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Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender

Posted: 01/30/2013 8:40 AM

Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


Semantics aside, every season baseball analysts use empiricism to meaningfully distinguish between "contenders" and "pretenders."  

Every single World Series participant in recent years has featured both star power (at least one 5+ WAR player) mixed with excellent depth  (at least three "4 WAR" players, and five "3 WAR" players):

2012 Giants (one 5+ WAR, five 3+ WAR) vs. Tigers (two 5+, seven 3+) 
2011 Cardinals (three 5+, six 3+) vs. Rangers (four 5+, ten 3+)
2010 Giants (two 5+ WAR, seven 3+) vs. Rangers (one 5+, six 3+)
2009 Yankees (three 5+, nine 3+) vs. Phillies (two 5+, seven 3+)
2008 Phillies (three 5+, six 3+) vs. Rays (two 5+, five 3+)


Last year we didn't meet either criteria: not for star power, and not for depth.  The only player who came close to 5 WAR was Reddick, and he only did so on an absurdly inflated UZR.  Cespedes (3.1) and Parker (3.7) were the only other players to post a WAR above 3.  No prominent system projects any A's player to post 5 WAR next year, and fringe talents like Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss will have to produce very well in order for the A's to get 5 players with 3 WAR.  

Here are the AL teams who return players with 5+ WAR:

Tigers (Cabrera 7.1, Verlander 6.8, Jackson 5.5, Hunter 5.3)
Rays (Zobrist 5.9, Price 5.1)
Rangers (Beltre 6.5, Darvish 5.1)
Angels (Trout 10)
Yankees (Cano 7.8)
Mariners (Hernandez 6.1)
Royals (Gordon 5.9) 
Twins (Mauar 5.0) 

Now lets take a look at AL teams returning players with a 3.0 WAR:

5+
Tigers: 7 (Cabrera, Verlander, Jackson, Hunter, Fielder, Scherzer, Sanchez, Fister)
Rangers: 7 (Beltre, Darvish, Harrison, Andrus, Kinsler, Murphy, Pierzynski)
Angels: 5 (Trout, Puljos, Hamilton, Aybar, Weaver)

4
Jays: 4 (Bautista, Reyes, Johnson, Encarnation)
Yankees: 4 (Cano, Jeter, Sabathia, Kuroda)
Royals: 4 (Gordon, Moustakas, Shields, Butler) 
Rays: 3 (Zobrist, Price, Jennings) 

3
Indians: 3 (Swisher, Santana, Kipnis)
Red Sox: 3 (Pedrioa, Ortiz, Lester)
White Sox: 3 (Rios, Sale, Peavy)
Oakland: 3 (Reddick, Parker, Cespedes)


2-
Mariners: 2 (Hernandez, Seager)
Twins: 2 (Mauer, Willingham) 
Orioles: 2 (Jones, Wieters)
Astros: 0


As you can see, the A's have very little depth.  The only AL teams with less returning talent (as measured by WAR) are the Mariners, Twins, Orioles and Astros.  The Orioles, obviously, were a fluke playoff team last year, but at least they have a top tier talent (Machado) would is considered on the game's best assets.  Similarly, both Seattle and Minnesota have legitimate star power, as both Mauer and Hernandez post star WAR (5+) and would be more valuable on the open market than any Oakland player.  

Of the teams with four "3 WAR" players (Rays, Toronto, Royals, Yanks), each team also has a 5+ WAR player: thus these teams are just one 3 WAR player away from meeting the "World Series participant talent distribution" criteria.  In addition, a of these teams are loaded with top tier prospects would fetch more on the trade market than any Oakland player. Tampa is loaded with top tier, young, impact talents like Moore and Myers, both of whom would be more valuable on the open market than any A's player.  The Rays also have a true star, Longoria, who didn't stay healthy enough to post his usual star WAR last season, but projects well going forward.  Similarly, the Jays and Royals also have great young players who are widely regarded as more valuable assets than any oakland player, who nonetheless had WAR below 3.0 last season: for example, the Jay's Brett Lowrie or Kansas City's Salvador Perez.   Unmentioned players like Eric Hosmer, Colby Rasmus, Jeremy Hellickson, etc., would also be among the A's most talented players, but they aren't mentioned in this inquiry.  Accordingly, there is a vast difference between these four "star power + four 3 WAR" teams and the remaining teams.  

