Oakland is Fine Without Cespedes

I’ll try to avoid covering too much of the same ground covered right here on Wednesday, but talk about why the Yoenis Cespedes trade will still probably help Oakland this season.  The A’s are generally considered a pretty smart front office, and I think they saw a problem that needed fixing.  I also think that their offense is worse without Cespedes, so we will have to get to that too.

The main source of confusion in this trade stemmed from the fact that the pitching staff seemed to be a strength.  So why would a team trade away one of their middle of the order bats to bolster an already solid part of their team?  The answer is that the team wants to win in the playoffs, and the horses of the rotation for the first half were not going to continue their success.

Jesse Chavez had posted a 3.14 ERA prior to the All-Star break, and since then it has been 4.37 with most of that has been from the bullpen.  Cracks in his performance were showing in June and he was failing to get deep into games, so there was no way they were going to count on him as an option in the postseason.

Drew Pomeranz was showing some signs of being an option before he got hurt, but the injury cut short his opportunity and made him too big of a question mark to count on.

The most important guy in the equation was Sonny Gray.  He has been very good so far this year, but he is heading into uncharted territory fast and it is starting to show.  Last year Gray threw 182.3 innings between triple-A and the majors.  He is now at 162.7 with more than a month before the playoffs even start.  He was still going strong in July, but his velocity had peaked in late May and early June and has slowly been coming down ever since.  They were right not to trust him if August is any indication.  Since the trade Gray has posted a 4.94 ERA, his K-rate is down, and players are hitting him harder.

That all leaves Scott Kazmir and two players that had already been acquired in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.  Hammel has been bad since the trade with only one start where he made it 6 innings.  Honestly Samardzija’s been pretty bad as well, but prior to the Cespedes trade he had put together a couple good and a couple mediocre starts.  If your only two guys you trust going into October are Samardzija and Kazmir, things are probably not feeling very good.

All of this lead to Jon Lester who so far has been everything they want him to be except that the team has struggled during the time since his arrival.  The hitting collapsed with Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss, and Derek Norris being especially bad.  Steven Vogt also came back to Earth a bit, and the Jonny Gomes/Sam Fuld replacement for Cespedes has under-performed so far.

The solid 3-4-5 of Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss lost a piece, and they don’t really have a great option to plug into the 5 hole consistently.  Josh Reddick has come on recently to help in a somewhat depleted offense, but they are keeping him at the bottom of the order since he has been anything but trustworthy over the past couple seasons.

This has hurt the offense for sure and simple confidence intervals of before and after the trade show a significant drop in output.  At the same time I assume they saw this coming to some extent.  Guys like Norris and Vogt were playing way over their heads and were likely to regress some.  Only the weird collapse of half the offense at one time has made it look as bad as it is.  It is unlikely that this rough stretch will be sustained.  It also didn’t help that the Royals, Rays, Braves, and Mets were all on the schedule and are above-average run-prevention teams.

If I were the A’s I would still be happy about this trade.  Lester, Samardzija, and Kazmir is a much better way to head into the post season.  Catching the Angels just became more likely due to the unfortunate loss of Garrett Richards too.  Billy Beane has been to the playoffs, and almost certainly will be again this season.  He wants to win in the playoffs, and this pitching staff gives him a good opportunity to do so.

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20 Responses to “Oakland is Fine Without Cespedes”

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  1. DerekDM says:

    This….wow. This is a terrible piece of writing.

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  2. robert says:

    I think billy beane lost his mind with this trade, why trade a guy that helps u out everyday for a guy that helps out every five days. The trade may have cost us the year. Stupid trade

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  3. israel says:

    This trade has disrupted the team chemistry. Cespedes was the quiet offensive leader of the team. This is not based on his stats but the teams numbers when he is in the lineup.

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  4. Kenny says:

    Look, here’s the deal. According to Baseball Prospectus (who I cite here because they did a handy article on the topic, not because they are better or worse than Fangraphs), on July 31 the A’s were 14.1% likely to win the World Series and on August 1 they were 15.2% likely to win the World Series.

    I like Sabremetrics. I read Fangraphs and BP. What I want to know is: what does it take to believe so little in the real psychology of human beings that you believe that increasing your odds by 1 in 100 is worth the risk of causing a letdown – getting a bunch of actually existing young men to look in the mirror and say, these dudes in the front office don’t trust us, don’t trust the dynamic we’ve built, don’t care about the fact that Cespedes is popular, don’t care that he says he’s asked for a contract extension. Treat us like pieces of data, not people.

