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Hats Off to the A's
Posted by SHOE at 8/27/2006 11:04:00 AM
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Haven't heard much talk about them on the board this season, but what's up with the A's? Jeff knows I don't like them, but I have to tip my cap to what they've done this season. They lose free agents every year, yet they're quietly getting it done again, right up there with the Red Sox and Yankees in record. Add a banged-up Chavez and almost no Harden, and it's pretty impressive. Is it me, or is the media undercoverng their success this time around?


Jeff and I talked about it a little bit in one of the Charging the Mound articles - is there something about Oakland Coliseum (pitcher's park) and Florida's Pro Player Stadium (also a pitcher's park) combined with breaking in younger, more energetic players that keeps these teams fresh for the second half? Every year, these teams seem to go on second half runs, especially the A's. Shorter games, less pitches thrown, younger player who bounce back more quickly from the daily grind of soreness and muscle fatigue?
Posted by cliss at 8/27/2006 12:12:00 PM
Most will look at Oakland's division lead and assume it's that crafty "Moneyball" approach that is again providing the edge. Not so. Oakland is not very sabremetric-friendly. The A's OPS is better than only Tampa Bay's. The have the fewer extra-base hits than anyone. Their OBP is middle-of-the-pack after spending most of the year near the bottom. In their division, the Angles and Mariners hit more homers per at-bat. Yes, they've got good pitching this year (though their K/BB ratio is the lowest in the AL West), but the A's have benefited from playing in the worst division in baseball. Specifically, they've benefited from playing the Mariners. Oakland is 29-14 vs. the AL West, including 1-15 vs. the Mariners. The A's have a .522 win percentage vs. the rest of baseball. Splitting half of their 16 games with Seattle, or even winning, say, 55 percent, would severly bite into their 5.5-game lead in the West. If they make the playoffs, they'll get swept.
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/27/2006 1:12:00 PM
15-1 vs. the Mariners, that is.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/27/2006 1:37:00 PM
I was listening to talk radio here in the Bay Area tonight and A's fans are really excited about their pitching and defense, but worried about the team's offense. The general consensus was that the lineup might be too focused on on-base percentage and station-to-station baserunning to make a dent in the postseason against a quality pitching staff. I side more with the school of thought which says that getting into the playoffs is already a tremendous accomplishment in MLB, especially given Oakland's financial limitations. The team is heading towards its fifth playoff appearance in seven seasons. They wouldn't have gotten that far if their lineup was ineffective, no matter how good their pitching and defense have been. They'll have a chance every single night, and in the playoffs that's all you can hope for.
Posted by tedrossman at 8/27/2006 11:12:00 PM
Sigh. There's that misunderstood 'M' word again. The A's are winning in exactly the same way they've been winning the last few years -- and it has nothing to do with OBP, but everything to do with Moneyball.

Liss -- I'm wondering how that 'younger players = better second half" theory ties in with your '800 PA to click' theory? Because Nick Swisher sure isn't holding up his end of it...

Where would the A's be without the Big Hurt though? A big part of me wants to see the White Sox get the wild card, just so we can have a Frank vs. Ozzie ALDS.
Posted by ESiegrist at 8/28/2006 5:21:00 AM
It's Gotta be the white shoes !!
Posted by garop at 8/28/2006 7:14:00 AM
Instead of sighing, explain what you mean. It's a Moneyball approach because they've find quality players on the cheap? Aside from Nick Swisher (who's seen his SLG drop by 100 points in the second half) and Frank Thomas, who's been quality for the A's? And how does that definition of Moneyball (if in fact that's your definition of Moneyball) square with the Loaiza signing? The A's are totally mediocre.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/28/2006 8:38:00 AM
They've identified an attribute that is underpriced in the marketplace, and exploited that market inefficiency -- and as a result stayed competitive. That's all Moneyball was *ever* about, JT. OBP was simply the inefficiency/flavor of the month Beane was exploiting when the book was being researched.
Posted by ESiegrist at 8/28/2006 12:19:00 PM
So now that we've defined the A's roster-construction strategy, how is their current team an example of that? What underpriced attributes are responsible for their success this year? For that matter, what attributes do the A's position players possess? Aside from Swisher and Thomas, they're all among the worst at their positions in the AL.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/29/2006 11:15:00 AM
Well, the 800 PA theory is true in many cases, and the younger players/second half theory might or might not be. And I suppose there is some overlap, but not necessarily perfect overlap.
Posted by cliss at 8/29/2006 12:52:00 PM
Kotsay. Chavez. Ellis, a shortstop playing second base. Bradley, a center fielder playing right field. Payton as a fourth outfielder. The current version of the A's are built around defense, Thorn.

