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Know Your Foe: Is Moneyball dead for the Oakland Athletics?

Yes. No. Maybe.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I don't pretend to understand the Oakland Athletics. This is the team of Moneyball, a term that inspires atavistic terror in the hearts of baseball traditionalists and worshipful reverence from the stat-heads. But On Base Percentage is so 2005. GM Billy Beane might have been ahead of the curve at one point, but now every front office is bustling with Ivy Leaguers as well as Major Leaguers. Our own Jeff Bridich has a Harvard diploma hanging in his office. Are we in a post-Moneyball era? When everyone is searching for market inefficiencies, do they stop existing?

The A's have done well for themselves in the 2010's, regardless of whether they maintain an edge in the analytics department or not. They authored three straight playoff seasons from 2012 to 2014, riding MVP caliber seasons from Josh Donaldson and rosters without any major holes. But Donaldson is gone and 2015 hasn't been so kind to them.

At 34-44, the A's are in the AL West cellar. They're a half game worse than the Rockies and 10 games out in the division. Unless things turn around soon, I'd have to imagine that Beane will start contemplating trades.

So what's gone wrong for the A's this year? Fangraphs has them as the second worst defensive team in the league, ahead of only the White Sox. Free agent acquisition Billy Butler has gotten over 300 plate appearances and has been pretty much a train wreck, providing a .655 OPS and zero defensive value.

But while their defense is bad, and Butler is bad, the rest of the team appears to be...not that bad. They have nine regulars and semi-regulars with a wRC+ above 100 (100 is league average). They have actually scored forty more runs than they have allowed; their pythagorian winning percentage is .556. They have four starters with ERAs below 3.5, including Sonny Gray's ridiculous 2.09. The Rox will have to try to solve Gray tomorrow.

So what the heck is going on? The fact that they're 19-6 in one run games explains the wackiness of their pythagorian record. That's a whole lot of nail-biting losses.

So underrate this team at your own peril. They don't deserve their 10 games below .500 record.

Stephen Vogt has led the team offensively in his first full season. The catcher has popped 13 home runs and has a near-.400 OBP. Josh Reddick, Billy Burns, and Brett Lawrie are all having above average offensive seasons.

The aforementioned Gray is in the Cy Young conversation. Tonight's starter, Kendall Graveman, has a solid 3.86 ERA. Capping the series is Jesse Hahn, with his solid ground ball rate and 3.47 ERA.

West coast baseball is always a trial for the Rockies, but hopefully they can keep up the bad luck in Oakland for another three games.

Athletics hitting stats

Name G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Stephen Vogt 73 280 13 38 53 0 13.60% 20.40% 0.232 0.335 0.3 0.393 0.532 0.39 156 -1.1 16.6 0.2 2.8
Josh Reddick 70 290 10 33 46 3 8.30% 9.30% 0.177 0.288 0.287 0.345 0.464 0.352 129 2.8 12.3 -3.9 1.9
Josh Phegley 33 109 5 10 15 0 7.30% 13.80% 0.253 0.3 0.293 0.349 0.545 0.382 150 -1.6 4.5 4.1 1.3
Billy Burns 50 231 2 32 15 15 4.30% 13.90% 0.102 0.372 0.324 0.364 0.426 0.346 125 3.1 9.7 -5.6 1.3
Brett Lawrie 72 289 7 24 35 3 4.50% 26.30% 0.137 0.372 0.285 0.324 0.422 0.325 111 0.1 3.5 -2.7 1.1
Marcus Semien 77 310 6 34 18 7 7.10% 21.30% 0.136 0.321 0.262 0.314 0.399 0.311 101 0.5 0.8 -2.1 0.9
Mark Canha 53 198 8 27 26 5 7.60% 20.20% 0.169 0.265 0.242 0.308 0.41 0.315 104 1.1 1.9 -1.7 0.7
Eric Sogard 69 247 0 26 19 5 5.30% 13.40% 0.039 0.298 0.255 0.298 0.294 0.266 69 3.1 -5.5 1.5 0.4
Ben Zobrist 45 181 5 31 29 1 12.70% 7.70% 0.192 0.252 0.256 0.348 0.449 0.346 125 -0.6 4.4 -6.3 0.4
Sam Fuld 66 196 0 22 13 6 9.70% 15.80% 0.098 0.257 0.213 0.292 0.31 0.269 71 0.4 -5.9 2.8 0.4
Ike Davis 41 144 2 16 14 0 9.00% 15.30% 0.132 0.299 0.264 0.326 0.395 0.317 105 -0.1 0.7 -3.9 0.2
Tyler Ladendorf 4 11 0 3 2 0 9.10% 9.10% 0.2 0.222 0.2 0.273 0.4 0.289 85 0.5 0.3 -0.1 0.1
Andy Parrino 17 8 0 1 0 0 25.00% 62.50% 0 0 0 0.25 0 0.171 3 0.1 -0.8 -0.4 -0.1
Coco Crisp 13 52 0 4 0 1 13.50% 19.20% 0.022 0.057 0.044 0.173 0.067 0.134 -23 0.2 -7 2.3 -0.3
Cody Ross 9 25 0 3 3 0 12.00% 24.00% 0 0.125 0.091 0.2 0.091 0.153 -10 0 -3.1 -1 -0.4
Max Muncy 34 88 2 11 6 0 9.10% 27.30% 0.165 0.259 0.203 0.273 0.367 0.281 80 0.1 -1.9 -4.7 -0.4
Craig Gentry 17 43 0 3 2 1 7.00% 30.20% 0 0.115 0.079 0.163 0.079 0.126 -28 0.5 -5.7 -1.9 -0.7
Billy Butler 72 301 5 29 32 0 7.60% 15.90% 0.099 0.279 0.246 0.309 0.346 0.29 86 -5.1 -9.8 -7.4 -0.8

