Two Months In: Oakland Athletics

Two months into the season and we start to enter trade season in which teams are separating themselves into those playing for this year and those not. Starting today, I am going to go through the teams and evaluate their 2009 playoff prospects and for those falling far enough to one side or another, look at players that are candidates to be dealt or positions to be filled via trade.

The series starts off with Oakland in the AL West. Coming into the year, Oakland seemed like a potential favorite for the division, especially after the Angels’ early injuries. The starting rotation seemed to be the potential pitfall and that has certainly borne fruit with the 6th worst FIP in baseball. They have made up for that with their bullpen, ranked 5th in baseball and their defense is adequate as well. With that, it would seem like Oakland would still be in the midst of the weak AL West race, but 48 games into the season the Athletics are ten games out of first and have just a 5.55% chance of making the playoffs according to PECOTA.

What has gone wrong is the offense, ranked completely last in baseball. Winter imports Jason Giambi, Matt Holliday and Orlando Cabrera have not much to boost the A’s as now all three are certain trade candidates as all three are free agents at the end of the season, though the A’s do have an option on Giambi. The question would be what Oakland might be able to get for those players. Cabrera’s offense has been so bad that he seems unlikely to return any value. Ditto Giambi because of his offense and position. Holliday will almost certainly return something, but it just as certainly going to be far less than Billy Beane hoped three months ago.

Other trade candidates include Russ Springer, Bobby Crosby and Adam Kennedy. Springer and Crosby don’t seem set to garner much either, especially Crosby with his salary. Adam Kennedy though, gotten for cheap from Tampa, who got him for nothing from St. Louis, is boasting a 1.084 OPS through 82 at bats. He’s not going to hang onto that line, but do not be surprised if he’s on the move shortly along with Holliday.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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Am I the only one outside the masses that thinks Billy Beane is overrated?

Can’t wait for the first wave of “Billy Beane does it again!” posts to come in when he trades Holliday for next to nothing.

Fresh Hops
Fresh Hops

On a tiny fraction of what large market teams have spent, Beane has consistently put together a successful team. The last few years have not been good to the A’s, I admit. Still, I think being one of the most successful GM’s in history gets him a nod, even if the last season or two have not been stellar. Has any GM every won more games per dollar spent relative to the league average?

I think the hard reality of baseball is that winning with the knowledge game is over. Yes, there are still frontiers like fielding defense, but the era of trading a .280/.310/.450 hitter for a .230/.360/.470 hitter are long gone. Beane was very successful because he had the balls to say “Fuck this, smart people tell me that BA is shit and OBP means a lot more and I’m building a team around that idea.” But nobody can use that philosophy anymore: the stubbornest GMs in baseball now know that OBP matters.

Don’t be glad Beane can no longer be a dominant GM: it means that smarts is no longer a factor and money can rule the game once again. We’re about to return to dynasties of yore, with money predicting what makes a dynasty.