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September 27, 2010

Kiss'Em Goodbye

Oakland Athletics

by John Perrotto, Kevin Goldstein and ESPN Insider

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Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview of this season from Buster Olney, a take from Baseball Prospectus, a look toward an immediate 2011 move courtesy of Rumor Central and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview. You can find all the teams on one page by going here.

Now, it's time to kiss the Oakland Athletics goodbye.

The overview

Quite simply, Oakland's offensive attack was awful in all sorts of ways. The Athletics ranked in the bottom six in the majors in runs scored, dead last in homers, and 27th in total bases. Eric Chavez never really contributed before injury forced him to consider retiring, Coco Crisp played in less than half of Oakland's games, and a number of other position players landed on the disabled list. Incredibly, no Oakland player has accumulated 150 hits, nor 35 doubles, nor 15 homers. Generally speaking, Oakland had good pitching and excellent defense, but that was all undercut far too often by a dysfunctional offense.

Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game this year, and Trevor Cahill was outstanding consistently. Gio Gonzalez developed, and overall, the Athletics' pitching staff matured into one of the best in the majors; only San Diego and San Francisco have posted lower staff ERAs than Oakland. First baseman Daric Barton is never going to be a household name because he doesn't hit home runs, but he kept his on-base percentage close to .400 all year and played some of the strongest defense seen at the position this year. Kurt Suzuki is entrenched as one of the best overall catchers in the majors, and by season's end, Brett Anderson was healthy and throwing well again.

The Athletics' need is glaring—Oakland needs two or three good hitters to lift the team from a middle-of-the-pack .500 club into a serious contender, and in particular, the need is for somebody who can occasionally hit the ball out of the park. The easiest way for the Athletics to do this would be to dangle some of their young pitching in a possible trade, but front-office folks have no intention of trading pitching; rather, they'll look to the free-agent market or hope that some options develop internally. —Buster Olney, ESPN Insider

Baseball Prospectus' take

What went right: The starting pitching was excellent—and not a single member of the rotation is over 27, so the Athletics could be a factor in the American League West for years to come. Going hand-in-hand with the pitching was an outstanding defense that leads the major leagues in Defensive Efficiency by turning 71.7 of balls in play into outs.

What went wrong: The Athletics didn't take advantage of all the good pitching because of an anemic offense that ranks 11th in the 14-team AL with an average of 4.04 runs a game. The Athletics suffered a complete power outage, as none of their outfielders have reached double digits in home runs this season. Chris Carter, expected to be a future power source, went hitless in his first 35 plate appearances in the major leagues.

The key number: 18. Consecutive quality starts (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs) by the Athletics from August 7-26. It was the longest streak in the major leagues since the Braves ran off 21 in a row in 1997 and most consecutive in Athletics history since 1927 when the franchise was based in Philadelphia.

What won't happen again: That no Athletics outfielder will have double-digit home run totals this late in the season. Carter should provide pop and the Athletics surely will address that weakness with at least one off-season move.—John Perrotto, Baseball Prospectus

Rumor Central: 2011 options

Contending depth: The A's have what might ultimately be a contending starting rotation and bullpen, but it's their depth in the outfield that might give GM Billy Beane a chance to make a few winter deals. Crisp's $5.75 million option is one the club can afford to pick up, but the center fielder could also be trade bait with Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney also capable of handling the position for the green and gold. Jeremy Hermida and Gabe Gross will be arbitration eligible and could be somewhat costly, but the club has corner-outfield options in their farm system, namely Carter and Michael Taylor, giving the Athletics a chance to mix in their youth with a veteran or two. Jack Cust and Travis Buck could be roster casualties this winter, via the trade or non-tender routes.

Infield changes: With the pending free agency of Mark Ellis, the A's could have a new starting second baseman in 2011. Ellis' $6 million club option may be deemed more than reasonable, however, once the club checks the free-agent market for second basemen. If the Athletics do look elsewhere, Arizona's Kelly Johnson may be on the trade block this winter, as might Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks and the Mets' Luis Castillo. Minnesota's Orlando Hudson is perhaps the best free agent at the position, but he may be prove to be too pricey for the A's which could ultimately lead them back to the 33-year-old Ellis. —Jason Churchill, ESPN Insider

Organizational future

After a brutal start to his big-league career, Carter is finally showing why he's an important part of the Athletics' future. After leading or tying for the minor league lead in total bases in each of the last two seasons, Carter got off to a slow start at Triple-A Sacramento, but finished strong with a .319/.421/.637 line in the second half of the season. Carter should supply some desperately-needed power in 2011. —Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Oakland Athletics,  Oakland,  Athletics

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