First of all I like Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s fans are lucky to have him as GM. With so many failures in the post season though, it’s time to look at the why’s and the how’s.
I remember when the A’s were flying high this year. They had the best record in all of baseball and they had a run differential of over 100 more than any other team in the majors. Yoenis Cespedes was throwing out runners from the Orange Highway to go with towering homers. Josh Donaldson looked like an MVP candidate and the starters looked like there was nothing to stop them from dominating hitters in the American league. A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series.
The A’s had the worst second half record of ANY team in the history of Major League Baseball who made the playoffs. Their collapse was hard to watch. Billy Beane, looking to get to the next level, traded popular slugger Yoenis Cespedes to get rent a player post season pitching star Jon Lester. Never before had I ever heard of a team trading their clean up hitter, let alone winning a world series after doing it.
He also traded one of the best prospects in baseball, and the Oakland A’s best prospect; shortstop phenom Addison Russell; for Jeff Smardzija and journeyman starter Jason Hammel, who was having a career year. Beane was lauded as a conquering GM even though the A’s gave up the heart of their order, and their best minor league prospect. Lester was a rent a player and Smardzija would be on the A’s for a year and a half which is the length of his contract. Beane stated that they would not be able to resign Cespedes due to him wanting more money than the A’s wanted to pay. It was obvious the future was now in Oakland.
The big thing that I’ve always hated about Billy Beane’s mentality in his money ball formula, is that it’s not what wins in the post season. Even in his book Moneyball, he’s admitted as such. The A’s have had solid teams in the playoffs and they always fall short.
MLB had the worst stat that explains the A’s post season fails. Oakland was one of the worst teams hitting with runners in scoring position of any post season team since 2000. It showed the kink in the armor of money ball.
Money ball’s whole mentality is based on sabermetrics; or using analytical in game statistics that show an alternative way of playing baseball. It emphasizes on base percentage and home runs instead of batting averages. It’s great during the regular season but fails during the post season.
The reason money ball fails is that it bases a lot of the teams’ success on walks and home runs. It looks at on base percentage being one of the most important factors in baseball. The problem with all that is that walks and homers are few and far between during the post season because the pitching is so much better in the playoffs.
In the regular season, you are seeing teams that are good, bad, and very bad. In the post season you are seeing the best pitchers in baseball and you are not going to get walks and homers. How many times in post season’s past did the A’s leave runners in scoring position against New York, Boston, and Detroit. And the A’s were just awful if runners were on third with less than 2 outs. You have to actually hit the players in. Players batting .230 to .250 with 15-20 homers don’t knock in runners in the post season. At times it was hard to watch. The on base % of these lower average hitters plummet when you take away all the walks.
Billy Beane and the A’s love the .220 to .260 hitters who hit 15-25 homers while walking a lot. In their defense with a low payroll sometimes that’s all they can get. The problem is, these are the same players in the post season that can’t hit runners in. Patience may help in the regular season, but the post season is about great base hits and not walks.
The A’s need to break the chain, and start getting actual .270 to .300 hitters in the fold and stop the .240 hitters that can hit a homer. In the olden days anything under .250 was considered very average but now the A’s lineup is stacked with them. On their regular season roster, the A’s have only 8 players hitting .250 and above. The Kansas City Royals who beat the A’s last night have 15, and the Los Angeles Angels who won the A’s division also have 15 hitters hitting above .250.
I’m a HUGE Billy Beane fan though. I think he’s not the greatest trader sometimes, (insert Carlos Gonzalez and Andre Ethier here) but NO ONE drafts and evaluates talent better. Even with the A’s post season issues, they still find gems in the draft, and that’s all Billy Beane and his scouting team. There are none better.
This year his payroll was 80 million; the highest in A’s history; but it’s still near the bottom of team payroll in baseball. The San Francisco Giants are spending 140 million per year. He has an owner in Lew Wolff that keeps cashing revenue sharing checks; (The A’s are one of the only teams in baseball that makes money every year mostly due to their low payroll) but does little to help his stadium position in baseball. If Al Davis owned the A’s they would be finishing up building Google stadium in San Jose by now with Mr. Davis middle finger in the air pointing towards San Francisco. Lew Wolf is about business though and profits are the most important thing to him, but that topic is for another day.
In conclusion the A’s will keep winning during the regular season. They will also fall short in the post season in some way. They will keep drafting good players and they will trade them when they are about to sign for big money. If Beane can he will trade them for whatever he can get. Most players are controlled by their teams for about 5-6 years before they become unrestricted free agents and sign for big money and Billy Beane every year sends these players packing. The losers are always the fans who see the A’s change partners quicker than people in dance clubs.
The loyal A’s fans know not to get too attached to their stars. From Jason Giambi to Miguel Tejada to Yoenis Cespedes, it’s better not to get too emotionally involved because eventually they know the players will leave. It’s a cruel fate for both Beane and the Oakland fans.
Billy Beane has said in the past that he can’t have a 5 year plan. His mentality is to look to the now to win. You can’t blame him for doing that but his trades for 2014 will be epic fails. Without their clean up hitter Cespedes and the protection he brought to Josh Donaldson and the rest of the lineup, the A’s had an epic hitting slump in the second half that they could not overcome.
A’s fans though were so excited with the A’s scoring 8 runs against the Kansas City Royals in the wild card game. This time will be different they thought, but the cruel winds of the post season told otherwise. The A’s put up the guy they wanted to pitch that big game in Jon Lester and all the stars were aligned. Unfortunately the A’s had not one but two blown saves in the game to make it 23 on the year which was second to last in the majors. The A’s found another way to fail in the post season and it will be a long wait until spring training for Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s; again. And only God knows what players will be shipped out this off season.