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Primed For Improvement: Oakland Athletics Edition
Jason Follain. 2nd February, 2011 - 8:41 pm

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Primed For Improvement: Oakland Athletics Edition

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Per baseball-reference.com, a team?s Pythagorean record is what you would expect a team?s regular season record to be given the aggregate number of runs it scored as well as the number of runs it allowed over the course of a season. At season?s end, this gives us an idea of the teams that may have underachieved or simply were a tad unlucky. Pythagorean records can be extremely close to actual record, believe it or not. In fact, 25 of 30 Major League teams? Pythagorean records were within 3 or less wins of their actual record.

The A?s are a team that could be primed to make a run at the 2011 American League West crown. In 2010, their Pythagorean record suggests that they should have won five more games, which would have given them 86 on the season. The Texas Rangers won the division with 90 wins and I am of the opinion that the multitude of acquisitions made by Billy Beane and team could be enough to close that gap. The pitcher-friendly confines of McAfee Coliseum combined with a group of talented young hurlers could catapult the A?s into contention in 2011.

What Went Wrong

Offense, offense, offense. More specifically, the 2010 Athletics lacked the necessary power to support their fine pitching en route to a .500 record. Only the historically woeful Seattle Mariners? offense had a worse slugging percentage last season than the team that has an elephant for a mascot (as an aside, I never understood that?I?ve seen those videos of an elephant kicking a soccer ball around, but I can?t imagine they are particularly athletic compared to the rest of the animal kingdom). A prime example of the lack of punch that this lineup provided lies in the fact that the team leader in the home run category was Kevin Kouzmanoff?with 16. Enough said.

Typically a team that values the art of taking a walk, the A?s were not so adept in this category in 2010. With a team OBP figure of .324, having more runners on base in 2011 will surely jump-start the offense towards respectability. Seeing as the Oakland front office pioneered the art of pursuing undervalued offensive assets (by way of targeting high OBP hitters), it seems contrarian to the team philosophy to have fielded such an offense last season. All in all, power and the ability to get on base are the main cogs that drive a successful offense and the A?s of 2010 did not excel in either category.

What Should Change in 2011

The A?s were very aggressive in remaking their 2011 lineup in the trade and free agent market. You have to give Beane credit for specifically addressing his team?s needs while not overly depleting the strength of his ballclub, pitching. While Oakland did not acquire any superstar level players, they were able to improve the overall makeup of the offense. One of the positions that could stand some improvement was the Designated Hitter slot, with Oakland DH?s producing a .736 OPS in 2010. Beane addressed this by acquiring full-time DH Hideki Matsui, a player who compiled an .820 OPS in 2010 and has a career figure of .848.

In another move to improve the offense, Oakland traded for outfielder Josh Willingham, who quietly had two impressive seasons with the Washington Nationals. His bat should provide a much-needed injection of power to an otherwise punchless offense, as he was able to produce an .856 OPS in his two seasons in our nation?s capitol. Willingham accomplishes this with above-average power and the propensity to take a walk, two things that were sorely lacking in the A?s 2010 lineup. He is not known as a stellar defensive outfielder, but Oakland knew it would have to sacrifice some defense for offense over the course of the offseason.

In a separate trade with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland added another solid performer in David DeJesus. Coming off of the best offensive season of his career, DeJesus brings his all around game to Oakland. Despite going down to injury on July 22, and missing the remainder of the season, Dejesus compiled an .827 OPS, the highest of his career. The A?s are getting a player in the prime of his career who excels in nearly every facet of the game.

With these three acquisitions on offense in addition the dependable bullpens arms they acquired via free agency in Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour, the A?s appear ready to challenge for West supremacy in 2011.