Oakland fading out of the AL West picture

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The Oakland Athletics started this month right near the top of the AL West race. It was thought that the “Moneyball” franchise could actually be adding pieces as the trading deadline approached in 2010. But instead, they now find themselves in free-fall. The A’s lost for the tenth time in 12 games Wednesday night, and fell to a season-low six games under .500. They now trail the first-place Texas Rangers by 10 1/2 games. If they don’t turn it around soon, the A’s could be sellers once again at the deadline. And any team in need of a left-handed stick will take a long hard look at Jack Cust. (Unless of course the newly activated Coco Crisp can save them.)

Recently, I asked Athletics manager Bob Geren why his team was so good in one run games; they’re currently tied with division rival Los Angeles for the second best record in baseball at 12-7.

By Paul M. Banks

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“Good question, I need to think about that one,” he responded.

“I don’t think there’s any one key to it. A big reason is we have a good bullpen, when we’ve had leads we’ve been able to keep them. We’ve run the bases well and been a pretty decent situational hitting team. We’ve moved runners, gotten guys over,” Geren continued.

The Oakland organization is famous for playing by the “Moneyball” philosophy; which manifests itself in the front office by being cost-effective. On the field, it manifests with an emphasis on OPS percentages, drawing walks, and ALWAYS obtaining the extra base whenever possible. This Athletics team is no different.

“The style of offense we have, we don’t have a lot of big home run hitters where we’re gonna break games open. So we’re going to play a lot of close games and going to do a lot of the small things fundamentally to win these games,” Geren said.

The numbers bear this out. Oakland is second in the American League in sacrifice hits, third in sacrifice flies, and first (3rd overall in the major leagues) in stolen base percentage. The flipside follows suit as well, as the A’s have the second fewest home runs, and fourth lowest slugging percentage.

So can the A’s win enough one-run games to get back into contention?

One number in their favor is their inter-league record; only because they have just three games of that sort remaining. And it’s versus lowly Pittsburgh, who are sporting a 2-9 record in games versus American League opponents. Something will have to give when they take on Oakland, who have the AL’s third worst interleague record at 5-10.

But there’s a much bigger numerical trend working against them. They have 29 games left before the MLB trading deadline, 7 of which are day games. The other 22 are at night, and that’s unfortunate because Oakland has the second worst record in the American League in night games. Conversely, the A’s have the best ERA and best record in day games in all the Major Leagues.

There’s still a chance, but a very small one. If the statistical trends hold up, the Athletics will officially declare themselves open to MLB’s buyers very soon.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com


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