What does it mean that the league suddenly shifted its pitch selection just as the A's suddenly shifted into a full-scale meltdown?
The Oakland Athletics completed their second-half collapse in true Oakland fashion by failing somehow to advance in the postseason against the Royals. For a season in which Beane went all-in by trading future potential for current performance, in which the A’s began the year an unstoppable, historic juggernaut, the inglorious ending has to smart.
The A’s of this year embodied one of the most beloved playoff myths, that the second half of a team’s performance predicts how that team will do in the playoffs. I say “myth” because, at least in the aggregate, there is little or no evidence in support of this idea, and so it has been debunked on numerousoccasions. And yet, there may not be a better example of that phenomenon in action than this team, which roared out to an incredible start to the season, on pace to challenge run-differential records, only to buckle in the second half, barely making the playoffs.
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I tried to think of some clever way to start this recap; something about Ned Yost, Billy Beane, or Moneyball. Nope. None of that would do justice to a game that was, at its heart, baseball in its purest form.
The A's stumbled into the postseason, but they may have the edge on the hill and in the dugout against the Royals.
With their poor second half, the Athletics fumbled away the AL West and gifted home-field advantage to the Royals for Tuesday night's AL Wild Card game. As a result, Kauffman Stadium will host its first postseason contest since 1985 against, fittingly enough, the franchise that used to call Kansas City home. In our comprehensive Wild Card preview, we'll try to determine which team will advance to face the Angels for entrance to the ALCS. (Note: Neither team's Wild Card roster is set, so we'll update the article when the names are officially announced.)
Would you rather have the best GM or the best prospect for the future of your franchise? And more importantly, how would you determine the answer?
There’s this captivating scene in the movie Moneyball: Over archival footage of Dan Duquette presenting a Red Sox jersey to Johnny Damon at a press-filled event in Fenway Park, a Brad Pitt voiceover explains how the A’s will chart a new direction in player valuation and roster construction. The scene is supposed to poke fun at the Red Sox, Jonah Hill having just delivered a soliloquy about Damon’s true value and how he’ll never be worth $7.5 million. But meanwhile in Boston, a team of analysts, economists, front office folks, and consultants had determined that Damon’s value on and off the field would far exceed his salary.
The dramatized scene lays down the “new way” vs. “old way” narrative playing out over the course of the film. What it really does, though, is underscore the fact that teams value players differently.
[Hello. Once upon a time, I tried to avoid writing about the A's because they are "my team" and I have a blog about them, and I'd been a reader here long enough to have seen some ugly, ugly wars over writers being accused of favoring particular teams when they chose topics. So "just don't write about Oakland at all" was my policy. But now you don't see me every week, so [expletive] that policy.]
Buster Posey goes for MVP consideration, the Angels pound their way to the top of one leaderboard, Nelson Cruz makes a run for a HR crown, and, in an Oakland ninth inning, the best fun fact of the month.
The Weekend Takeaway
After Friday’s game, Chris Carter now has 36 home runs on the year, putting him hot on the trails of Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton for the MLB lead. The A’s, who shipped Carter to the Astros on February 4, 2013, as part of a package to acquire Jed Lowrie, don’t mind that. They just kindly request that the 27-year-old Bay Area native stop going yard against them.
The acquisition of Adam Dunn continues one of Billy Beane's most repeated tactics. Does it work?
Kevin Mitchell was 36 years old and coming off 84 games played in three years when he signed with the Oakland A’s in the middle of spring training 1998. A former National League MVP and home run and RBI champion from across the Bay Bridge, Mitchell was clearly on the way down from his 1989-90 mini-peak and mini-resurgence with the 1993 and 1994 Reds, but first-year general manager Billy Beane made the call for Mitchell as part-time DH.
It was Beane’s first platoon as general manager. He would switch off the right-handed-hitting Mitchell with the young(er) lefty hitter Matt Stairs.
Seeing the best amateurs in the nation play in the Perfect Game All American Classic last weekend in San Diego proved to be quite the preview for the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft. Nine prep pitchers touched 95 mph or higher, including San Clemente (CA) senior Kolby Allard, who put his name in neon lights high above the amateur landscape, partly because of a velocity bump to the mid-90s. That’s just one example of what occurred while the players were centered up in the MLB Network lenses. But in spending time up close with the prospects at the workouts, the meals, the awards banquet and the Rady Children’s Hospital visit, it was easy to see there were many who had solid and diverse foundations provided by families and coaches at home.
And if you coaches wonder how quickly the seeds you have planted, nurtured with baseball wisdom and guidance, might blossom, then many of these athletes were an indication that there are plenty of coachable, skilled players in the next generation. The instant coaching impact had me wondering about the lasting stories that might be told about player/mentor connections decades from now.
How much did each move yesterday affect the playoff picture? We let PECOTA and our playoff odds answer that.
We can write about the prospects who can’t locate glove-side, we can write about the fantasy implications of a fourth-outfielder logjam, we can write about the strengths and weaknesses of each player traded and we can give our best assessment of each team’s competitive windows. But what you really want to know is this:
Are the Brewers (or the A’s, or the Orioles, or name a team) any more likely to make the playoffs today than they were before they made the TA-worthy trade? Any by how much?