Let’s be clear about what’s being said here: The A’s aren’t anyone’s division favorites. Not now, and not in March, I’m going to guess. The Astros are no longer up and coming; they’re up and they’ve come. The Rangers are coming off a huge bounce-back season, the Mariners are surrounding their core with more depth, and the Angels have baseball’s best player. The AL West is going to be tough, and the A’s probably have the most to prove.
But the A’s were supposed to be competitive in 2015. Not great, but competitive. That didn’t work out, and they’ve made some moves I’m sure they’d love to undo. Yet there’s a road to being competitive again in 2016. Understanding it requires some understanding of what, exactly, went wrong in the past season. It’s always complicated, for any team, but for the 2015 A’s, the story might be the least complicated possible.
I started thinking about this after receiving an email Thursday that referred to something I wrote in July. At that point, I called the A’s the unluckiest* team of the millennium. The asterisk serves a purpose — I don’t actually like the word “luck” in baseball. What happens happens. There’s just not a great list of alternative terms. Anyway, this relies upon a metric called BaseRuns. I don’t want to get too math-y, but BaseRuns is intended to calculate an expected team winning percentage, based on performance. What gets stripped away is the element of timing. Timing is critical, of course, but it’s not always predictive. Team records tend to follow team BaseRuns records. Deviations are common over the short term, but they’ll mostly balance out given time.
I’ve got team BaseRuns data stretching back to 2002. Which means I have actual team records, and BaseRuns team records. Below, see the teams with the greatest differences between those records, where the actual record was worse than expected:
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.