Following an off season that saw many of the Oakland Athletics’ star players traded away for, as always, a host of prospects and players on the decline, the expectation for the A’s power was drastically diminished. Billy Beane traded a lineup filled with power hitters and replaced them with, what many analysts believed, a lineup with virtually no home run potential.
Then spring training came around and the narrative changed from the Oakland Athletics having zero power to having distributed power meaning that instead of four 30 home run hitters, the team now had 10 12+ home run hitters.
Then the first two weeks of the season came and the A’s are tied for the highest run differential in the league and are second in all of baseball for most runs scored. So what is causing all of this run support if not for the long ball?
Extra Base Hits
So far, the Oakland Athletics have 28 doubles and 5 triples for a combined 33 extra base hits. In the same stretch of 2014 the A’s had only 16 doubles and 4 triples for a combined 20 extra base hits. That is 13 more runners in scoring position right from the batters box which, obviously, enhances a team’s chances of scoring considerably.
With the speed that the 2015 A’s have on the base path, it doesn’t take much to bring a runner home from second (unless said runner is Billy Butler, then it’ll take at least a double) and with so many men getting onto second and third it is no wonder that the team is driving in so many runs.
Believe it or not, the Oakland Athletics are actually setting a decent pace in the home run department and they’re coming from every part of the lineup. After 12 games, the 2015 Oakland Athletics have 10 home runs from eight different players. After 12 games in 2014, the team had 12 home runs from 8 players but one of those players was Alberto Callaspo who only hit three more during the season and another was Sam Fuld who only hit three more on the season.
It’s very possible that some of this year’s home run hitters may only have a couple more in them but it’s also possible that Ike Davis, Josh Reddick, Billy Butler, and Mark Canha have 10 or 15 more in them. Even Sam Fuld is showing a great deal more power in 2015, nearly matching his Oakland numbers in triples in the first week and a half.
While they may not be the home run threat they once were, they are still a legitimate concern and if guys like Reddick and Davis can start to echo their past glories, you may see a season with more homers than 2014. Maybe.
Left on Base
One thing that really hurt the 2014 Athletics, particularly late in the season when the home runs started drying up, was leaving men on base. In the first 12 games of 2014, the A’s left 93 players on base. 93! That’s an average of almost 8 players per day. If you’ve been following our Almanac, you’ll know that the A’s have left 81 players on base in 2015 which is still a lot of potential runs but it’s also an entire runner less per game.
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The only way this stat matters, truly, is if the OBP is pretty similar to last year and, as luck would have it, the OBP was actually lower in 2014 (.321) versus 2015 (.338) which means that the team is getting more men on base and leaving fewer of them behind.
None of these stats, by themselves, will automatically equate to more wins but if they can maintain these areas of strength, especially when their pitching staff isn’t shutting out 41% of their games, the likelihood of success is going to increase greatly.
The Pythagorean win record for the A’s is currently at 9, three more than they have actually won, which indicates that the opportunity and ability for more wins has presented itself to this young team and if their offense can remain consistent, their pitching remain dominant and their fielding gets tighter over the course of the season, we will start to see a win record get closer to the Pythagorean and not slip further and further away.