Athletics Pitching Stats

Name W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Sonny Gray 9 3 0 16 16 107.2 8.11 2.17 0.42 0.259 79.40% 54.20% 5.30% 2.09 2.68 3.3 3
Jesse Chavez 4 7 1 17 13 89.1 7.76 2.32 0.5 0.295 73.50% 40.90% 5.40% 3.02 2.91 3.63 2.1
Scott Kazmir 4 5 0 15 15 90.1 8.47 3.29 0.7 0.275 76.90% 44.10% 8.40% 2.79 3.38 3.66 1.5
Jesse Hahn 5 6 0 15 15 90.2 5.76 2.28 0.5 0.274 64.80% 53.10% 7.70% 3.47 3.56 3.84 1.3
Drew Pomeranz 2 3 1 20 8 53.1 7.09 3.88 0.68 0.266 64.70% 42.30% 7.50% 3.88 3.85 4.26 0.8
Evan Scribner 2 1 0 37 0 39.1 9.38 0.69 1.37 0.28 81.10% 41.70% 16.20% 2.97 3.3 2.63 0.4
Fernando Rodriguez 0 1 0 21 0 19.2 8.69 3.2 0 0.298 64.00% 39.30% 0.00% 4.12 2.38 4.3 0.3
Kendall Graveman 4 4 0 11 11 63 5.86 2.86 1.14 0.302 78.20% 47.80% 13.30% 3.86 4.59 4.26 0.2
Tyler Clippard 1 3 13 30 0 31.1 8.33 4.02 0.86 0.23 82.80% 18.90% 5.40% 2.87 3.93 5.17 0.1
Pat Venditte 0 0 0 4 0 5.2 6.35 3.18 0 0.083 100.00% 63.60% 0.00% 0 2.74 3.73 0.1
Sean Doolittle 0 0 0 1 0 1 18 0 0 0.5 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0 -0.9 0.49 0
Ryan Cook 0 2 0 4 0 4.1 6.23 6.23 0 0.412 50.00% 58.80% 0.00% 10.38 3.79 5.4 0
Arnold Leon 0 0 0 6 0 6.1 11.37 1.42 1.42 0.421 81.40% 63.20% 20.00% 4.26 3.1 2.14 0
Ike Davis 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 100.00% 100.00% 0.00% 0 3.1 3.1 0
Chad Smith 0 0 0 2 0 1.1 13.5 20.25 0 0.714 44.40% 14.30% 0.00% 33.75 9.1 11.19 0
Edward Mujica 1 1 0 9 0 8.1 8.64 1.08 2.16 0.25 57.70% 38.10% 22.20% 3.24 4.66 3.04 -0.1
Angel Castro 0 1 0 4 0 3 9 9 3 0.5 100.00% 60.00% 33.30% 3 8.43 5.49 -0.1
Chris Bassitt 0 0 0 5 0 10.2 6.75 7.59 0.84 0.143 70.50% 34.50% 7.10% 3.38 6.19 6.8 -0.1
Eric O'Flaherty 0 2 0 14 0 12 7.5 7.5 0.75 0.409 58.00% 60.50% 14.30% 8.25 5.01 4.74 -0.2
Dan Otero 2 3 0 23 0 24.1 5.92 1.85 1.48 0.338 63.70% 45.20% 14.30% 6.29 4.66 4.12 -0.2
R.J. Alvarez 0 0 0 10 0 9 16 6 4 0.429 37.30% 20.00% 28.60% 13 7.32 3.71 -0.3
Fernando Abad 0 2 0 29 0 19.1 7.91 2.33 2.33 0.241 82.40% 31.60% 16.70% 4.66 5.63 4.43 -0.4

Probable Pitchers

David Hale v. Kendall Graveman

Jorge De La Rosa v. Sonny Gray

Chad Bettis v. Jesse Hahn