    Why is it so hard to believe that that the chances of a real letdown isn’t greater than 1 in 100?

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  5. Kenny says:

    Chances/aren’t: number inconsistency. Should have been “chance of a real letdown isn’t greater than 1 in 100.” Sorry

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  6. Agadir says:

    I agree. They were the best team in the league, much of the lead due to their chemistry and the fiery passion of Cespedes. I’m thinking this is going to be seen as a colossal fail.

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  7. johnny rams says:

    I think cespedes was the master link to the chain without him the team s offense

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  8. Pafowler says:

    Clearly the A’s miss Cespedes, but Lester seems to the only pitcher who knows how to win lately. It’s a tough call. But now, sending Otero down and leaving Hammel in the rotation is mind boggling.

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  9. Charles says:

    I agree with Israel & Kenny. Chemistry is important. Look at the Giants’ 2010 team. On paper, they don’t make it to the World Series, let alone win it. They had great team chemistry that season. Add a (lucky, let’s be honest) trade for a still anonymous left fielder who made the difference between advancing in the playoffs and going home, and you have an overachieving team that won the WS. That’s where the A’s were until August 1st. I’m sure that psychology has played a part in the offensive meltdown, but that’s somewhat related to chemistry. Without Cespedes, we think we aren’t as good, so we play that way. I think, and hope, the players move past that, and quickly. One UNMENTIONED aspect is the untimely injuries: Coco (whose neck must be better now, because his hitting is better the last week), Lowrie (DL), and Norris (several hits behind the dish during the season). I’m not sure why Moss hasn’t done much for a month now. We need Lowrie beck and hitting well and Moss to figure it out, and that is 2 steps toward an offense that can win with the pitching staff we now have. Add a hot streak from either Donaldson or Reddick and we win the West. These are “iffs”, but they are true. Let’s see them happen, … soon!

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  10. Charles says:

    Anyone come up with the name of the Giant’s anonymous left fielder? Cody Ross.

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  11. Tony says:

    Billy Beane has overlooked the most important and rare stat of all…the cohesion factor that is hard to quantify but paramount to success. Cespedes ignited the lineup even in defeat, the body language since his departure has been anything but ironclad or resilient. It’s not the addition of Lester that caused the offensive woes, but the subtraction of your “franchise” player that made people stop and notice Oakland baseball. The team looks as aimless and defunct as the teams that couldn’t solve the first-round riddle in the playoffs. Billy Beane did plenty in the trade with the Cubs to at least wait a little longer before pulling the ripcord and shipping off our bonafide slugger. Cespedes has earned his keep and fair consideration at a long/term deal. By way of contrast the promise of Eric Chavez was never realized once he inked his large contract…maybe Cespedes is the residual effect in Billy Beane’s mouth. Evolution and sound decision-making should’ve kept Cespy in Oakland with a shot at a long-term contract through next year…and made the addition of another seasoned hurler a late season venture.

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  12. Kenny says:

    Otero will be back next week. The A’s are running with one fewer pitcher because of the two days off this week and they wanted to activate Gentry without deactivating Freiman. (I assume it’ll be Freiman, with Moss returning to first base more often, but it could also be Fuld or Vogt.) Most likely they sent Otero down rather than Hammel because of seniority – Otero probably has options, while Hammel doesn’t.

    The question of who should be the fifth start is still a problem, and the fact that I think the Lester trade broke the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it rule” doesn’t mean that I was or am entirely confident in Chavez/Pomeranz/Hammel/Malone at the time/hell why not Mills again :). Certainly the bottom part of the A’s rotation is inconsistent at best. Of course that’s why they stacked up bunch of 1 WAR arms to begin with – to have options based on health and who seemed to have the hot hand. And for six more starts they are going to have to keep doing that. I just contend that Samardjia/Grey/Kasmir/ two OK starters from the group, with Cespedes in the lineup, was working, and that while the trade could also have worked, it also always had the potential to blow up a bunch of egos. That risk, which was much larger than the benefit of the trade, should have carried the day.

    It’s not over. The egos could recover on time, the A’s could pull this out. But the trade was the wrong approach toward the playoffs. And if the team doesn’t pull this out – loses in the wild card game – that’s 200,000 in attendance shot next year. Pissing off the fans by trading a popular player and then losing is a great way to ensure you are permanently the team without fans.

