|OS Real Time|
|Mark Forums Read|
|Edit Your Details|
Gary Armida's Blog
Billy Beane's Midas Touch in 2012Posted on August 30, 2012 at 05:50 AM.
They probably won’t make a movie about the 2012 Oakland A’s, although Hollywood has been on a remake kick this past year. The A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, has long been praised and chastised because of the Michael Lewis classic baseball read, Moneyball. As with most stories, a reader’s reaction can either heighten the highs or lower the lows. Billy Beane has received both sides of that treatment, which has warped the perception and reality of his performance. Praised as a baseball savant by some, Beane’s detractors will counter that his moneyball techniques haven’t even resulted in a pennant.
Truthfully, no General Manager is really ahead of the game. Some will find an angle to exploit for a while, but the rest of the industry will always catch up. Beane exploited on base percentage for a while, but the rest of the league--more importantly the teams with more money--caught on as well. He’s tried to exploit other inefficiencies, but none of have produced a winning season as the A’s have just one .500 season in the last five years.
When the A’s were turned down for a new stadium, things looked bleak. Beane felt he had to sell some of players who were about to make big money in arbitration rather than his standard practice of simply letting players walk via free agency. This winter he sold off 23 year old starter Trevor Cahill and 25 year old Gio Gonzalez is two separate deals. He also traded his closer and former Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey to Boston. This was the signal of another long rebuild. If the A’s were not going to get a new stadium, they were going to be quite young.
Except, Beane sort of tricked us all.
While the 75 win team from a season ago was trading most of its best players, Beane wasn’t rebuilding at all. He was reorganizing. For Cahill, he obtained Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill, and Jarrod Parker. Cahill is a talented pitcher who has improved his strikeout rate enough to be a solid Major League pitcher. At 24 years old, he still has some ceiling left to reach.
By dealing Cahill, Beane was able to get the 23 year old Parker who has a similar, perhaps a notch higher, ceiling at a cheaper cost. Coincidentally, Parker and Cahill are having eerily similar 2012 seasons as Cahill is 9-11 with a 3.99 ERA along with averages of 8.8 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 6.8 K/9. Meanwhile, Parker, in his rookie year, is 8-7 with a 3.52 ERA with averages of 8.1 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 6.9 K/9.
While the two are having similar seasons, the A’s also have Ryan Cook who made the All-Star team this season out of the bullpen. Cook has filled both the closer and setup role this season and is 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA along with 60 strikeouts in 55 innings.
Dealing Gio Gonzalez wasn’t received all that well. Gonzalez had the potential to be a dominant starter and carry the A’s. But, he was set to make even more money than Cahill so Beane dealt him to Washington for AJ Cole, Derek Norris, Tommy Milone, and Brad Peacock. Gonzalez has been everything Washington could’ve hoped for, but once again Beane found quite a value in the deal. The big prize in the trade was supposed to be 24 year old starter Brad Peacock who was ranked as the number 36 prospect in Baseball by Baseball America before the season. Peacock has struggled at triple-A this season, which has clouded his value just a bit. 20 year old AJ Cole began his single-A season at a scorching pace, but has struggled since being promoted to high-A ball. The two prospects may be struggling now, but the depth of this trade is one of the major reasons why the A’s are contending.
Tommy Milone is a 25 year old southpaw who is 11-9 with a 3.73 ERA in 25 starts along with averages of 9.0 H/9, 1.8 BB/9, and 6.6 K/9. In terms of WAR, Milone has produced 2.3 WAR while Gonzalez has produced 4.2. There is no doubt that Gonzalez has been the better pitcher by any standard, but Milone has been a positive for the A’s as the last piece of the big trade.
23 year old catcher Derek Norris’ .196/.272/.343 batting line is ugly, but he has shown power potential in the Minor Leagues and does have 6 doubles and 5 home runs in 143 at bats.
Beane’s best deal might have been his trade of closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. He received 19 year old right hander Raul Alcantara, who is struggling this season along with 21 year old corner infielder Miles Head who has produced a .983 OPS between high-A ball and double-A this season along with 32 doubles, 8 triples, and 23 home runs. The final piece of the deal was outfielder Josh Reddick. While Bailey spent most of the year on the disabled list, Reddick carried the A’s for most of the first half of the season and is still producing an .803 OPS and 26 home runs.
