A Visual Look at a Decade of Sagging Offense

Editor's Note: Speaking of what a FanPost should be, one of our most reliable contributors to that department is Ciderbeck! Enjoy this FanPost as you revel in the A's first June victory -- hopefully the first of many to come! -Nico

Here we are in June, ranked 2nd to last in offense ahead of only the woefully pathetic Pirates (tip: every time you disparage the A’s, just flip on a Pittsburgh game and you’ll feel better). How did it come to this?

I’ve been seeking an answer to that question for a long while now. We know the answer in 42 (if you don’t get that, go learn about Douglas Adams, a recommended summer read!), but what’s the Ultimate Question? For me, it’s this: Is there anything the A’s could have done to get back to becoming a winning club as soon as this year?

My ambitious plan: go through EVERY SINGLE MOVE since 2008 and find out just what it does take to rebuild a club. You may think you know, do you really know? How hard is it to net an All-Star hitter in the draft? Just how many trades can a GM come out ahead on? Every team has stories of top prospects gone bust and trades gone awry. Travis Buck. Tim Hudson. Did you just cringe a little? Yeah, every team's fans know a few names like that.

I warn you, there will gambles that failed. Sometimes things just don’t break your way. Father Grant Desme? Those happen. But I’m looking for the avoidable wrong turns. Mistakes that were made that shouldn’t have been. Or just times when better options were out there. C'mon, we signed Brian Fuentes, why'd that happen? Sure there wasn’t much left on the free agent market, but there must have been something better out there, right?

We all know the pitching isn’t a real big problem (though if you look at 2009 again you may be surprised). It’s the offense. I wanted to get a better picture in my head of what it looked like to go from a team ranked 4th in total runs scored in 2000 to the present bunch of dretch. So I made this:


What you’re looking at is the OPS generated by position from 2000 through to 2012. That includes everyone who took an at-bat for the team at that spot on the diamond. The could be one or two players or in could be a rotating cast of a half-dozen guys. The top chart is the OPS output for the year, not the best measure of hitting but I think it paints a good general picture of the team history. The colors are just a general overall gradient, not tied to anything specific. Blue is better, red is worse.

The bottom is the chart I really wanted to see. That bottom one looks at relative output. How much more or less did Oakland get offensively from each position relative to league average. A value of 100 is exactly league average: Mark Ellis & co. circa 2009-2010. 130 or more and you’re talking league MVP (Miggy 2002, Giambi 2000). A value of 77? That gets you 2007 Dan Johnson/Bobby Crosby type hitting.

One more note. The numbers in bold above in OPS chart show the MLB rank of the A's offense that year by total runs scored.

I can stare all day at that graph. Look at that RF spike in 2012. Thank you Reddick! LF was a problem for years, then Josh Willingham finally plugged that hole for a spell in 2011. One thing that’s very apparent. Losing Jason Giambi hurt A LOT. We think of 3B as the endless black hole for the A’s. But then I see that we’ve only had one above average hitting 1B-man season (Barton et. al. 2010) since Giambi left. Big problem spot.

There's lots to look at above, but to get the real analysis one needs to go deeper, like Inception but with data. So deeper into the numbers I shall journey. For now, enjoy. And let's certainly hope the giant red gash on the end of the above tables starts turning a nicer color sooner rather than later.

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