The AL teams returning only three "3 WAR" players are all mediocre teams: the White Sox, the Indians, and the Red Sox (and A's).  The Athletics compare very well to a mix of the White Sox and Indians: both of whom overachieved and took advantage of a division leader (Detroit) who refused to play smart baseball.  The A's, similarly, were gifted games because of Texas's insane devotion to Michael Young, which was season-suicide.  The lack of talent on these teams will likely lead to three front office firings in the near future: everyone knows the Indians FO is on very thin ice, the Boston situation is very warm, and the Kenny Williams circus will end within a year or two.  These are three of the worst front offices in baseball. 

The Tigers, Rangers, and Angels are the three real or "serious" contenders in the AL. Only these three AL teams return enough talent meet the basic talent distribution criteria to be a World Series contender.  Obviously, both Tampa (Longoria, Moore, Myers) and Toronto (Lowrie, Romero) have a good chance of meeting the "WS participant talent distribution criteria" this season: several projection systems project Tampa and Toronto to meet those criteria.   That's five teams who project to be "serious" contenders based on basic WS participant criteria and an empirical analysis regarding returning player production.  Additionally, both New York and Kansas City project to come close to the WS participant criteria, needing to only to add one 3 WAR player. 


Oakland doesn't project to meet either the star power criteria or the depth criteria.  The only other teams that fail to project to meet either criteria are: 

Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, Astros.  

Those are some lousy MLB teams facing troubled times.  

It's easy to argue that Oakland has far better MLB talent than Houston.  You can make a very fair argument that Oakland's depth overcomes their lack of star power, such that they are more talented than Seattle and Minnesota.  Similarly, you can make a reasonable argument that our A's have more youth and more momentum, chemistry, etc., such that our team is rendered more talented (as a team) than the Red Sox, White Sox, and Indians.  

Beyond that, it gets tough to prefer Oakland's talent over any remaining AL team. 

No reasonably argument could be made that the A's are more talented than Detroit, Texas, LAA, Tampa, or Toronto.  Only a rosy-glasses argument could put the A's ahead of the Royals and Yanks.  There are only 15 teams in the AL.  The most objective assessment is that Oakland is a "bottom 8" team in the AL, as it is really hard to argue they are any better than the 7th most talented AL team.  


So if you look at the White Sox roster, and think "they should trade their top pitching prospect for a DH/C going into his age 30 season who has never sniffed an all-star game," then I understand why you'd want to compete now, and therefore, why you'd want to trade the Oakland's best SP prospect for Jaso.  Similarly, if you look Boston, Cleveland, or Houston, and think, "yea, go for it," then I understand why you look at our roster and have similar sentiments.  But obviously, the A's lack both star power and depth, they do not project to be in serious contention for the AL crown or the WS crown, and the roster is filled with low-ceiling, low variance players who are unlikely to transcend their career trajectories   

In short, you guys are crazy, this team is no better than the 2011 As.  Beane has become a caricature of the "statistically savvy" GM. 

Last edited 01/30/2013 8:42 AM by MrLarrySanders

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Posted: 01/30/2013 8:41 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


Out of curiosity, why are you posting the same sentiments you've posted quite a few times under a new moniker, jambandjunki?
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Posted: 01/30/2013 8:54 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


My jambandjunki name is banned at the Syracuse forums, so I sneakily use this one.  cool  I didn't mean to imply my opinions have more than one fan.    

The original post above is partly a response to your earlier post about "serious" contenders, and whether such talk is mere semantics), and partly an original thought.  I maybe should have posted it the Jaso thread, but when I saw how compelling (to me) the "WS participant talent distribution criteria" analsys was, I figured I ought to offer the observation to the board in a more prominent, less-buried post.  

The arguments you put forward in the Jaso thread are reasonable, and very responsive.  That is why my posts pick up and argue against some of your commentary, as your commentary is often point-by-point.  I wasn't trying to obscure my identity: that is why I started the OP above with "semantics aside," since that was a follow up on your earlier points. 

While I think your argument about the various Pythagorean record projections is relevant and notable, I also think we both know the A's benefited hugely from Texas's decision to destroy their season.  I would argue that in a 4-team division, Texas's suicide provided the A's with a bump to both their record and their peripherals.  And even with that bump, the A's were just a low-to-mid 90s win team: a very typical win range for a mediocre team that flukes into a good season. 