The trades have yielded positive results, but his most impactful move of the winter was signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four year $36 million contract. The financial savings from the trades made room in the budget to make the risky signing of a potentially elite player. While Cespedes has difficulty with the strikeout, he is one of the most gifted and powerful players in the sport. Hitting .294/.355/.500 along with 19 doubles, 3 triples, 16 home runs, and 12 stolen bases, Cespedes has given the A’s a legitimate presence in the middle of the order and a player to build an offense around.
Beane’s lesser acquisitions of Jonny Gomes, Bartolo Colon (now out on a PED suspension), Brandon Moss, and Seth Smith didn’t garner attention, but all four have helped make the A’s real playoff contenders. His decisions to recall Chris Carter, Moss, and make waiver claim on Travis Blackley have keyed the A’s success. Sensing a playoff spot, Beane made a waiver trade for shortstop Stephen Drew to upgrade from Cliff Pennington who is a good defender, but poor hitter.
All of his moves have resulted in positive gains this season. More importantly, the A’s are winning games. They are holding on to the first Wild Card position with a 72-57 record, which is astounding for a team that was picked by most to lose close to 100 games.
Offensively, the A’s are nothing special. They rank 13th in the league in runs scored and on base percentage. They rank 11th in slugging and last in batting average. But, they rank 8th in home runs. Because of Beane’s roster management, the A’s have seven different players with more than 10 home runs. Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes have essentially formed a perfect platoon as they have hit 27 home runs combined. For a while, Brandon Moss was carrying the offense; then Chris Carter was. It seemed that whoever Beane called up, the player would get hot.
But, it has been the pitching that has carried the A’s. Despite losing their two best pitchers from 2011, the A’s rotation ERA of 3.74 is second to just the Tampa Bay Rays. They give up the least amount of home runs and walk the fewest hitters in the league. That compensates for a pedestrian strikeout rate and one of the worst groundball rates. The bullpen, lead by Cook, Grant Balfour, Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins, and Junior Norberto have the second best ERA in the league and are seventh in strikeouts. Like the rotation, they have one of the worst groundball rates in the league.
Usually, a poor groundball rate and a middling strikeout rate are a recipe for disaster. But, the A’s play to the strength of their stadium--the one they are trying to leave--which is one of the friendlier pitching parks in the league. They also have one of the best defenses in the league according to UZR (ranked 4th) and defensive runs saved (ranked 6th). That also compensates for more balls put into play.
Heading into the final month of the season, the A’s hold the Wild Card lead in one of the most surprising developments of the year. No expert picked the A’s higher than third place in their own division, let alone to be contending for a playoff berth. They aren’t the most talented team, but Billy Beane has made more impactful moves this season than he ever has. Everything he’s done has worked. That doesn’t happen in most years, but it is happening now.
The A’s continue to win and are actually improving with their ace, Brett Anderson, returning from Tommy John Surgery with two stellar starts. With a difficult September schedule that includes seven games against both the Angels and Rangers, three against both the Orioles and Tigers, and three against the Yankees, the A’s will have a difficult time holding onto their lead. But, Billy Beane has compiled a team that is actually competing for a playoff berth in the final month of the season. They shouldn’t be here and he’s moved many players on and off of the roster. Yet, they are here.
No matter the result, Billy Beane is worthy of praise this season. Given his budget and predicament, his every move has had a positive impact on a very positive season. From his offseason trades to his scrapheap free agent additions, Billy Beane has fielded Major League Baseball’s most surprising team and probable best story of 2012.
Nobody will make a movie about Beane’s 2012 performance, but they should. This one is actually worthy of it.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 210 days ago)
MEMBER # 13,930
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 210 days ago)
MEMBER # 13,930
2,669 Forum Posts
0.76 Posts Per Day
147 Blog Entries
284 News/Blog Comments
2 Reader Score Votes
0 Chalkboard Messages
233,371 Arena Visits
Gary Armida's Blog Categories
More Gary Armida's Friends