Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Playoff Preview: Oakland A's

Moneyball, Part two.

This team fucking snuck up on us, huh?  They didn't even appear to be all that good at the start of the season, but lo and behold, Billy Beane went ahead and tricked everyone.  A cuban defector and 96 starts from rookies later, and they're in the playoffs, clinching at least a wild card play-in game.

Basically, the best way to describe what happened with the A's this year is that Billy Beane turned Gio Gonzalez in to three different regulars, turned a reliever in to a 4.6 WAR slugger that would have been a bench player in Boston (at least until the injuries hit), signed a center fielder based on a bunch of youtube videos, and found 2 WAR out of the chasm of value that Brandon Inge had once thought to have become.  All of this, despite the loss of Brandon McCarthy to a head injury, the loss of Bartolo Colon to steroids, and only getting 35 innings out of Brett Anderson, the de facto staff ace.

A lot of people point to the underlying message of "Moneyball" being "On-base percentage is awesome and wins you games!", which, I suppose, is a roundabout way of being right, and it certainly got the message across.  I think the real message, however, is in the Pitt line "Adapt or die."  It's not that OBP is the be-all and end-all; you have zig when others zag.  Once you find something that works, everybody is going to copy that, so you have to find something else.  OBP went from being severely under-rated to being a well-known entity that everybody is looking for, so Beane went ahead to took advantage of that and loaded his team up with some good, young pitchers who keep the ball on the ground, and then focused on guys who could offer some plus power and solid defense, eschewing the on-base heavy model.  I count 13 guys who had at least 200 AB's for the A's this year, and 7 of them have an OBP below league-average.  Quite clearly, power is the new market inefficiency.

This is a sneaky good team, who have a shot at catching Texas for the division lead.  That would be the fairy-tale ending that Moneyball never got, because this team, even before the injury adversities that they've faced that forced them to get 96 starts from rookies, was supposed to suck.  This is the best story in baseball this year, and I am firmly entrenched on the Oakland bandwagon.

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