Flashy Nihilism and a State of a Oakland Athletics

Flashy Nihilism and a State of a Oakland Athletics
Flashy Nihilism and a State of a Oakland Athletics

Flashy Nihilism and a State of a Oakland Athletics

Heading into this season, I wondered out loud how Oakland GM Billy Beane manages to stay sane. He runs a front bureau that’s as informed, creative, and prudent as any in North American sports, and his organisation is mostly among a best in baseball. Despite all of that, however, a A’s have never come tighten to making, let alone winning, a World Series during his tenure. And when we demeanour behind on a post-Moneyball A’s 50 or 100 years from now, that’s all we’ll caring about, since when a championship organisation isn’t a best team, American sports enlightenment still values a former over a latter.

It’s a flattering absolute evidence for nihilism.

Of course, this year a A’s didn’t wait until a playoffs to leave a ball universe jolt a heads. A small 10 months after being, by acclamation, a best organisation in baseball, Oakland sits during 20-33, 12 games behind a division-leading Astros, rubbing adult opposite a bottom of a AL West standings and fighting for scraps, like a remora. Last Wednesday, Scott Kazmir left his start with shoulder soreness. Earlier in May, Jarrod Parker’s attempted lapse from his second Tommy John medicine came to a hindrance when a bone that anchors a vinculum to his bend gave approach during a rehab start.

These injuries are partly a outcome of Oakland disposition heavily on pitchers with medical questions, and yet that plan has worked good in a new past, in a context of a deteriorate like this, these setbacks roughly demeanour like a earthy symptoms of wicked possession.

So what happened? Occam’s razor says a A’s are bad since of deadline moves they done to go all in a deteriorate ago, followed by a offseason moves they done to behind fast divided from that position after a whole craving went to pot in a playoffs.

I don’t consider it’s quite argumentative to contend a A’s would be most improved right now if they’d re-signed deadline acquisitions Jason Hammel and Jon Lester. Or if they hadn’t traded Josh Donaldson to a Blue Jays this offseason. Or — and here’s a kicker — if they’d usually kept tip awaiting Addison Russell, who can indeed play shortstop, instead of trade him to a Cubs for Jeff Samardzija final season, afterwards flipping Samardzija to a White Sox this offseason for a package headlined by Marcus Semien, who’s committed 18 errors in 53 games.

Some of those trades are bad. For instance, we don’t consider a initial Samardzija trade was confirmed during any indicate in time, and it usually looks worse in a context of a second. But that’s not a whole story.

You see, Semien’s glove competence indeed have a abuse on it. Oakland competence indeed be underneath some arrange of abnormal influence, since a law is, this team’s unequivocally not that bad.

Oakland’s been flattering most normal offensively and defensively, ranking 15th in organisation OPS and fifth in competition OPS, that isn’t as good as it looks given where a A’s play, though is still flattering good.

Meanwhile, we’re during a indicate in a deteriorate when run differentials are roughly as flighty as win-loss records, so any comparison to Oakland’s 27-26 Pythagorean record is theme to a whims of one or dual blowouts, and a A’s do have a winning record in games motionless by 5 runs or more. So when we contend that until usually holding 3 of 4 from a Yankees they’d underperformed their run differential by 7 games in dual months, take that with a pellet of salt.

That said: Seven games in dual months is an vast disparity. It’s worse than realistic, so inconceivable that it roughly seems unjust. Absolutely unsustainable.

How did it happen? Well …


Bob Melvin is sitting in his uniform in a doctor’s office. He’s undergone one of a misfortune two-month stretches of his career and is starting to feel run down. He’s had his organisation X-rayed and is watchful for a results.

A doorway opens.

“Good morning, Bob,” a alloy says. He has a grave countenance on his face, one that suggests that good news competence not be forthcoming. “How are we feeling?”

“Thirteen games underneath .500,” Melvin murmurs with a cough.

“Well, I’ve got something to uncover you,” a alloy says. He stands and walks over to a light box, motioning for Melvin to follow him. The alloy withdraws an picture from a folder and hangs it up.

“See, Bob, your team’s got a 3-15 record in one-run games,” a alloy says gravely. “And I’m fearful it’s terminal.”


Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

THREE AND FIFTEEN IN ONE-RUN GAMES. we don’t have an verb for that, or an explanation. Being though closer Sean Doolittle hasn’t helped, though not all teams go 3-15 in one-run games when relying on a backup closer. That’s a kind of record a patrol puts adult if Queen Mab cultivates a lilliputian and tasks it with following a organisation around and undermining all it does. The usually other organisation within 3 games of being that bad in one-run games — and frankly, I’m repelled there’s even one organisation — is a Blue Jays, who are also underperforming their run differential by 5 games and have a bullpen done adult of guys who unsuccessfully auditioned for a purpose of Bodhi in a Point Break remake.

Even that presumably unhappy pouch Semien, who’s being pilloried for his bad defense, has indeed been an huge item as a third-best position actor on a organisation in terms of bWAR. Semien is attack .283/.326/.444, and shortstops who can do that in a pitchers’ park don’t accurately grow on trees. And while 18 errors in 53 games looks bad, let’s not forget that we have most improved ways to decider defense. DRS says Semien’s been some-more or reduction average, and Baseball Prospectus’s FRAA grades him during minus-0.7, that is still not unequivocally good, though is also not fatal; Semien is 13th in FRAA out of 22 shortstops who have had 150 image appearances or more.

Are 50 games’ value of modernized defensive statistics gospel? No. But we trust what small they exhibit some-more than we trust errors observant to mangle out a sackcloth and ashes.

Of course, a waggish thing about all of this is that a underlying stats don’t matter, no matter how exculpatory they are to Beane, or Melvin, or any actor or organisation of players. It doesn’t matter possibly Oakland’s record by 53 games is satisfactory or contemplative of reality. That record is created in stone, and starting out 13 games underneath .500 is a physique blow. It’s like starting a marathon 20 mins late and with your boots tied together. You don’t come behind from that.

And so we’re behind to where we were over a winter — with formula not accurately reflecting performance, for reasons that are possibly unclear, uncontrollable, or both. Nobody cares that a A’s aren’t as bad as their record would suggest, since it doesn’t unequivocally matter. In fact, a usually useful thing we’ve schooled from a initial dual months of Oakland’s deteriorate is that zero it does matters. And looking behind on a past dual decades of A’s baseball, it’s tough to see how anything matters during all.