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     Ten years ago, the Oakland Athletics were on the cusp of greatness, finishing first in the American League at the vanguard for their groundbreaking usage of sabermetrics in baseball. By disposing of previously valued statistics such as runs batted in and instead focusing on the importance of nontraditional numbers like on-base and slugging percentage, the A's stormed to 103 wins. This occurred even after losing ex-MVP Jason Giambi, starting outfielder Johnny Damon, and closer Jason Isringhausen to free agency, only further making their season all the more impressive. The financially disadvantaged A's (third lowest payroll in the league) lead by General Manager Billy Beane (AKA Brad Pitt) exploited a market inefficiency that was later compiled and chronicled in Michael Lewis' "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game." However, since "Moneyball," front offices around the league now actively use sabermetrics to make decisions about acquiring, disposing, and evaluating talent. Once ahead of the curve, Oakland was soon buried by larger market teams utilizing the same sabermetric methods.           
      Ten years later, Oakland is making another surprising playoff push, currently two games up on intra-division rival Los Angeles in the contested Wild Card chase. However, the statistical foundation of the unexpected 2002 run is no longer paramount to Oakland's 2012 success. Oakland is third last in the Junior Circuit in on-base percentage (.309) and in addition to having the fifth worst slugging percentage (.399). Also, two more important facets of the "Moneyball" concept include that speed is overrated and big money free agents are not usually worth their value, especially value that could be found much more cheaply. Yet, the Athletics have stolen the ninth most bases in the league and splurged on Cuban defector and Youtube workout sensation Yoenis Cespedes (4 years/$36 million), fringe outfielder Coco Crisp (2 years/$14 million) while absorbing the remaining money for Stephen Drew ($7.5 million). These seemingly risky moves have not only worked out, but have been huge reasons for the East Bay baseball revival. Cespedes, in addition to hitting moonshots like this (462 feet), has been remarkably productive when healthy, with a .289/.350/.492 line and 132 OPS+.  Yet, Oakland also has stayed true to "dumpster diving" past, acquiring the likes of Brandon Inge, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Moss, and George Kottaras after falling out of favor with their previous club. Guys like Gomes, Moss, and Kottaras have produced with OPS+ of 138, 150, and 119 respectively while Brandon Inge has defensively solidified third base.
       In addition to these methods of evaluating talent, Oakland has also begun to appreciate different statistics usually disregarded by other teams. First, Oakland has grounded into the second least amount of double plays in baseball (only 93 times) compared to Detroit, which has grounded into two outs a staggering 150 times. That is 114 more outs in which Oakland has been able to prolong an inning and find a way to score runs. Alternately, the Athletics lead the league in strikeouts, which has actually  allowed them to stay out of double plays and extend the inning, contrary to popular belief that strikeouts are bad. Another example of Oakland getting on base and being able to stay there is illustrated with its stolen base percentage. Oakland has a staggering 80% success rate (tied for second in all of baseball). On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been caught 50 times compared to only 30 for Oakland, which has resulted in a horrid 58 success rate. This ability to stay on base upon arriving there has evidently led to more runs and thus more victories. These smart and efficient methods on offense along with a pitching staff fifth in ERA and sixth lowest batting average against have combined to produce one of baseball's biggest surprises. Undoubtedly, Oakland remains in the forefront of evaluating talent usually overlooked by larger market teams, except this time they are using a new kind of Moneyball.  


 


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