November 20, 2012
Surprise, You Won 90 Games
Last year, the Oakland A's were expected to go nowhere fast. We here at Baseball Prospectus had them finishing last in an American League West that figured to be dominated by the big-spending Angels and Rangers. Oakland broke the script and won 94 games, pushing past the heavily favored Rangers in the season's final week with a three-game sweep. After that last 12-5 victory on October 3, the A's took sole possession of first place in the division for the first and only time all year.
After stumbling to a 22-29 start through May, the A's got serious, going a major-league-best 72-39 the rest of the way. Even still, on the heels of a 9-7 loss at Texas on September 27, they trailed the Rangers by four games with six games left on the schedule. Then the A's won all of those games and shocked the baseball world.
Two years earlier, 500 miles to the south, another small-market team nearly pulled off the same upset. The 2010 Padres had similarly low expectations and put themselves in position to do what nobody thought possible by winning the National League West. Then reality struck in the form of a 10-game losing streak at the end of August that saw their lead shrink by 5 ½ games.
The Giants took advantage and, after dropping the first two games in San Francisco to a Padres team that still had a chance entering the season's final weekend, won 3-0 on that same magical date of October 3 to complete their comeback and secure a spot in the postseason. From there, the Giants won the World Series, leaving the Padres and their fans to wonder—as they often have throughout their history—what might have been.
Aside from that little detail of reaching the postseason or not, last year's A's and the 2010 Padres have a lot in common. Let's take a closer look.
How Did They Do It?