I don't think there is any other argument (besides a solid run differential) in support of the idea that Oakland is a serious contender.  Now, I appreciate the irony of that statement, as run differential is among the best evidence we can have regarding future performance.  But the A's posted the 4th best run differential in the AL last year: I believe every single reasonable minded poster on this board understands that Oakland is extremely unlikely to repeat that feat.  Oakland posted a better run differential than the Angels and Tigers last year: that is just a pure fluke.  

The ability to recognize flukes is central to empirical analysis.  I don't understand why the A's front office, and to some extent the A's fan base, has lost it's savvy with respect to identifying outliers and likely regression to the mean.  

Selling low on Cole and buying high on Jaso is a perfect example. 

Last edited 01/30/2013 9:00 AM by MrLarrySanders

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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:01 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


I'll go out on a limb and predict that both Reddick and Cespedes post 5+ WARs this coming season, and I'll predict we get 3+ WARs from Moss, Donaldson, Young, Jaso, Parker, and Milone.

I don't go in for pessimism in January. Pessimism is for July.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:03 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


Your criteria is absurd.  "World Series participants" with x-number of x-WAR players is dreadfully unhelpful.  First off, obviously "Word Series participants" are going to have lots of good players.  Nice work, Szymborski.  Second, I see why you stopped at 2008; your arbitrary benchmark stopped holding up.  Third, if you wanted to make a more serious study of "World Series participants" you'd actually look at who those World Series participants were relative to the field; how many of them were wild cards or the 3rd seed?  And therefore for how many of them should "getting to the playoffs" be the actual, objective criteria used to extrapolate if someone was a "contender" or a "pretender?"
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:03 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



MrLarrySanders wrote:


As you can see, the A's have very little depth.  

The A's did get 3.7 WAR out of 1B, 3.3 WAR out of 3B, and 3.7 WAR out of their DH, in addition to those 3.  If anything, their success speaks to just how much depth they had/have.  Their use of platoons was outstanding last season.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:15 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



MrLarrySanders wrote:
While I think your argument about the various Pythagorean record projections is relevant and notable, I also think we both know the A's benefited hugely from Texas's decision to destroy their season.  I would argue that in a 4-team division, Texas's suicide provided the A's with a bump to both their record and their peripherals.  


I don't think there is any other argument (besides a solid run differential) in support of the idea that Oakland is a serious contender.  Now, I appreciate the irony of that statement, as run differential is among the best evidence we can have regarding future performance.  But the A's posted the 4th best run differential in the AL last year: I believe every single reasonable minded poster on this board understands that Oakland is extremely unlikely to repeat that feat.  Oakland posted a better run differential than the Angels and Tigers last year: that is just a pure fluke. 


The problem is that a large part of your analysis is purely subjective...calling who's a fluke and who isn't. Saying that Texas only dropped behind the A's because they "suicided" their season (i.e. a fluke in the other direction) or that posting a better run differential than the Tigers and Angels is just a fluke.

I'm sympathetic to your attempts to create "principles" via pattern matching (like needing a player of X WAR, etc), but those almost always tend to be too simplistic, a savvier version of principles like "You can't win a title without a great defense" or "You must have an ace to win a title." Ultimately, you need enough total talent, not necessarily a specific threshold of top-loaded talent. Now, "stars and scrubs" is generally a slightly more optimal set-up than "solid players everywhere" for a couple of reasons: 1. it's easier to get a large upgrade when, for the same total production, you have a couple of black holes to replace, 2. in the post-season, you can avoid backend starting pitchers and reserve position players.

But those are much more about optimizing at the edges, rather than crucial points that separate a contender from a non-contender.

It's not impossible that the A's simply got better production from their players than they "should have" and, in fact, that's my own view. Which is why I felt that the A's had to improve their total team talent in order to remain a viable playoff contender. Improving their total team talent doesn't require adding stars...it means improving on roster spots enough to add some wins. Replacing a 4 WAR player with a 6 WAR player has about the same effect as replacing a 0 WAR player with a 2 WAR player (if you can't move the previous 4 WAR player to another position with an even lower WAR), outside of keeping my stipulations above in mind about the "optimal at the edges."

I think the A's did that to some extent by acquiring Chris Young and John Jaso. Neither are stars, but both represent good players who improve the team's total talent measurably. I'd like to have had another such upgrade, but I'm hopeful that Brett Anderson throws enough starts to be a significant upgrade on himself from last season.

