It wasn’t long ago when the Oakland Athletics were the darling of baseball thanks to the work of former general manager and current VP of baseball operations Billy Beane. The A’s always seemed to be in contention despite their extremely limited payroll. Those days are gone it seems. These days the A’s look like they aren’t even being put together by the same man.
One thing the A’s and Beane have stressed is defense. New general manager David Forst is a Beane disciple, so there shouldn’t be much of a change in philosophy. The A’s have been willing to play someone at a position where offense is expected if that player was above-average defensively. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Right now, the only Athletic players who are above-average defensively in the very early going are Josh Reddick in right field and Yonder Alonso at first base. Everyone else has played below-average defense according to Fangraphs’ fielding runs above average statistic.
In baseball you can get away with being a little subpar defensively if you are scoring runs. The A’s aren’t even doing that. They are averaging just 2.85 runs per game and have scored three or fewer runs in nine of their first 13 games. That is absolutely pathetic.
This team doesn’t have the feel of your typical Beane-built team. Only Reddick has an OBP of .340 or better with at least 20 at-bats. Backup catcher Josh Phegley, who has appeared in just five games with 16 at-bats, has a .412 OBP.
It is still very early. The Athletics have managed to put up a 6-7 record so far in spite of their offense. There is a chance that players will start to come around offensively and the A’s could rattle off a slew of wins. However, right now, this team has more of a feel of a halfway house for baseball players rather than a core of players that is being built upon for a run to the playoffs.
Given the A’s recent history there should be some confidence in the front office that they can put together a contender. The A’s always seem to exceed expectations, and they are doing that this season to a degree by only being one game under .500 despite their pathetic offense. Then again, the A’s have been very unpredictable lately with roster moves and you never know what is coming next, kind of like the Billy Butler signing. We shall see where the A’s stand in the middle of July. Then again, the A’s are unpredictable enough to be sellers even if they are in first. At least they aren’t boring.