So, the A's are Really Good. Maybe Even Historically Good.

The A's have always been good at being underrated. They lack star power (except for maybe in Josh Donaldson), as evidenced by their continual All-Star snubs. Sure, they currently have the best record in all of baseball, but what has truly been underrated about this year's A's squad is its run differential. Plus-135. The next best team, the Giants across the bay, has a run differential of plus-49. The A's lead the league in run differential by 86 runs. Shouldn't this be a big deal?



I did a bit of research to dig up which teams in the past 50 years have been as dominant as the A's by this point in the season. To do so, I looked at teams' Pythagorean, or expected, winning percentage, which tells us how many games we'd expect a team to win based on its run differential. While the A's have been good, posting a 47-29 record thus far, they should be even better, according to their Pythagorean record, which stands at 52-24, an improvement of five games. Therefore, Oakland's Pythagorean winning percentage would be .684, putting the A's on pace to win 111 games.
As the chart on the right shows, the 2014 A's have had the best start of the season since 1984, ranking fourth overall since 1964, when the Motor City Kitties also posted a .684 Pythagorean winning percentage through June 23. Those Tigers went on to win the 1984 World Series, a trend which is prevalent among the most dominant nine teams through this point in the season since 1964. In fact, four of the nine teams went on to win the World Series, three others lost it, and two lost in the NLCS. While these teams all regressed slightly during the latter portion of the regular season, they still won an average of 102 games, with no team winning fewer than 97. To me, this appears like pretty good company for the A's.


Okay, okay. Let's slow our roll a bit here. Every team on this list, save for the 1998 Braves, played in the era before the Wild Card (introduced in 1994), and every team except for the 1998 Braves and the 1984 Tigers played before the expansion of divisions and the addition of the Division Series (introduced in 1981). Essentially, before 1981, if a team was one of the top two teams in its conference, it was one of two teams with a shot of playing in the World Series. Today, four (or five, depending how you count the Wild Card playoff game) teams all vie to be their conference's lone representative in the World Series, so having a superb regular season record doesn't get you as far.
One of the things that makes what the A's have done so remarkable is that parity has risen to almost unprecedented levels across the league. It's been 16 years since the 1998 Braves came close to matching what the A's are doing today; before that, 14 years had passed since any team put up a Pythagorean win percentage this far in the season above .660. But before 1984? Four teams in the 1970s, and two all-time great O's teams in the 60s all dominated the league. While the league's teams has trended toward mediocre (records-wise) in recent decades, the A's stand out as dominant, a feat which has become exceedingly rare. Here's to Oakland's historic early season dominance. Maybe someday, someone will notice.
SB Nation Featured Video
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Athletics Nation

You must be a member of Athletics Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Athletics Nation. You should read them.

Join Athletics Nation

You must be a member of Athletics Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Athletics Nation. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.