My position isn't, and has never been, that it's crazy to think the A's won't make the playoffs next season. It's entirely possible (in fact, it's entirely possible even if I'm 100% right, since not all playoff contenders reach the playoffs). My position is that there's plenty of evidence that the A's are credible contenders for the playoffs next season and, as such, a potential-for-current value trade (involving a non-elite pitching prospect) is perfectly rational.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:19 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



sleepingcobra wrote: Your criteria is absurd.  "World Series participants" with x-number of x-WAR players is dreadfully unhelpful.  First off, obviously "Word Series participants" are going to have lots of good players.  Nice work, Szymborski.  Second, I see why you stopped at 2008; your arbitrary benchmark stopped holding up.  Third, if you wanted to make a more serious study of "World Series participants" you'd actually look at who those World Series participants were relative to the field; how many of them were wild cards or the 3rd seed?  And therefore for how many of them should "getting to the playoffs" be the actual, objective criteria used to extrapolate if someone was a "contender" or a "pretender?"
No, there is nothing absurd about the criteria. 

It is not arbitrary: it is set as the bare minimum of all World Series participants in the past 5 years.  That is principled, not arbitrary: the cut off is premised on what is minimally acceptable for winning a serious championship (i.e. a title other than a division title).  

You are correct, with a good find, that the 2007 Rockies come up one 3 WAR player short of the criteria.  I did not notice that when preparing my post.  I chose five years because it is a simple number.  The 2007 Rockies did meet the "Star power" criteria (two players over 5 WAR), but only had 4 players with more than 3 WAR.  Not surprisingly, the Rockies lost the series, after one of the most flukish regular season finishes in history.  

So if we take a 6 year perspective, instead of 5, we change the criteria to "world series winners and non-Colorado WS losers."  If you want to trade in your top prospects to try to turn a White-Sox-caliber team into a historically flukey World Series loser (but AL champion), I'd say that is respectable from the competitive perspective, but not smart long-term.  Colorado is clearly the exception, not the rule, and if we go back further into WS history, I am sure we will find very few exceptions. 

Does anyone have a favorable comparison for this years A's team from a WAR perspective?  Which serious contender do the A's compare favorably to?  

Has there ever been a modern WS participant with less WAR talent than the A's had last year?  If not, doesn't that mean that the A's (last season) were not a serious contender (for WS or AL title)?  If the A's weren't a serious contender last year, did they become a serious contender before they pulled the Jaso trade?
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:30 AM

RE: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


Five years tells you NOTHING against the vast amount of data that is available.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:41 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


If I'm an A's player I feed on such negativity... Bring it on, I'd say! mad
______________________________________
http://everythinglucy.youns.com/lovelucy.asp?offset=15
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:44 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


This type of analysis seems flawed for a team that platooned as much as the 2012 A's. Moss for example was a 5 WAR player last season if you extrapolated his stats over a full season. How many position players got 600 PA? 1. 4 got over 500.

But yes you are correct, this team would be better off with a superstar. Cutting edge analysis.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:47 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



WalnutCreekGreg wrote: I'll go out on a limb and predict that both Reddick and Cespedes post 5+ WARs this coming season, and I'll predict we get 3+ WARs from Moss, Donaldson, Young, Jaso, Parker, and Milone.

I don't go in for pessimism in January. Pessimism is for July.
Besides, we've already got our inhouse pessimist.  Unfortunately.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 9:50 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



sleepingcobra wrote: Your criteria is absurd.  "World Series participants" with x-number of x-WAR players is dreadfully unhelpful.  First off, obviously "Word Series participants" are going to have lots of good players.  Nice work, Szymborski.  Second, I see why you stopped at 2008; your arbitrary benchmark stopped holding up.  Third, if you wanted to make a more serious study of "World Series participants" you'd actually look at who those World Series participants were relative to the field; how many of them were wild cards or the 3rd seed?  And therefore for how many of them should "getting to the playoffs" be the actual, objective criteria used to extrapolate if someone was a "contender" or a "pretender?"
Perfectly stated.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 10:20 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


I don't get why anyone is upset over the Jaso trade. If the A's suck Jaso can be flipped for another meh pitching prospect. The only reason to be upset is if  you way, way overvalue Cole.

