Andrew Koo has just exposed what the Oakland A's have been up to the last few years. It's behind Baseball Prospectus pay wall. If you ever are going to pay for just one great article, now is the time. This one is going to be discussed and analyzed for years to come and may change baseball again. Go there, check it out, and I will give you my take. It also explains why the A's may have lost in the playoffs by some bad luck and a taste of their own medicine.
More Moneyball. Oakland's Other Platoon Advantage by Andrew Koo. Baseball Prospectus http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22435
The A's have been doing one extreme thing, and applying it to both sides of the ball to gain an obscure but significant advantage. What?
statistic: fly ball-to-ground ball ratio....FB/GB
2012-A's batters: #1 in MLB FB/GB. 2013-A's-#1 in MLB FB/GB, ~25% more than league average. Which leads us to this:
The A's have been actively trading and signing batters with a high Fly Ball% (FB). And they have been doing it for around three years now.
"16% of players in MLB are considered FB hitters. 60% of Oakland players are FB hitters. No other team has sniffed 45% in a decade. 1% of A's plate appearances were from players considered ground ball players."
So the A's are pressing that "undervalued asset" both directions. This has been happening at the same time the rest of the league has been trending the other way with ground ball pitchers becoming the norm.
Why are they doing this? Lets dig a little deeper. Fly ball batters are also line drive batters.
Line Drive: .728 AVG, .940 SLG............Fly-ball: .177 AVG, .302 SLG
Ground-ball: .241 AVG, .262 SLG..........Infield Flies: .020 AVG, .024 SLG
Fly-ball hitters are especially good against ground-ball pitchers. So more flys mean more line drives which leads to more positive outcomes. Specifically power. For the A's, sneaky cheap power.
How has this effected roster choices in the last year?
35% is around the average FB% for batters. The A's had 6 of the top 30 highest FB% in 2013!!
Do the new players hold up to the new standard?
Micheal Choice -33%- last 3 years in minors* Craig Gentry -32%-Career
Grant Green -27%-last 3 years in minors* Alberto Callaspo -37%-Career
Callaspo for Green sure holds up. And while Gentry may not exactly fit, the A's other side of the strategy seems to be in play. That of an outfield defense advantage to use with extreme FB pitchers. Now we really see how they are doing the same things on both sides of the ball.
33% is the average FB % for starting pitchers. All A's starters had well above-average fly-ball rates. 148 qualified pitchers. 5 out of the top 40 were A's!!
Seven A's relievers were also at or above average. Its a slightly higher 35%. Out of 160 qualified. The A's had 5 of the top 50 relief pitchers in high FB%!!
How do the new pitchers fit in? Hello. Quite well.
Scott Kazmir -42% career Fernando Abad -42% Drew Pomeranz- 34% Luke Gregerson- 33% Josh Lindblom- 44%
Who had the lowest FB% on the A's? Brett Anderson.
Seems strange that they would do all that work then switch the advantage out for its opposite. My guess is perhaps the A's have figured out statistically somehow, that with a lead in the ninth inning and optimal platooned defense, the reverse outcome is true or is a better advantage in that specific circumstance. If so, I may have sniffed out a new favorite candidate for closer in 2015:
Dan Otero- 24% ( his minor league numbers are similar)* Dan is the only other outlier on a team full of ~35% on up.
So there you have it. High fly ball % from both hitters and pitchers. The new Moneyball.
What do you think Athletics fans? There have been hints of this whiffing around as people knew Oakland was up to something related to the uniqueness of the Coliseum. I remember commenting on the high fly ball rates when we signed Kazmir. Now that the cats out of the bag how is the rest of the league going to respond?
Also it seems counter intuitive for pitchers to be allowing more of something (FB) that is also good for our hitters (FB). I'm guessing our specific stadium allows it only with great outfield defense.
There may be other teams that have a stadium to try something like this, but will they even get to try with every GM knowing the secret now? It seems the only way it will work is if the whole roster is based on the plan. Maximizing home field advantage and also big stadiums in the AL West. All in or nothing.
Do you think any other GM's already figured it out or did Andrew Koo just blow the lid off at least one more year of Oakland secretly pressing and adding to this advantage? What other little discoveries will this lead to as everyone starts the mad rush to breakdown this unique new undervalued asset and find the rest of the puzzle.
What consequence will this have if the A's ever do get a new stadium? Will it have to be built to the Coliseums same specks or will the A's need to tear the roster down before a move? A new, new Moneyball may already be in the works with the secret plans of a new stadium and yet another obscure statistic providing the outline. This team can never be accused of being boring.
* I used minor league central for batted ball %. It seems to be figured out somewhat differently and may not be accurate apples to apples with the MLB Numbers. http://minorleaguecentral.com/index