In the post-Moneyball film era, the A’s have no doubt acquired a legion of new fans interested in Billy Beane’s sabermetrics approach. He’s been doing it for ages, and it’s always been an uphill battle, wringing results out of outside-the-box talent, from the likes of Scott Hatteberg, who has become the poster boy for the sabermetrics movement (a catcher with a high OBP). The A’s had some dominant years, when they featured pumped bashers (Canseco-McGwire knocking in Ricky Henderson), but since then they have done perhaps better than they should have, but have not brought home the rings. They have, however, helped to solidify a new way of thinking of baseball players, a movement away from home runs, RBIS, and batting average as the mark of a quality player, and toward On Base Percentage, walks, and the On Base Plus Slugging that is now largely the go-to statistic (it essentially combines the number of times you get to first base, however you may get there, with your hits that are at least doubles). It would have been fascinating to see Billy Beane had he accepted the lucrative offer to become GM of the Red Sox—how he would have translated his smarts into a big-market club with essentially limitless pockets. But he chose to stay with the perennially good-but-not-great Oakland A’s. This season looks to be more of the same, with a few bright lights, a few question marks, and not a lot of hope for a title. There are some things to be optimistic about: Yoenis Cespedes, the YouTube sensation from Cuba, finally signed with the A’s, to the surprise of many—if Beane went for him, then he must be the real deal. Ideal Beane candidate Josh Reddick came over in a trade for the Red Sox, although at the loss of closer Andrew Bailey. Reddick has a sweet swing, looks set to hit a lot of singles and doubles, to get on base, to run smart, but probably not to turn into an All-Star. A team of Josh Reddicks can win it all, but they all have gel and sync together at the same time for a whole season. That sort of player can rarely carry a team the way some of the old-school boppers can when they are on a month-long tear, and that may be what the team is missing.
In: Manny Ramirez (after 50-game suspension), Bartolo Colon (free agent), Josh Reddick (trade), Yoenis Cespedes (free agent)
Out: Andrew Bailey (trade)
Strength: Brandon McCarthy and Dallas Braden have good potential at the top of the rotation, and Yoenis Cespedes looks like a potential 5-tool star. You know Billy Beane will come up stronger than his team looks on paper, but this is not a lineup to strike fear into the hearts of opponents. It will help tremendously when Manny Ramirez returns after his 50-game suspension and deepens the lineup.
Weakness: there are a lot of questionable bats in this lineup (#B Josh Donaldson batted /156 last year, and 1B is occupied by Brandon Allen, who is promising but only batted .200, those from major production positions). The rotation is far from stellar, too, with reclamation project Bartolo Colon optimistically slotted in as the #3 starter.
Manager: Bob Melvin
Projected Rotation: Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Bartolo Colon, Brad Peacock, Jarrod Parker
Projected Closer: Grant Balfour
Projected Starting Lineup:
Coco Crisp CF
Jemile Weeks 2B
Josh Reddick RF
Seth Smith/Manny Ramirez DH
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Brandon Allen 1B
Kurt Suzuki C
Josh Donaldson 3B
Cliff Pennington SS