Also, cut out half of the season for those 3+ WAR players and see how many have still 3+ WAR seasons. That is essentially what the OP analysis is doing to the A's since half of the A's players played about half a season.

Finally Jaso is NOT going to DH. He is clearly going to be a platoon partner with Norris. I see no reason to think otherwise. In fact, there is clear evidence against the notion of Jaso as a DH. Kottaras was DFA'd. Why in the world would Beane do that if he didn't plan for Jaso to be used as a catcher?
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Posted: 01/30/2013 10:20 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


Here are some actual projections.  

They "feel" about right to me.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 10:31 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


This isn't a good way of measuring the caliber of a team. Using your arbitrary benchmarks (one 5 WAR player, three 4 WAR players, five 3 WAR players), a team could then theoretically get replacement level production from every other roster spot, and yet still be a "World Series Contender" because they hit your criteria. Unfortunately, this hypothetical team's total WAR would be around 32. After adding replacement level wins, this would be a team that wins roughly 75 games. A "World Series Contender" indeed.

A better way of measuring the caliber of a team would be to actually measure the caliber of a team (imagine that!). If you insist on using WAR, why not take into account a team's total WAR production, instead of only the production of a cherry picked cadre?

~Total WAR:
2012 A's: 42

2012 Giants: 44; Tigers: 46
2011 Cardinals: 47; Rangers: 60
2010 Giants:  49; Rangers: 44
2009 Yankees: 57; Phillies: 45
2008 Phillies: 45; Rays: 45

But wait, you say, the 2012 A's WAR count is clearly last in comparison, thus proving your point!

Not quite. 6 of those 10 teams put up total WARs around 44-46. Given the inherent volatility within WAR, there's basically no difference between those 44-46 WAR teams and the 42 WAR 2012 Oakland A's.

You should also list all the teams who've made the playoffs in those years rather than just those that made it to the World Series, because there's little difference between a playoff team and an eventual World Series participant. I believe you'll find even more playoff teams in that 42 WAR range of the 2012 Oakland A's.

Lastly:
MrLarrySanders wrote:

In short, you guys are crazy, this team is no better than the 2011 As.

2012 Oakland A's: 42 WAR
2011 Oakland A's: 30 WAR

A 12 win difference seems pretty significant to me; there's really no universe where a 90 win team would be considered just as bad as 78 win team. But I guess I shouldn't let facts get in the way of a good rant.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 10:48 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



MrLarrySanders wrote: 
No, there is nothing absurd about the criteria. 

Please see lenscrafters's post for a specific breakdown of why your criteria is, in fact, absurd.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 11:22 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



Minstrel wrote: 

The problem is that a large part of your analysis is purely subjective...calling who's a fluke and who isn't. Saying that Texas only dropped behind the A's because they "suicided" their season (i.e. a fluke in the other direction) or that posting a better run differential than the Tigers and Angels is just a fluke.

I'm sympathetic to your attempts to create "principles" via pattern matching (like needing a player of X WAR, etc), but those almost always tend to be too simplistic, a savvier version of principles like "You can't win a title without a great defense" or "You must have an ace to win a title." Ultimately, you need enough total talent, not necessarily a specific threshold of top-loaded talent. Now, "stars and scrubs" is generally a slightly more optimal set-up than "solid players everywhere" for a couple of reasons: 1. it's easier to get a large upgrade when, for the same total production, you have a couple of black holes to replace, 2. in the post-season, you can avoid backend starting pitchers and reserve position players.

But those are much more about optimizing at the edges, rather than crucial points that separate a contender from a non-contender.

It's not impossible that the A's simply got better production from their players than they "should have" and, in fact, that's my own view. Which is why I felt that the A's had to improve their total team talent in order to remain a viable playoff contender. Improving their total team talent doesn't require adding stars...it means improving on roster spots enough to add some wins. Replacing a 4 WAR player with a 6 WAR player has about the same effect as replacing a 0 WAR player with a 2 WAR player (if you can't move the previous 4 WAR player to another position with an even lower WAR), outside of keeping my stipulations above in mind about the "optimal at the edges."

I think the A's did that to some extent by acquiring Chris Young and John Jaso. Neither are stars, but both represent good players who improve the team's total talent measurably. I'd like to have had another such upgrade, but I'm hopeful that Brett Anderson throws enough starts to be a significant upgrade on himself from last season.

