Is Beane Anticipating Regression in 2015?


The 2014 Oakland Athletics are dead. They’ve ceased to be. They’ve expired and gone to meet their maker. They’re a stiff. Bereft of life. They’re a team for history to analyze and for fans to lament. They were great but not great enough. Billy Beane is taking a lot of heat from fans this week as he’s now traded his third all-star of the off season and his fourth in six months but, in all honesty, he’s right to do so. Now, as a fan of the Oakland Athletics, I’m upset about some of these moves. I like Brandon Moss and don’t know if they got enough in return. Josh Donaldson was fun to watch, but I can defend every move Beane has made so far.

To all the fans who think Beane is destroying this team, consider that he’s only traded three players and has, in the process, added a small army of players to a farm system you were just criticizing him of depleting at the trade deadline.

The fact of the matter is this, the Oakland Athletics, as they were in 2014, may not have been able to compete in 2015. Billy Beane keeps bringing up finishing 11 games behind the Angels last year as his catalyst for changing things up. I have criticized that argument because you can’t trade this year to win last year but if the Angels perform in the same way next year, the A’s are in trouble. Personally, I don’t think they’ll have quite as much success simply due to the fact that they capitalized on the Rangers injuries, the Athletics late season slide and the Astros weakness. All of those factors could be off the table in 2015.

The Rangers will be healthy again in April and lightning can’t possibly strike the same spot 25 or 30 times and take Texas out of the race. If they stay healthy, they’re a powerhouse that could do some serious damage. That may keep the Angels around 88-90 wins but that also means that Texas could pull out a win record in the upper 80’s.

We all know how good Seattle is and Billy Beane has to realize that they were right on our coat tails for that second wildcard spot and with their off season wheeling and dealing, they’ve only improved. So, now you’re looking at the Angels, Rangers and Mariners as potential 85+ win teams.

That leaves only the Astros. Do I think the Astros will take the division? No. Do I think they’ll have a winning season? Yes and a winning season for Houston means a few extra losses for the A’s and the rest of the AL West.

The 2013 A’s scared the division and all of these teams built their rosters to beat the A’s in 2014. One of them did. In 2015, it is very possible that the AL West will have three playoff teams and if the Athletics want to contend, they can’t go out with the same team that couldn’t get it done last year. As much as we love them, they didn’t get past the wildcard game.

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Josh Donaldson had a drop in every offensive category in 2014. His RBI and homerun count went up by 5 but his batting average dropped from .301 to .255, his OBP went from .384 to .342 and his SLG went from .499 to .456. Defensively he had eight more errors in five fewer games at third base which put him right on the same pace as his 2012 year, when we all cursed his defensive play. This may not indicate a true slide but it may indicate that 2013 was a career year and he’s settling down to his standard. All-star games and gold glove nominations in 2014, I feel, were more a response to his snubs in 2013 and if Beane sniffs even a hint of regression, he’s going to start shopping.

Brandon Moss, who I adore as a good dude and a solid player, had a terrible slump in the second half and is a bit of a wild card considering he’s coming off of hip surgery. If he’s one bad swing away from being on the DL for most of the season, he’s worthless and expensive. Beane doesn’t keep worthless and expensive on the roster and may have considered the off season surgery a red flag for potential injury in 2015.

Jeff Samardzija was always a rental and we all knew it from the get-go. With only one year left on his contract and the return of Parker and Griffin this season, it was unlikely that Samardzija was going to make it through the entire season even if he did make it through the hot stove period.

So, with these three guys, I can defend the trades so far. Billy Beane is building a team that can be competitive in 2015 and can be a rock star in 2016. Most of the free agents that have left the team were short-term fixes (Soto, Gomes, Lester, Hammel) or expendable (Callaspo) and although he’s traded three incredibly popular players, he may see things in the future a bit better than we do. The fact of the matter is this: last year’s team as is in 2015 may have been great and may have contended but it would have been too expensive to sign in 2016 and with a weak farm system, it would have been years before the team was strong again. As it stands now, the team may still be great in 2015 but is considerably more affordable and with a replenished farm system will be ready to compete for years to come.

It hurts now but we may be looking at a golden age in Athletics baseball starting in 2012 and lasting for the next several years. Plus, we’ve still got Doolittle so how bad could we be?

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