The third installment of a five-part series on the pressing questions confronting each team in 2013.
In the week leading up to Opening Day, we're asking and answering three questions about each team in a five-part series ordered by descending Playoff Pct from the Playoff Odds Report. Today, we continue with a look at the group of six teams with the third-highest odds of winning at least a Wild Card. As a reminder, you can find links to our preview podcasts for each team here.
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We all missed on last year's Orioles and A's, so we're determined to see the next similar surprise team coming. But are we sure that one will?
“I know a lot of the national reporters say we’re going to finish last and lose a lot of games again. You know what? Oakland was supposed to be last [in the division] last year, Baltimore was supposed to be last, and they both ended up making the playoffs.” —Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, February 5.
Sometime between now and Opening Day—if you haven’t already—you’ll probably hear someone speculate about the surprise team(s) of 2013. Every spring, fans and analysts attempt to predict which teams will surpass the expectations of PECOTA and the pundits. Most of those predictions, of course, don’t come to pass. It’s tough to beat the stats, the oddsmakers, and the combined predictive powers of people who spend large chunks of their lives watching and reading and writing about baseball teams. Especially since some of the people who can beat the consensus consistently start publishing their predictions, the consensus becomes a bit better and harder to beat.
Brett Anderson and the A's beastly bullpen trio hold the Tigers scoreless to force a Game Four.
The story of Game Two of the American League Division Series between the A’s and Tigers was the inability of Oakland’s bullpen to hold down a lead in the late innings. Game Three saw Oakland hurler Brett Anderson toss a dominant game similar to the one turned in by Game Two starter Tommy Milone, only this time, Oakland’s usually-lockdown bullpen trio of Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle was flawless.
Max Scherzer attempts to close out the A's in Game Four of the ALDS.
Game Three was, in its most visible respects, diametrically opposed to the way Game Two went: Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Grant Balfour held a close game late rather than blowing it, and Coco Crisp made a miraculous catch, committing grand larceny on a Prince Fielder homer rather than dropping a pop-up. The result was a 2-0 win, another day of life for the A's, and a second home playoff game for the fans.
Do Dan and PECOTA think the Tigers can complete the sweep?
A seesaw Game Two ended in disappointment for Oakland, as the team’s three best relievers failed to hold two separate late leads, letting the Tigers walk off with a 5-4 victory in the bottom of the ninth. Will the A’s, who finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak, bow out with three consecutive postseason losses to Detroit? Here are the PECOTA odds and projected starting lineups for Game Three:
Tommy Milone toes the rubber to help Oakland turn it around versus Detroit and Doug Fister.
Things got off to an inauspicious start for Justin Verlander and the Tigers, as Coco Crisp smacked the fourth pitch of Game One out to right field to give the Athletics a 1-0 lead. From that point on, however, the flame-throwing righty shut down Bob Melvin’s lineup, scattering two more hits and four walks while striking out 11 over seven innings of work. Verlander outdueled rookie Jarrod Parker, who pitched well but could not match Detroit’s ace in a 3-1 decision.
The Athletics' run has been fun, but it won't be easy for it to continue against the Tigers.
It’s difficult to say which is more surprising: that Oakland made the playoffs at all, or that Detroit did so only because Robin Ventura dragged a rotting White Sox carcass across the finish line with just four wins over their final 15 games. Despite being predicted by all but one BP writer to finish the season atop the AL Central, Detroit enters the playoffs with the worst record of the bunch—a full five wins below both AL wild cards. Oakland, on the other hand, was predicted to finish in the basement of the AL West, below even the Mariners. After winning their final six games, however, they secured the number-two seed in the playoffs. We’re sure to see this matchup billed as youth versus experience, with Oakland’s young rotation and breakout hitters pitted against the veteran wiles of Miggy, Fielder, and Verlander.
Ben and Sam join/are joined by Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs for a longest-ever episode about the worst predictions teams and players made about themselves, Bryce Harper's historical significance, and the baseball players who led the league in our hearts in 2012. We talked for almost an hour, so adjust your commutes accordingly.
Ben and Sam join/are joined by Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs and FanGraphs Audio for a longest-ever episode about the worst predictions teams and players made about themselves this season, Bryce Harper's historical significance, and the players who led the league in our hearts in 2012. We talked for almost an hour, so adjust your commutes accordingly.
Episode 56: "A Very Special Simulpodcast with FanGraphs Audio"
We haven't seen much of Michael Ynoa since the A's signed him to a big bonus in 2008, but he's healthy now and still showing plenty of promise.
Baseball Prospectus intern Hudson Belinsky covers prospects as an associate scout with Diamond Scape Scouting and scouts the minor leagues for Penn League Report, attending minor-league or amateur games roughly five days per week. In this series, he’ll focus on a different minor leaguer’s development every week, incorporating information from team officials, scouts, coaches, and players to paint a complete picture of some of baseball’s most intriguing prospects.
The crown jewel of the 2008 international market for amateur talent was pitcher Michael Ynoa. The 16-year-old checked in at 6-foot-7, 210 pounds. His fastball was already sitting in the low 90s, and he possessed an impressive changeup and a big curveball. When the international signing period officially opened on July 2nd, the Oakland A’s inked Ynoa to a minor-league contract that came with a $4.25M bonus.