A's assistant GM David Forst has seen the team go from post-season pretender to legitimate contender, and a conversation with Mike Matheny.
David Forst certainly knows how to describe the Athletics' amazing 2012 season as well as anybody. After all, he has lived it as the club's assistant general manager and right-hand man to veteran GM Billy Beane. Forst was there at the start of spring training when seemingly no one outside the organization gave the Athletics any chance of contending. And he is here now, as the Athletics have become one of the biggest surprises in baseball by putting themselves in post-season contention for the first time in six years, even after being swept at home by the Angels in a three-game series this week.
Doug dissects the mechanics of Oakland's surprisingly successful starters.
The success of the A's has been spearheaded by exceptional pitching throughout their tenure in Oakland, from the 1970s green machine led by Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter, to the Stew-and-Eck teams of the '80s-'90s, and perhaps most famously with last decade's Big Three of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder. The current A's might lack a traditional “ace” in their rotation, but the same staff that suffered the losses of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill over the offseason now finds itself in a familiar position near the top of the run-prevention ranks, while the recent return of Brett Anderson from the disabled list has offered a brief glimpse of ace potential.
The current starters on the roster were not exactly trendy fantasy picks in March, and the pitchers who have logged most of the innings for Oakland this year have learned to survive on location and movement more than raw velocity. Yet the pitching staff has allowed the second-fewest runs per game in the American League, trailing only Tampa Bay’s. Four pitchers have tallied 100 or more innings for Oakland thus far in 2012, and though I hope that the readers will pardon the exclusion of the recently suspended Bartolo Colon, the other rotation-mates share some striking mechanical similarities.
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Oakland's success this year is all the more surprising considering they have departed from the small-market blueprint perfected by Tampa Bay.
The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays, two AL Wild Card contenders who looked like long shots at the All-Star break, are one game into a strangely scheduled Thursday-Saturday series. The two teams have a few things in common, in addition to both being AL Wild Card contenders who’ll be playing tonight in Tampa Bay. In fact, they might have more in common than any other two teams in baseball. This article isn’t actually about the ways in which they’re the same. It’s about one way in which they’re different. But I’m going to start with the similar stuff just to make the different thing more meaningful, which is pretty manipulative of me.
The first thing the A’s and Rays have in common is success in the second half. The A’s were the hot team in July, when they went 19-5. They’ve cooled off lately, but they’re 24-14 in the second half, and their playoff odds have risen by roughly 25 percentage points over that period. The Rays are the hot team in August. They’re 16-5 this month and 25-14 in the second half, which has raised their playoff odds by roughly 50 percentage points.
If you can believe in Chris Carter, you can believe in this year's Athletics.
I write this on Wednesday evening. It is mid-August. The Ides of August, even, though you're reading this the day after. The Oakland Athletics are 61-55, counting the Wednesday loss to the Royals. The last time the A's had a record this good this late was 2006, when they won the AL West behind Frank Thomas's bat and then went 3–4 in the playoffs—three wins against the Twins and four losses to the Tigers.
They're not looking at the division crown this year. They were up 5 1/2 games in the Short Stack in 2006, and they're down six now. Six games doesn't sound like a lot when there are 46 still to play, especially with seven of those 46 against the first-place Rangers. But it is a lot. The Rangers are a better team than the A's, so those games remaining are more likely to bury the Green & Gold than they are to become their salvation. This is why Oakland is only given a 1 percent chance at winning the division in the current iteration of our Playoff Odds. (Current as of my writing, anyway, which doesn't incorporate the Wednesday games yet, though I'll eat my hat with mustard if that figure differs much as you're reading this.)
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.
Should teams that aren't expected to contend really always be sellers?
In a three-week period last December, the A’s traded the only two starting pitchers who had thrown 200 innings for them in the previous year, and the team’s closer. The moves left the A's with a starting rotation of Brandon McCarthy, one empty spot, and three pitchers who had a) combined for 17 starts in their careers and b) had never appeared on a Baseball America top 100.
The state of the team’s rotation, though, didn’t seem to matter. The A’s were not playing for this year, and with three trades in three weeks they made that very clear. Rather than criticize the A’s for failing to put a competitive team on the field, it was safe to applaud Billy Beane for putting Oakland in a position to someday put a competitive team on the field, someday in the future, someday after 2012. They punted. A prudent move.
The Oakland A's have shown a knack for winning in style in 2012.
Before the season, a popular narrative in some circles held that Billy Beane had lost his touch. His A's hadn't finished with a winning record since 2006, and Moneyball had run its course. Once Brad Pitt plays you in a movie, there's nowhere to go but down.
A look at 10 new managerial candidates, and a conversation with Mets manager Terry Collins.
The All-Star break is coming into view, yet no managers have been fired this season. In fact, there have been only a few reports of any of the 30 major-league skippers even possibly being in trouble. But it will eventually happen. Some owner will finally get fed up, drop the axe, and his club will begin a managerial search.
An unlikely team leads the American League in scoring in June: the Oakland Athletics.
The Tuesday Takeaway
The Athletics began the month of June by getting blanked twice in a three-game series against the Royals. Bob Melvin’s offense was described as “historically bad.” Oakland had lost 10 of 11, falling behind the Mariners and into the AL West cellar.
After last night’s 3-0 shutout over the Dodgers, though, the A’s have now won six of seven, improving to 32-36 on the year and jumping back into third place. Brandon McCarthy, on the mound for the first time since June 9, led the way for Oakland in the series opener, tossing seven scoreless innings before Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook finished off Los Angeles. But the offense, not the pitching staff, has actually done much of the heavy lifting of late.
Stephen Strasburg faced the Pirates for the first time since his major-league debut, and he reeled off a similar line.
The Thursday Takeaway
Merry Strasmas, Nationals fans. With the team coming off a disappointing three-game skid, Stephen Strasburg took the mound against the Pirates and played stopper with results strikingly similar to his major-league debut.
Back on June 8, 2010, Strasburg surpassed even the loftiest of expectations by striking out 14 batters without issuing a walk over seven innings in his first career start. Strasburg’s victims that night were the Pirates, who managed only two runs on four hits, one of which was a Delwyn Young homer.
Though recent trends might indicate otherwise, aged pitchers rarely return to form after year-long layoffs.
Sure, it came against an Angels lineup whose centerpiece, Albert Pujols, has yet to get untracked, but it was difficult not to be impressed with Bartolo Colon's eight shutout innings last Wednesday. For one thing, it marked the 38-year-old Oakland righty's second consecutive scoreless start; he had tossed seven scoreless against the Mariners on April 13. For another, he reeled off a streak of 38 consecutive strikes, running from the second pitch of the fifth inning through the seventh pitch of the eighth inning, a span that included balls in play; he allowed only a single and a double during that time. Pitch-by-pitch records only go back to 1988, so there's no definitive account of whether Colon set a record, but via the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, the next-highest known total was 30 in a row by Tim Wakefield in 1998.