend Grant of McCovey Chronicles compared the A’s to a closer West Coast team, although the comparison wasn’t quite as deep:

    “Good gravy. It was like a “Twilight Zone” episode. A “Star Trek” from days past. Were the A’s the ones wearing the goatee, or was it us the whole time? That was some sweet staring-into-the-abyss action. They couldn’t hit. We couldn’t hit. Their manager was driving their fans nuts. Ours was driving us nuts. Our incompetent lefty was put in a crucial spot, their incompetent lefty was …

    … made the de facto closer? Oh. I see.

    And so it went, down the line. The A’s are the Giants are the A’s are the Giants. It was a Möbius strip wrapped around an Escher print, and we were never going to be able to leave. It was good pitching against hitting that didn’t usually do well against bad pitching”

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    • zenbitz says:

      Giants are +1 K/9 +0.5 BB/9 and a .277 BABIP. +7.9 WAR. Every other number is between As and Mariners within error.

      The three teams have similar hitting as well – the giants have fewer BB (surprise) and more Ks, but higher BA, more power (slightly).

      Major difference is that SEA/OAK have awful team UZR (-16) and the Giants are more average (-4)

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  9. Paul B says:

    When the Mariners and A’s opened the season with a 3 game series in Oakland, I was thinking about this — lots of similarties, starting with good pitching, bad hitting.

    It’s not much fun to watch these two teams play each other, actually.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Neither are doing much to advance the acceptance of a sabermetrically-inclined front office, either.

      Combine with Josh Byres in Arizona (formerly), and we’re basically left with BOS and TOR.

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      • DD says:

        Andrew Freidman would like some love.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        Brian Cashman’s not one to ignore sabermetric stats either.

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      • Mark says:

        Cleveland would beg to disagree.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Forgetting TBR is unforgivable. My bad. Horrific omission.

        I’m not counting NYY.

        CLE is a possibility, as is PIT. Isn’t CLE fairly new to the “saber FO”, as in “just started this off-season”? I could be wrong about that.

        Essentially, I am referring to teams that have traditionally, more or less, based decisions of sabermetric analysis/principles. Granted that’s a large umbrella, and perhaps not very descript, but even BOS doesn;t follow the principles ALL the time. Like Sandy Alderson said, “if you don’t have to, don’t.”

        I am really, really, really, hoping Neal Huntington does well in PIT. This dude has been thrown into the absolute worst of situations, and seems to have a very good head for it. If just PIT could hit on some young players and pitchers at the SAME time.

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      • Mark says:

        Huntington came from Cleveland, and they’ve been very into saber for several years.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Thanks for the information. Learn something new every day.

        This past year I read something about CLE hiring some guys from Baseball Prospectus (or similar website), and I assumed that was something “new” for them.

        Thanks for the info.

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  10. MagicMike says:

    I wonder what A’s could do with additional $20 million in payroll such as the mariners have, at least according to opening days numbers, plus having an amazing home ballpark

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    • GhettoBear04 says:

      Wait, is your point that money is the reason the A’s aren’t able to acquire a single player currently in the Top 35 WAR in the AL?

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  11. kylemcg says:

    Average age, weight and height of the rosters are all pretty darn close too.

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  12. Blah says:

    God you’re annoying.

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  13. Mike says:

    Just a heads up, the A’s are 11-10 “away from the bay” and 11-13 on the road.

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  14. brendan says:

    the As have had great pitching, but with braden, now ross & mccarthy injured. It looks to be on the decline in the #4 and #5 spots.
    -a worried As fan

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  15. beaneball says:

    The main reason their overall defensive stats are alarmingly bad can be almost entirely contributed to the sharp defensive slump by both Kouzmanoff and Barton (normally good defensive players). It is extremely frustrating to watch the A’s be well…..the A’s all over again this year. No matter what sluggers they convince to come to Oakland, their BA’s promptly regress to around .235 and they stop hitting home runs. Not to mention the A’s have already become close friends with the 15 day DL as they have every year for the past 5….sigh

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  16. joshcohen says:

    Can someone explain the value in citing team UZR after 50 games? If we assume that it takes 3ish years for UZR to normalize and provide usable data, how can 50 team games provide anything close to usable data?

    I ask because this topic came up on Jonah’s piece about Jaime Garcia last week. My understanding was that when you sum random variables that each have their own variance, the sum’s variance is the sum of the individual variances, right? Thus, team UZR would be less precise than an individual’s already sss UZR!

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  17. mhad says:

    The A’s are actually 11-10 away from the bay. 3 of those losses are to the Giants.

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