Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Conversation: The (almost) Revamped Oakland Athletics

Yes, my favorite team is the New York Yankees but I am dithyrambic about the Oakland Athletics. I love to watch them play because of the way that their team is formed. I also love Oakland GM Billy Beane and how he runs the team (I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis...amazing book). I'm so interested in how they are an up and coming team being led by their first baseman who can't really hit home runs (Daric Barton) but he makes the pitcher work like crazy (4.40 P/PA) and has a sky-high OBP (.393 in 2010) and therefore holds a 4.9 WAR. For Comparisons, Derrek Lee, who about an average offensive year, had 19 home runs (Barton: 10), a .168 ISO (Barton: .131), and a better slugging percentage at .428 (Barton: .405), yet Lee had just a 2.0 WAR. This teaches us two things:

1.) That conventional stats don't tell us shit about how much a baseball player is worth (which is a blog post for another time and please excuse my bad language).

2.) It Also teaches us that Billy Beane is extremely smart and that is why he traded for Barton when he was still in the Cardinals organization.

It is also why he went out and brought in three players that can make an impact on the offensive side this year after winning 81 games (and losing 81 games). Their offense was poor last year...very poor. They were near the bottom in a lot of offensive categories and did not really get on base very much despite efforts of the great Daric Barton. The Oakland pitching, on the other hand, was just amazing. The bullpen was great especially with closer Andrew Baily shutting the door and the rotation was hard to beat and is now ranked in the top 5 (and even top 3) starting rotations in baseball by the majority of baseball fans. That's the reason that they won 81 games but the reason that lost 81 games was the offense...or lack there of. So as I mentioned before, Billy made moves.

He traded for David Dejesus, pulling him off the rebuilding Royals, who plays good defense (4.3 UZR/150), runs the bases well, gets on base (.384 OBP) and sees a good amount of pitches (3.96 P/PA). Keep in mind that he was injured last year and missed some time. One thing that worries me about Dejesus is his OBP/ BA differential. He hit .318 and, as mentioned before, a .384 OBP, a 66 point difference. If he has a down year and hits around .270, then all the sudden he has around an average .330 OBP and knowing how Billy Beane plays the game, Dejesus would probably be benched. But I don't expect a down year at all from him. There isn't anything that says he's set up for a down year and he already had one in 2009. (NOTE: stats from 2010.)

The second player that the Athletics acquired was the powerful Josh Willingham. Willingham was added in a trade with the Washington Nationals in exchange for Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown, two young players who do not have a future as impact players. In a year in which he missed about the last month and a half of the season, had a great season. In 370 at-bats, he smashed 16 home runs which is good for around 25 in a full season, maybe even about 27, and that's above average. Looking a little deeper at his stats, he had an outstanding .389 OBP and an above average .459 SLG. He had an above average and even great walk rate at 14.9% and a solid .196 ISO. And according to the stat wRC (Runs created), he created 72.5 runs which is, again, above average. But arguably his best stat is his O-Swing% which was 18.9%, the Major League average in 2010 was 29.3%. So he does not swing at pitches out of the zone and Billy Beane loves that kind of plate discipline. Hence why Willingham is playing for Oakland. (NOTE: stats from 2010)

Hideki Matsui is another nice addition (through the free-agent market) and will provide some more pop along with Willingham. Though he does not have as much power anymore and is 36 years old, he can still get on base well and can around 20 home runs (21 dingers in 2010). He also sees a very nice amount of pitches with 4.06 last year. He will likely be the teams DH because he does not run very well any more from two knee surgeries and the age of 36. He is signed to a one-year deal and will be turning 37 in June.

These three players are going to bring a lot more of a kick-in-the-butt offence. The A's just need one more bat to really contend with the Rangers (and possibly the Angels). And that bats name is Adrian Beltre. The Athletics have recently claimed that they are out of the race for Beltre and as mentioned in a previous post, he's probably gonna go to the Angels, but the A's could use him. If not for his offense, then for his defense.

The Athletics have a decent offense at this point, which is better then last year, but really still need another solid bat but I think that they could definitely win about 85-90 games. A decent offense and an amazing, young pitching staff in a non-overwhelming devision is a very good thing. Good job Billy.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com and fangraphs.com )

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