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  13. ohno.co says:

    First-half, Best A’s team in 25 yrs, with 6 – SIX! – All-Stars (not counting Sarz but incl. Sonny Gray who shoulda been there)…

    Big fan of Billy Beane, but afraid he’s already blown it. Couldn’t leave well enuf alone, showed he didn’t trust his players (or maybe himself?), didn’t think the team he helped put together was good enough to go all the way…

    And no surprise, when you think that & show that, the people below (whether a baseball team or a bunch of employees) take it to heart & lower themselves to the boss’s opinion of them…
    the team has lost its swagger, lost confidence in itself, the unity from 3 yrs together, growing up together, with a bit of a chip on their shoulders being the low-budget team that could, knowing that this yr might be their last chance together to win a World Series…

    Pitchers having the best years of their careers and casually tossed aside in favor of some big names who had nothing to do with getting ’em to where they were…

    What a mess! It’s heartbreaking! I’ve been such a faithful and proud A’s fan for so long, wearing my A’s cap even when surrounded by gloating Giants fans, thinking THIS is gonna be the year when the Series title comes back to Oakland, my home town… Aint the same team I was rooting for, hard to even root for ’em now, wanna curl up in a corner somewhere, hiding my A’s cap lest the gloating G-men fans make fun of it…

    But still my team. Subtle thing chemistry, and easy to mess up. But hoping they’ll find a way to win, will still celebrate it if they do, but it won’t be as good as it coulda ‘beane’, or as good as the 5 before.

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  14. josh says:

    This trade is another example of Beane micro managing. It seems every time we get to the top, albiet xue to Beanes genius, he overthinks and micromanages. Ie. Colon not starting game 5. Furthermore , im not saying he racist but he clearly puts more faith in white stat type players. Ie. Chavez over tejada

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  15. Milios says:

    The A’s have been on cloud nine for the first three months straight. Yes, their record is worse since the trade, but it’s not because Cespedes isn’t in the lineup. In Boston, he’s batting .225, and the A’s run production was struggling before the trade. Every team is going to go through slumps, ours just happens to coincide with a major trade, so it’s easy to point fingers. It’s not the cause.

    When the bats come alive again everyone is going to say “They can hit and have a rotation that is not giving up runs – what a recipe for success.” Give it time, the A’s will be better off because of the trade.

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  16. Bryan says:

    Fact of the matte here

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  17. Bryan says:

    The fact of the matter here and the true point is that we could have had Lester without trading Cespedes!! If try didn’t trade for the Shark an Hammel(because the rotation was fine at that point), then they could have used Addison for Lester. They could have bundled McKinnley along with a Straily and some other piece to get a Price, Kluber, Ross, or another Shark level pitcher…then you keep Milone as your fifth starter. BTW…you coulda kept Sam Fuld instead of Barton all along…DUH!!! Beane was simply over managing and jumped the gun. I truly feel we needed Cespy in the postseason…now we just gotta believe in the guys we got to catch fire if we are fortunate to get there.

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  18. Fairway135 says:

    I agree with most of the commenters. I feel that trading Cepedes, where the A’s were near the top of their game and the team to beat, will come back to haunt the A’s. Also, I thought that trading Milone, Russell and McKinney didn’t feel right either. All I have read from some folks is that Milone and Chavez would run out of gas before the end of the season — I guess we will never know if what they felt would have really happened or if it is just some more of their fearful opinions. I’ve been an A’s fan since about 1947 — yes, 1947 — so I will stick with them regardless; however, I feel that the Cub trades and especially the Cepedes trade really smacked down a team that had it all. Why give up one of your best offensive players for a pitcher who will be gone after the end of the season? Also, the cool guys can throw mathematical metrics and other cool guy stuff at me; but, there is a human element (team spirit? team cohesion? team chemistry?) that has yet to be mentioned or factored into the equations by these guys.

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  19. Hitler But Sadder says:

    These comments are what happens when Bleacher Report links to an article. Go BACK TO YOUR SLIDE SHOWS!!!!!!!

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  20. sherlock says:

    The team has been a winner ever since Cespedes joined the team. The moment they traded Cespedes, the team fell apart.
    The A’s needed hitting, not more pitching. What a terrible trade. Lester is a great pitcher, but he only
    Pitches once every 5 games. Also, he will sign with another team for next tear.

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