Ever since Billy Beane and “Moneyball” arrived on the scene for people to enjoy, the Oakland Athletics have gotten a lot of pub. It is well deserved. As you can see in my bio below each of the articles I post here on FanSided, I am a huge fan of sabermetrics and the way they relate to the game, and also how they help scouts and other people understand a player just a little bit better. Well Billy Beane and his staff did just that and are working their way to being baseball’s next dynasty.
A lot of the so called experts believed that Texas and Anaheim were going to run right threw this division. Well look at the standings now. Oakland has officially taken its second consecutive American League West title and put Rangers manager Ron Washington on the hot seat. Oakland has a very solid team that is fun to watch and it was built from watching the game and using statistics to find the best players to win.
It isn’t just Beane that is putting together the roster every season for the A’s. You also have to thank his Assistant GM, David Forst, Scouting Director, Eric Kubota, and Director of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zahidi. All of these guys have been with Beane through this whole process of getting Oakland baseball where it should be. All of these guys just listed follow the game of baseball very closely and understand that it isn’t about the Home Runs and RBI, it is about more than that.
If you take a look at Oakland’s lineup this season, you will see one .300 hitter on it, Josh Donaldson. Well if you look one more column to the right, you will see OBP (On Base Percentage). That is the name of the game now in Major League Baseball. If you can get on base, I want you on my roster. The A’s have one guy with an OBP under .300, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has had a down season at the plate for the most part, but he still has a very good Slugging Percentage and OPS (On Base Plus Slugging). They aren’t worried about a guy hitting 30 Home Runs a season, they want the player that gives them the best chance to score runs and Cespedes does that for them.
Now to their pitching staff, that they built up through the Minor Leagues, besides Bartolo Colon. You will see that not one guy is over the age of 26 in their starting rotation. They have a lot of great young arms, that don’t have anything fantastic, but that are strike throwers. That is what you want in a pitcher, you don’t want someone that is going to throw a lot of balls and be done by the 5th inning. The A’s want guys that can give them 7 innings every night and hand the ball off to the bullpen expecting a win. Yes, they have a young rotation but all five of their normal starters have 10 wins. Tommy Milone is the only one with an ERA over 4, at 4.14. Billy Beane and his staff are on to something here in Oakland and it is working.
Drafting is a huge part of the process to put a winner on the field. Beane and his staff don’t just draft the best player available, they want players that play the game their way. You don’t see them getting top ten picks every season and rebuilding like other small market teams. You see guys like A.J Griffin and Dan Straily that were drafted in the 13th and 24th round respectively. They find players that other teams don’t want and still win.
Their number one prospect Addison Russell fits their script. Russell was drafted by the A’s right out of high school and hasn’t disappointed. Coming out of high school he wasn’t that player that everyone wanted, but has shined in the scheme that Beane has put in place. He is a middle infielder with a long way to go until hitting the Bigs, but with an OBP at .377 and OPS at .885 Russell is on his way. Not to mention he stole 21 bases which also fits into Oakland’s way of playing baseball.
A’s top pitching prospect Michael Ynoa has been with the A’s since he signed in 2008. He is only 22 and has a tremendous upside. Tommy John Surgery set him back in 2010, but he is making his way back to top form. He started 15 games for Beloit, the A’s (A) ball team and shined. He had a little trouble with his control, but at a 6’7″ frame Ynoa has a chance to be a frontline starter in the Majors. Control has been an issue, but with time and work in the Minor Leagues Ynoa, should fit right in with Oakland’s way of doing things.
You can go up and down Oakland’s Minor League system and see the same types of players. They only draft that type of player. That is the player that will excel through the minors and make a great impact in the majors. Guys that can get on base and pitchers that throw strikes make it in the Majors. There is still that one looming question..
Will they be baseball’s next dynasty? That is still the question to be answered, but they are on their way. Having very young players, playing now only helps their situation. Coco Crisp is the only every day player over 30 and he is having one of the best seasons of his career. This team is very fun to watch and they play the game with a sense of urgency and are fundamentally sound. Give this team three more seasons and you will see at least one championship banner hanging in the Coliseum. Not to mention this season where they are only one game behind Boston for the best record in the American League. Billy Beane and his staff deserve a lot of credit for putting this roster and farm system together, but even more than that it is the players that are going out and performing like they thought they would.