A Fitting end to a dissappointing season
The A's have limped to a 75-87 record to end the 2009 season. Sadly, this is 1/2 game worse than their final record in 2008 where they finished 75-86 and played only 161 games.
This marks the third consecutive season in which the A's have done more poorly than the year before, and the third consecutive season in which the A's have lost more games then they've won.
The A's showed vast improvement in the second half, and had many A's fans excited for 2010. These hopes were dealt a painful blow as the A's ended the season on a season-worst seven-game losing streak.
Indeed, the final stretch proved a painful reflection of the 2009 season as a whole. There was hope, optimism, and just enough unknowns to make the prospects for the season seem bright. Then, like clockwork, these hopes were brutally crushed in an embarrassingly definitive way.
Perhaps it's better this way. Perhaps it's best that we enter the off-season with a reminder to temper our enthusiasm with the knowledge that the A's are the undisputed tenants of the American League West cellar, and that the climb back to contention will not be an easy one.
What went wrong..?
Veteran leadership... more like walking dead.
Giambi, Nomar, Ellis, Chavez, Duchscherer, Nomar, Cabrera.
This would-be veteran leadership fell apart almost immediately. Injuries and lack of performance shattered into one of the most anemic infields the A's have endured in years and the least runs scored before the All-Star break (361) since 1995 in which they scored 358.
Pre All-Star American League offensive rankings:
last in Home Runs (.280)
last in Batting average (.246)
13th in On-Base-Persentage (.316)
13th in OPS (.687)
12th in runs (361)
The starting pitching was predictably inconsistent, going through periods of notable hot and cold and posing an overall ERA of 4.24 before the All-Star break.
Pre All-Star Team ERA by Month:
The inexperience of the pitching staff was, of course, the reason why the A's brass had done so much to improve the offense.
The rationale was, if I remember correctly, that an improved offense would aid the development of the young pitchers. Well, so much for that.
I just hope that this axe doesn't swing both ways, leaving our young guns traumatized from the severe lack of run-support they had to endure in the first half. The Midland Rockhounds had managed 5.5 runs a game in '08, the Stockton Ports: 5.3, and the Oakland A's, before the break, managed only a streaky 4.2. Welcome to the bigs.
May was the killer. A record of 11-18 for the month put the A's 11-games under .500, 10.5 games back, and 3.5 games in the cellar just 2 months into the season.
After that, the pitching and hitting alternated as to which aspect of the team would represent the most crippling liability.
In July, where the A's hit .296 as a team, the A"s went 12-14. In June, when the pitching staff compiled a 3.72 ERA, the team went 13-15.
Second half better than the 1st Half
The second half marked a drastic improvement in the offence. The A's began to get better production out of nearly every position on the team.
1B: Giambi gone, Barton in.
3B: Crosby/Hannahan Gone, Kennedy In.
SS: Cabrera out, Pennington in.
2B: Ellis back.
RF: Sweeney improved.
CF: Davis improved dramatically.
Holliday's bat would be missed, but his obvious disillusionment and "try not to get hurt" style of defense would not.
The A's would score 398 runs after the All-Star break. This represents the most runs the A's have scored after the break since 2001, where they scored 480, and believe it or not, they did it with small ball:
Post All-Star American League offensive rankings:
13th in Home Runs (65)
7th in Walks (243)
4th in Batting average (.280)
4th in Runs Scored (398)
1st in the AL in stolen bases (79)
Overall, the A's would go 38-38 after the All-Star break, with a 4.28 ERA and an average of 5.2 runs scored per game.
Season totals are as follows:
759 runs scored - 761 runs allowed.
The A's probably should have won a few more games than they did. September showed us that these A's can roll when they're firing on all cylinders, and the rest of the season showed just how badly they can sputter when missing a spark plug or two.
As much as the hitting has been scrutinized, 759 runs scored represents a big improvement over the '08 season.
It's more than 100 runs better than 2008 (646) and the best season total since 2006 (771). It's also encouraging that all the pieces of the, much improved, 2nd-half offence will be returning next year.
The pitching has however digressed substantially. The 661 runs allowed were the most since 2000 (813) if only 3 worse than 2007 (598). The starting pitching was really inconsistent. Only Brett Anderson really showed gradual improvement. Cahill, Gio, Braden, Mazarro, Eveland, and everyone else the A's tried in the role (except strangely Tomko), were hit or miss all year.
Season totals as a starting pitcher:
ERA: 4.76 11th
OSLG: .445 10th
WHIP: 1.47 12th
The Bullpen however was great: One of the best in the bigs.
Season totals as a relief pitcher:
.361 OSLG- 1st.
1.26 WHIP 2nd.
Hope for 2010?
I'm not sure what to expect next.
I really like the idea that the second-half offense is going to be a preview of 2010. All of the players who contributed to the resurgence of the offense should return and there are several talented prospects who could potentially contribute in 2010 (Carter, Wallace).
However, in the same way that so many players on the A's trailed miserably behind their career numbers in the first half, many players drastically out-performed their career numbers in the second half.
Davis, Sweeney, Kennedy, Pennington, and Barton, are all suspects for a relatively sharp 2010 drop-off while only Cust and Hairston performed much below their career numbers.
Still, it's hard to believe the 2010 offense could perform as badly as it did in the first half of this season.
The starting pitching is a much bigger question mark. There's certainly an appropriate level of patience that you've got to have with a young staff.
Sophomore slumps aside, pitchers rarely peak at 21, 22, 23 etc unless they're affected by injury. I think you've got to presume that the pitching will, overall, improve in 2010.
A .500 record in 2010 is very possible, with an outside chance of contention if the offense can project it's second-half success this year across the entire season in 2010, but as the final seven games of 2009 showed us, the West is not going to roll over without a fight.