My position isn't, and has never been, that it's crazy to think the A's won't make the playoffs next season. It's entirely possible (in fact, it's entirely possible even if I'm 100% right, since not all playoff contenders reach the playoffs). My position is that there's plenty of evidence that the A's are credible contenders for the playoffs next season and, as such, a potential-for-current value trade (involving a non-elite pitching prospect) is perfectly rational.
I appreciate your argument but still disagree. 

Identifying flukes is not really subjective, its an objective question about data stability.

We all know that there is a very high correlation between talent distribution, both in terms of star power and depth, and winning.  Oakland has a poor talent distribution both in terms of star power and depth.  The main logical fallacy that I see on this board at the moment, is that people are convinced Oakland has great depth: but this is merely a backwards deduction from the fact that Oakland won games and had solid peripherals without star power.  The whole purpose of my post is to show that Oakland does not have the quality depth that people are imagining. Moss, for example, is not good.  He had a 30% K rate last year: we know, from years of empiricism, what that means going forward.  His .306 ISO was a fluke, as was his .359 BABIP.  Just because its my opinion and uncertain, doesn't make it subjective: I am using objective, data-driven criteria, well known to all of us, when I say Moss's ISO and BABIP were a fluke.  

Similarly, Oakland having a better run differential than the Tigers and Angels was a fluke, because the Tigers and Angels enjoy a much better talent distribution in terms of both star power and depth, measured objectively by WAR.  It's not that I prefer one shape of the talent distribution curve over another: it's that by any objective measure, both Detroit and Los Angeles has a substantial talent advantage with both stars and role players.     

The A's don't have "solid players everywhere."  Not even close.  Oakland has big weaknesses at catcher, second, and short stop, and also probably 1B.  Any objective standard would find Oakland well short of "solid players everywhere."  Very few Oakland starting position players would be starting for other teams.  This is especially true, because the rebuilding teams like Houston (the few teams who have a worse talent distribution) wouldn't want Coco Crisp and Bartolo Colon costing them the #1 overall pick just to try to imitate Baltimore's season.

I think you hit it on the head by saying, "ultimately you need enough talent."  Going into last season, we had a more accurate understanding where this team was.  We know the talent distribution was poor, but we were excited about the rebuilding effort and the prospects in the minors.  Our talent distribution did not substantially improve, as Cespedes 3.1 WAR was not really a surprise, neither was getting some solid pitching performances.  The breakout from Reddick was not even a huge surprise, and we can confidently say that his UZR numbers are flukish, again using objective criteria and well known standards regarding the noise and data stability of fielding metrics.  Our talent distribution suggests that we Baltimored, and now we're willing to trade a prominent prospect for a veteran with a poor glove and a "mediocre" track record. 

I think it is extremely likely the As fails to win the division this season, and somewhere between very likely and extremely likely that we miss the playoffs.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 11:30 AM

RE: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 


I don't think the A's are a truly elite team, probably on the outside looking in for the playoffs, but I don't think using top WAR performers as the reason why they aren't a serious contender is the way to go. I also think the O's were muchhh more flukey then the A's. That said, the A's don't have Manny Machado, and Bundy, either.
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Posted: 01/30/2013 11:40 AM

Re: Why Oakland is not a "serious" contender 



MrLarrySanders wrote:
We all know that there is a very high correlation between talent distribution, both in terms of star power and depth, and winning.  Oakland has a poor talent distribution both in terms of star power and depth. 

This is the crux of the problem in your analysis, in my opinion...you're unwilling to look at the actual data to determine talent level and are relying on your subjective evaluations of the players.

The fact of the matter is that the A's had 40+ WAR across their roster (interestingly and coincidentally, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs and USS Mariner posted this today [in his analysis of the Mariners, who fall short]: "To be a legitimate contender for the playoffs, a team basically needs to compile 40 WAR, and needs more like 45 to 50 to give themselves a good shot at getting in"), and their peripherals backed up their standing as a playoff-caliber team. Projection systems like CAIRO also peg the A's as legitimate playoff contenders.

I respect your analytical bent and desire to dig beyond easy narratives, but I guess I'm just not finding your rationale compelling enough to toss aside the existing evidence that the A's have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. That isn't to say you're wrong, necessarily, but I do think your analysis is flawed and in the minority even among the statistically-inclined.
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