Moneyball is back in baseball
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane has done it again, showing that money doesn’t buy happiness or playoff spots.
No one expected much from Beane’s team earlier this season, as naming three players in its everyday lineup was a question even too difficult for Jeopardy.
Now, the A’s are the AL West champions, coming back from a 13-game deficit on June 30 to dethrone the two-time defending AL champions Rangers. As Oakland completed the three-game sweep of Texas on Wednesday, it was the first time since April 8 that the Rangers were not in at least a tie for first place.
No need to bring back Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Moneyball 2 is right in front of your eyes. All offseason, everyone wanted to talk about Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels and their payroll of more than $154 million. If you spend that much money, you’re guaranteed at least a spot in the AL championship series, right? Wrong. Sometimes the Beane philosophy beats the George Steinbrenner model.
The case is the same this year as Oakland’s payroll, which is nearly $100 million less than the Angels’, gave it five more wins. This is the difference between a first-round series at home or sitting on your sofa.
So how did a team that spent $5 million less than the MLB-worst Houston Astros find its way into the playoffs in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball? It’s called getting the most bang for your buck. The A’s didn’t need big names and hefty contracts to win games; a young nucleus of talent did the trick — led by their fantastic pitching.
Oakland doesn’t have household names like Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia or Justin Verlander on its pitching staff, and frankly, it doesn’t need them. With young guns like Jarrod Parker (13-8), Tommy Milone (13-10), A.J. Griffin (7-1) on the front-end — none of whom are 26 yet— and a solid bullpen with Grant Balfour (24 saves) and Ryan Cook (21 holds), the A’s gave up only 614 runs this season (second fewest in the AL).
This can be compared to the Angels’ high-profile pitching staff, which included Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, Zach Greinke and C.J. Wilson, that gave up 85 more runs.
However, despite the sensational pitching from the A’s, the way they scored runs is head scratching. Aside from the fact they don’t have any big names in their order, only two players on the team, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss, hit higher than .290.
Josh Reddick carried a great deal of the load, hitting 32 home runs with 85 RBIs. The 25-year-old is yet another bright spot on a team of young, rising stars. While the batting order doesn’t feature a Triple Crown winner like Miguel Cabrera or a surplus of power like the Yankees, Oakland knows how to get it done with timely hitting — especially in the clutch.
Many experts will probably shy away from picking the A’s to win in the postseason, even with their shining 94-68 record. However, believe it or not, this team is for real. A first-round matchup with the Tigers will be an intriguing one.
Will the star power of Verlander, Cabrera and Prince Fielder outweigh the magical run of the A’s? Time will tell, but if we can learn anything from last season when the Cardinals won the title, it’s this: Destiny trumps talent.
The A’s are the hottest team entering the postseason right now. And don’t expect that to change, as Beane will continue to get his money’s worth and so much more.
Derek is a senior in Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @feeldapaign.