Much has been said, recently, about Billy Beane‘s trading of three all stars at the end of the 2011 Athletics season and then going on to win the division in 2012 because it seems to mirror the moves he’s making during this current off season. Thanks to a great question submitted on our Ask.fm account, I thought I’d compare where we were then with where we are now in an attempt to anticipate where me may be in the future.
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Before we get going let’s keep in mind that the 2011 Athletics were marking the end of the Bob Geren era and the beginning of the Bob Melvin era. Melvin began managing the team mid season and finished out the remaining 99 games of the season, posting a 47-52 W/L record and steering the team away from their first 90+ loss season since 1997 (they were on pace for about 93 losses but ended up with 88).
The primary catcher for the 2011 Athletics was Kurt Suzuki. He was a decent hitter, good for 14 home runs in 2011 and a .237 average but was phased out during the 2012 season with the introduction of Derek Norris to the lineup.
Two thirds of the season saw Daric Barton and Brandon Allen manning first base and combining for a .208 average and 32 RBI’s. Neither of these guys saw significant playing time with the A’s in 2012 with the majority of first base duties being handled by Chris Carter and Brandon Moss and the platoon average jumping up to .265 and the RBI count climbing to 91. Assessment: Upgrade.
Mark Ellis and Jemile Weeks handled almost all of the second base duties and brought a .260 batting average to the plate, knocking in 52 runs. In 2012, Weeks took the majority of the games at second base and had a huge drop off in production at the plate. Assessment: Downgrade
The 2011 Athletics had Scott Sizemore, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Andy LaRoche at third base. The three combined for .239 average and 74 RBI’s. All three of these guys were gone by 2012 and replaced by Brandon Inge and Josh Donaldson. Now the platoon averaged .233 average with 85 RBI’s. At the plate, this may seem like an even trade or, at least, a slight upgrade but defensively, Donaldson was a mess in 2012 and had 13 in 72 games so maybe it wasn’t an upgrade but a downgrade. Of course, when you look at what Donaldson was to become in 2013 my final assessment is that this was a huge upgrade.
Cliff Pennington was at shortstop for the majority of the 2011 Athletics season and he posted a .264 average and drove in 58 RBI’s. In 2012 the split of Pennington, Stephen Drew and Brandon Hicks hit for a .212 average and drove in 51 runs. In terms of getting on base, this was a huge dropoff and Pennington’s numbers dropped from .264 to .215. Assessment: Downgrade
Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, and Ryan Sweeney were the primary components of the 2011 Athletics outfield. The quartet combined for a .253 average, drove in 223 and hit 48 homers. Crisp was the only member of this outfield to return in 2012 with Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, and Collin Cowgill joining the ranks and hitting for a .265 average, driving in 222 and hitting 67 homers. Although the RBI count was pretty similar, the power of this outfield platoon was a lot of fun to watch and Reddick’s stellar defense earned him a gold glove that year. Assessment: Upgrade
I don’t want to get into the pitching aspect of it all because the Oakland Athletics have always maintained a solid pitching staff. What conclusion can we draw from the above? Well, the positions where Beane made a lot of moves excelled and usually surpassed the previous year by a noticeable margin and the positions that Beane left alone had large drop offs and regression.
As I’ve written and podcasted and tweeted, Josh Donaldson was down in almost every category from 2013 to 2014 and Brandon Moss is a 31 year old coming off of hip surgery. Brett Lawrie has very comparable numbers to Donaldson, when you stretch his numbers out over the course of a full season, and Billy Butler could be one slight adjustment away from being a 25+ home run hitter again.
Sure, it hurts to lose your favorite players but if history has taught us anything it’s that we aren’t out of the game just yet and good things could be on the horizon.