Ten Years Later: The A's Are Back
Much ado has been made about the job that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has done to make his small market team competitive. In fact, a book and a movie named “Moneyball” have been made to try and tell the world about the amazingly unique circumstances of the 2002 Oakland Athletics’ rise to success. Recently, though, the Athletics have had to endure several trying years of struggles and bad baseball. However, ten years after the 2002 team took MLB by storm, the 2012 version of the A’s has baseball executives and fans mesmerized again.
Here are some of the main similarities and differences between the two clubs:
1. Extremely Small Payrolls:
-2002 A’s: 28th highest at $40,004,167
-2012 A’s: 29th highest at $55,372,500
2. Caliber of Starting Pitching:
-2002 A’s (162 games): ERA - 3.68 (3rd), SO - 1,021 (18th), WHIP - 1.28 (7th), BAA - .252 (8th)
-2012 A’s (133 games): ERA - 3.41 (3rd), SO - 922 (26th), WHIP - 1.21 (3rd), BAA - .242 (4th)
One of the unbelievable oversights in the movie was that they never referred to the 2002 pitching rotation. That year, the pitching staff was arguably one of the 10 best in baseball history. At the time, that squad had three of MLB’s best young pitchers in Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder that combined to pitch 675 total innings with a 3.05 ERA, and Zito even won that year’s AL Cy Young. The 2012 pitching staff may not have the same name recognition that the 2002 rotation did, but they are solid from top to bottom.
1. Timing of Winning Streaks:
-2002 A’s: 29-4 run in Aug/Sept. Record before run was 62-48.
-2012 A’s: 21-6 run in July. Record before run was 37-42
Everyone knows that the 2002 team won 20 games in a row during that incredible stretch, but that team was already 14 games above .500 and in the playoff hunt when it started. The 2012 A’s were dead in the water before July, but their mid-season winning streak is what has propelled them into contention.
2. Offensive Production:
-2002 (162 games): R - 800 (9th), AVG - .261 (16th), OBP - .339 (7th), SLG - .432 (8th), OPS - .771 (7th)
-2012 (133 games): R - 573 (17th), AVG - .237 (29th), OBP - .309 (24th), SLG - .400 (18th), OPS - .709 (21st)
Statistically, the 2012 A’s have one of the worst offenses in all of MLB. By contrast, the 2002 A’s had a fairly productive offensive team.
Admittedly, as recently as July, I saw the A’s as pretenders in the 2012 Postseason hunt. It is pretty clear that many baseball analysts and I were wrong about this team. They have shown all interested onlookers that they are for real, and they are poised to make a run at a playoff spot. However, for this year’s squad to change the way teams think about and build baseball teams, they have to finish the job.
Billy Beane has a quote towards the end of the “Moneyball” movie that sums up how many viewed the 2002 A’s and how many will view the 2012 A’s:
“I'm not in it for a record, I'll tell you that. I'm not in it for a ring. That's when people get hurt. If we don't win the last game of the series, they'll dismiss us. I know these guys, I know the way they think, and they will erase us. And everything we've done here, none of it will matter. Any other team wins the World Series, good for them. They're drinking champagne, they'll get a ring. But if we win, on our budget with this team, we'll change the game. And that's what I want, I want it to mean something.”
For a game that some like to say is resistant to change, a championship in Oakland would sure make teams pay even more attention than they had previously to the winning formula that Beane has trail blazed.
Tweet to @MLBFanCave and @KyleOKC using the hash tag #PennantRace, and let us know if you think the Oakland Athletics will continue their magical run and make it to the playoffs.