They've slipped a bit in BP's Defensive Efficiency stat this season, being in a virtual tie for 4th in the AL (at .700), but that's their worst showing since 2000. Last year they were the best team in the majors at .725.
Posted by ESiegrist at 8/29/2006 2:54:00 PM
The A's do it every year with good starting pitching, a solid bullpen and good defense. This is exactly why Cleveland ISN'T a playoff team. Like Thorn said, their position players aren't sabremetrically friendly, but the Minnesota Twins have been competitive for the same reasons listed above in years past, throwing in the fact the Central wasn't that great of a division for a lot of those years. They are about as good as the Mariners, as far as position players are concerned, with above average defense and pitching. That's what seperates them from the teams in their division. Basically, they beat the teams they should, and are around .500 against playoff teams.
Posted by schwang2u at 8/29/2006 4:19:00 PM
First you say the current version (as opposed to previous versions) of the A's is built around defense and then you point out the A's have been good defensively the past five years, and in fact are statistically worse defensively this year than since 2000. So how does that prove defense was this year's "Moneyball attribute" that kept them competitive? The difference between this year's A's and previous versions is those previous teams could hit. This one can't. The sabremetrics that Beane loves to employ aren't in evidence this year. Without their 15-1 record against the Mariners, the A's don't look that impressive. And except for the Mariners, the A's haven't "seperated" themselves from the division (they split with the Angels, Rangers). Aside from Zito and Haren, their starting pitching hasn't been all that great, either. Take away Blanton's 3 ER in 22 innings vs. the M's and his ERA is almost 5.00.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/29/2006 6:24:00 PM
Yeah, but the Mariners games count, too. And why isn't everyone beating on the Mariners the way the A's are? Take away the 1-15 vs. the A's, and the Mariners are 62-54 - hell, they'd be the second best team in the National League.

Posted by cliss at 8/29/2006 10:58:00 PM
Jeez, Thorn, you think Beane comes up with a new roster strategy every single season? You're grasping at straws to keep your theory afloat now. Current version = current version, as opposed to the Giambi Brothers/walking and slugging A's some people (including you) think of as the "Moneyball" A's.

And your comments about their pitching and their BB/K ratio just proves it further. That "not so great" pitching staff was second in the majors in ERA, last time I looked. But of course that has nothing to do with their ability to turn balls in play into outs, no sirree. It's just those darn Mariners.
Posted by ESiegrist at 8/30/2006 9:02:00 AM
Chris, that's my point. There's no rational explanation for it. The A's are a mediocre team that got hot against another mediocre team and as a result are headed toward the division title. These are not the "Same Old A's," which most people assume when they look at the standings.

Erik, no, I don't think Beane comes up with a new roster strategy every year. YOU are the one who differentiates from the "current version" and those that focused on OBP, Beane's "flavor of the month" five years ago, as you put it. To say that the A's are winning this year because they exploited a market inefficiency is an incorrect reading of the team's abilities.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/30/2006 5:15:00 PM
"To say that the A's are winning this year because they exploited a market inefficiency is an incorrect reading of the team's abilities."

Again: second-best ERA in the majors, despite poor K/9 (23rd) and K/BB (18th) ratios. Among the lead leaders in Defensive Efficiency (as of today's stat run, Detroit is way ahead in the AL at .719; the next five teams -- including the A's -- are clumped between .705 and .701; Seattle is 7th at .698; then there's a huge drop-off to the O's at .688).

Darn those Mariners! It's all their fault!
Posted by ESiegrist at 8/31/2006 7:27:00 AM
That's funny. And who is tied with the A's at .701? The Angels. And the Mariners are right behind at .698. So if the A's are built around defense -- and this is what has propelled them -- but their defense is no better than two other teams in their division, what's that mean? And don't say it proves their Moneyball ways -- they didn't get this spiffy defense on the cheap. Chavez makes $11M, Kotsay $7M, Ellis makes way more than the division's other second basemen and about the same as Adam Kennedy. They're paying Payton $4M to be a fourth outfielder. Step away from the Kool-Aid. Just because Billy Beane is revered by the sabermetric crowd doesn't mean you can't call him on it when his team is anti-sabermetric or anti-Moneyball (Loaiza 3Y/$21M to be a 4/5 starter?), which was my whole point in the first place -- these aren't the "Same Old A's."

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/31/2006 11:05:00 AM
Exploiting market inefficiencies does not mean finding CHEAP players. It means finding players who are undervalued.

Ellis is making, what, $3 million? Is he contributing value to the team worth more or less than that? (And comparing his salary to the rest of his division's 2B -- when the rest of his division is starting pre-arbitration players right now -- is beautifully disingenuous. Gosh, he makes more than Ian Kinsler... what a money sink!)

Chavez makes $11 million. That's about the market's going rate for a top free agent-age third baseman (Rolen, Glaus, Aramis Ramirez.) Heck, even Melvin Mora will make $8 million next year. So is Chavez overvalued, undervalued, or just about right? Whether he's "cheap" or not is irrelevant and misleading.

It's really hard to buy any "they're not Moneyball" argument you make when you don't seem to know what that even means, Thorn. That was MY point.
Posted by ESiegrist at 8/31/2006 2:44:00 PM
I don't think that many of their players are undervalued do you? If so, which ones are? You both have solid points but the A's are competitive darn near every year, even when it's not the worst division in the AL. Gotta give 'em credit either way.
Posted by schwang2u at 8/31/2006 4:54:00 PM
Good grief, now you're playing semantics? Yeah, obviously, "undervalued" is what we're talking about. (But thanks for the tutorial. Maybe you can next explain the difference between BS and talking in circles.) Ellis is the worst hitting second baseman in the league. You think he is "undervalued?" Kotsay makes $7M. That's $1M per homer. Undervalued? (By comparison, Jermaine Dye makes $5M.) Ellis' VOPR is 2.3, Kotsay 4.2, Chavez 5.1, Payton 7.2. Undervalued? If that's Moneyball, I'll pass, thanks. You say defense is their key to success, but your own stats show them to be no better than anyone else in the division defensively. You say they seek undervalued players, but the players you list as examples are anything but undervalued. But seeing as how my primitive mind can't grasp these concepts, I'll bow out now.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/31/2006 7:38:00 PM

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