As play opens today, the A's sit one game back in the standings behind the Angels, who technically hold the 1st Wild Card spot. The A's are a half-game up on the Orioles, clinging to the 2nd wild card spot with the Rays, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and White Sox all nipping at their heels. I've previously written about regression, and the A's not truly having a chance to compete until 2013 at the earliest. Indeed, the day I wrote about that, the A's promptly reeled off 9 consecutive losses.
Recent events, however, have caused to me to doubt my baseball worldview in this respect. Joe Sheehan, formerly of BP and now writing for SI and his own causes, has been insinuating what might be called the analytical standpoint about the A's: walk-offs and one-run victories are not repeatable. In other words, the A's will pumpkin sooner or later; it's simply a matter of time. While I understand that analytically, and how it's possible that the A's Pythagorean record (which currently stands at 50-45) might be masking true offensive deficiencies, it's also hard now to say that the A's should just not try to capture lightning in a bottle. Consider the following (after the jump):
That Pythagorean record does mean something. Yes, the A's have clear offensive deficiencies at SS, C, 3B, and 2B but their run prevention is top-notch. Yes, their K% is very low compared to the rest of the league, which indicates that the Coliseum is playing a big part in run prevention. At the end of the day, though, how much does it honestly matter whether run prevention is a function of player skill or stadium design? The A's will still play half of their remaining games at the Coliseum. Results DO matter.
The Rangers and Angels are not getting any worse. I have been joking on Twitter that when Vernon Wells returns, the Angels will regress back to the .500-ish team they were with him in the lineup. But, that's simply not true. The Angels are not stupid enough to play Vernon Wells with significant enough time to take away bats from players who are currently doing well. Plus, they are simply a different team right now than they were at the beginning of the year with Mike Trout playing out of his mind, and Albert Pujols hitting like the guy he has always been. In either case, the idea is the same: those two teams appear to the AL West's Boston and New York. If the Blue Jays had even an outside shot at the playoffs, wouldn't they take it? That is sort of how the A's might have to think from here on out. Indeed, as Sam Miller of BP mentioned on the TarpTalk podcast, sometimes it seems like the A's are waiting for the stars to align properly before making their move. Perhaps it is simply a matter of making the move and hoping everything works out.
Regression may happen, but it doesn't have to be this year. Really, seasons are simply arbitrary cutoffs. Discounting the fact that there is often significant roster turnover (A's are definitely no exception), it's possible the A's could play over their heads for a relatively long period of time. The likelihood of that is certainly debatable, but it is within the realm of possibilities. Indeed, it is not necessary to be one of the best 8 teams talent-wise to make the playoffs - it simply needs to be the best team in a season's worth of games. Who would have thought last year that the Rays would make the playoffs and the Cardinals would win the World Series?
There is an obvious upgrade at 3B in Chase Headley that, if the A's did acquire, would serve both future and current needs. Yes, it may call for giving up a significant prospect like Sonny Gray, or giving up someone like Chris Carter. But, getting Headley would serve a big A's deficiency now and down the road, as well.
I'm not saying I am even optimistic about the A's playoff chances. The A's do have offensive deficiencies and there will be games that the A's would win now that they will not win next month. But, I think given the current league and division environment, it makes no sense for the A's to sit on their hands now.
Let's go A's! I'll be back with the game thread shortly before 4PM, as Travis "Tatt" Blackley takes on Brett Cecil and the Jays. I know I'm not the only one hoping that Cepedes pulls a Jose Canseco and hits a 5th deck shot. Tune in this afternoon to find out if he can.