Oakland A's: Moneyball Strikes Gold Again

Jack CoppingerContributor IMay 15, 2008

Why are the Oakland A’s so good?

All right, I’ll admit it—I have no idea.  The A’s success is as mysterious to me as the interworkings of Billy Beane’s brain.

And not only that, they’ve put this great season together completely under the radar. As of today (May 14) the A’s Record is 23-17, and the team is only half a game out. 

All this in a division which was widely prophesied the Angels would dominate and clinch by August. The A’s weren’t even supposed to contend. How did this happen?

I can’t say, but Emil Brown can.  As of today Brown is hitting .277, with 4 home runs, and 33 RBI, in 37 games!

He leads the A’s in all major offensive categories: BA, HR, RBI, and Rthe only major category that he doesn’t lead is OPS (led by Jack Cust, who is tied for 2nd in the majors with 32 walks).

But who could have guessed that Emil Brown would be so successful as an Athletiche is the Anti-A.

He is a free swinger; he matches up with almost none of the categories that Beane looks for in a player. This season he only has five walks and is on pace for 22 this season.

In his eleven-year pro career, he has never walked more than he has struck outhardly "Moneyball” fashion.  However, Brown makes contact, which does fit the mold.  He has only struck out 13 times this year compared to 56 by Ryan Howard.

We all know that one player doesn’t make a team, but come to think of it, who else on the A’s is having a solid season?  Mike Sweeney? Nope. Frank Thomas? Wrong. Mark Ellis? Now that’s just funny.

Brown is the only A’s position player (including DH) that is having a consistent season offensively.

Now we come to pitching.  Oh Billy, you’ve done it again.  You’ve created a team of no-names. Who are these people? Santiago Castilla? Dana Eveland? Greg Smith? Joey Devine?  Keith Foulke? Okay, I do recognize Foulke, but I haven’t heard his name since ’04.

How does a team with pitchers nobody’s ever heard of lead the AL in ERA (3.32)? And on top of that, how are they second in BAA (.240)? Or first in OPS against (.652)? Or even second in WHIP (1.23)?

It’s insane! Also keep in mind, the A’s pitching staff is missing last years ace, Dan Haren (traded to Arizona), and had been missing their often-hurt ace Rich Harden.

Greg Smith is probably the biggest of the unknown players (in a statistical sense), he is 2-2, a record that doesn’t jump out at you, but he has a 3.00 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP.  This guy is unstoppable.

Another relative no-namer with great numbers is Joey Devine. As a reliever he is 3-0, with a .60 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and a 17/3 K/BB ratio. Where did this guy come from?

Short answer: “Thank you! Oh so gullible Braves!”

Before this year, Joey had only pitched, at most, 10 games a year for Atlanta (10 in 2006 and 2007, and five in 2005).  His ERA in those three years was 7.88.  He had pitched only nineteen-and-two-thirds innings (compared to this years 15.0 IP), and recorded only one win. What a change.

Dana Eveland has also stepped up this year for the A’sagain a dead even record at 3-3, but he has a 3.23 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

Overall the A’s are a solid team.  The acquisition of Frank Thomas should help them in the long run, but they need a hitter now.

Unfortunately, they’ve run out of major bargaining chips (both Swisher and Haren are gone, and Harden is always hurt). The only option is to hope for Sweeney, Thomas, or both to get hot, or trade Joe Blanton for a hitter.

In my opinion, the A’s largest problem is 2nd base.  Mark Ellis is constantly hurt (as he is now), and with Donnie Murphy starting, the A’s have no infielders left on the bench.


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