Oakland AL West Predictions
This is part 1 of Insider Steve’s 2012 AL West Know Your Enemy Series. He’s has already released his 2012 American League West Handicapping Preview & Predictions.
Think about how far the Oakland A’s have fallen since their last LCS appearance in 2006.
It’s alright, I’ll give you a moment to let it soak in. It’s a story that sounds all to familiar with small market clubs. It isn’t as sad as it is the reality of today’s MLB.
It goes without saying the A’s were one of the biggest successful enigma’s of the early 2000’s winning 664 games with 6 seasons of 90+ wins and 4 division titles from 2000-2006.
Since 2006 – the A’s have lost 428 games with only one season at .500
I think it’s fair to assume the rest of the league has caught up with Oakland’s way of constructing a roster. Most of the teams that Oakland out gunned in the early 2000’s, now are privy to the exact same statistical information.
In some cases, these teams are doing a better job of scouting and in other instances, constructing a better roster.
The 2012 version of the Oakland A’s way of building a baseball team can be seen from the fallout from 2006.
Because the A’s, much like Tampa Bay, do not draw the revenue in the same stream as other franchises, (stadium) the A’s were either forced to trade away stars or were unable to re-sign its top players from last year’s 74-88 team.
The 2012 season really started for the A’s on October 30th, 2011 when they elected to make David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, and Hideki Matsui (.245/.325/.409/.734, 51 HR, and 216 RBI’s combined) free agents.
The biggest losses came less then 2 months later when Billy Beane shipped off Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzales (28-26, 3.64 ERA, 166 ER, 354 K’s, 1.371 WHIP in 409.2 IP combined) in separate deals.
Those five players in terms of value, combined for a 10.9 WAR in 2011.
In case you were wondering, the A’s were a 30.1 WAR as a team, which was ranked 25th in MLB.
Without the threat of power from Willingham or Matsui in that lineup, it now has been transformed into a one that will rely heavily on timely hitting from average OBP% producers Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, and Scott Sizemore, but will also rely heavily on speed at the top the order with Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks.
In addition, Billy Beane felt he has adequately replaced last years power production with 44 HR’s and 152 RBI’s in Jonny Gomes and Yoenis Cespedes, and Beane could add to that.
Manny Ramirez is set to take his physical later on this week.
Even with the loss of Cahill and Gonzalez, it really didn’t hurt the the overall depth of the staff to much of the degree of guys like Willingham, and Matsui could’ve added to the lineup.
I’m not saying these two losses were just a drop in the bucket, not in the least, but the A’s already had one of the deepest staffs in baseball in 2011.
They still return Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, and Jarrod Parker to the rotation.
They added Bartolo Colon to the mix in free agency, and once Brett Anderson returns from Tommy John surgery, the A’s will still possess a deep enough, and talented enough rotation to be able to keep Oakland in most games.
The A’s Bullpen is their biggest strength in terms of overall depth.
They go five deep with situational performers Jerry Blevins and Grant Balfour, set-up guys Joey Devine, Brian Fuentes, Neil Wagner, and closer Fautino De Los Santos.
When you add in middle relievers Andrew Carignan and Graham Godfrey, now all of a sudden you have a staff with the ability to extend the game from the 5th or 6th inning if needed.
Even with their pitching staff being able to keep the A’s in almost every game, they still stand to lose a bunch of one run, and two run ball games.
There are a ton of question marks surrounding this lineup. Will Yoenis Cespedes’ Cuban numbers translate into MLB success? Can they really rely on Jonny Gomes at DH? Will they even be able to consistently get those timely hits from the rest of the lineup.
There are too many variables that have to go right for this club to reach .500.
The small ball philosophy is calculated one on the part of Billy Beane.
It’s a dangerous proposition because it can only go one of two ways.
Really well, or flame out really quick.
There is no steady medium with this philosophy, but unfortunately this is the way Oakland is forced to play baseball.
For Oakland A’s fans’ sake, let’s hope Beane’s formula strikes pay dirt, because if this doesn’t work, (it never does) the A’s season will get out of hand really quick.