Posted: 01/30/2013 8:40 AM
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)4Jays: 4 (Bautista, Reyes, Johnson, Encarnation)Yankees: 4 (Cano, Jeter, Sabathia, Kuroda)Royals: 4 (Gordon, Moustakas, Shields, Butler) Rays: 3 (Zobrist, Price, Jennings) 3Indians: 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: 0As 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
Posted: 01/30/2013 8:41 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 8:54 AM
My jambandjunki name is banned at the Syracuse forums, so I sneakily use this one. 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
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:01 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:03 AM
MrLarrySanders wrote:As you can see, the A's have very little depth.
As you can see, the A's have very little depth.
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:15 AM
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.
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.
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:19 AM
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?"
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:30 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:41 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:44 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:47 AM
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.
Posted: 01/30/2013 9:50 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 10:20 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 10:31 AM
MrLarrySanders wrote: In short, you guys are crazy, this team is no better than the 2011 As.
In short, you guys are crazy, this team is no better than the 2011 As.
Posted: 01/30/2013 10:48 AM
MrLarrySanders wrote: No, there is nothing absurd about the criteria.
Posted: 01/30/2013 11:22 AM
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.
Posted: 01/30/2013 11:30 AM
Posted: 01/30/2013 11:40 AM
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.
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