This post is NOT about playing "small ball". It is not about "not playing `small ball'". Forget the term "small ball," which, granted, will be easier when I stop using it in three consecutive sentences. This post is about 1st grade Math: Four bases, three outs.
One basic formula for failure in an inning is to ask three different hitters to reach safely before three outs are made--the odds of this are never terrific, because an average hitter (and the average A's hitter is not even as good as the average hitter) makes an out 65% of the time. The A's face this "formula for failure" far more than the average team simply because the A's have languished, for much of the season, 13th-14th in the American League in doubles--meaning that the lion's share of the lion's share of successful A's hitters are reaching first base. Because the A's are also 13th-14th in the league in batting average, a relatively high proportion of these successes are walks that only advance those who are forced to accept a ride to the next base.
The result? Pretty much what we saw for 10 innings last night. A cascade of walks and singles resulting in a veritable plethora of two-on, two-out opportunities, an absolute gaggle of two-on, one out chances, an utter glut of lead-off men already 1/4 of the way home. And one run in 10 innings, courtesy of a solo HR.
Until they start awarding "half-points" for LOBs and "quarter-points" for DPs, the A's need to address the 1st grade Math problem. They either need to convince Bud Selig to reduce the number of bases to three (which is about as likely a tie in the All-Star game...Hmm...), or they need to figure out how to score in those pesky innings when only two of their hitters can avoid making outs. Most teams do this quite well, with a walk and an RBI double one inning, a double and an RBI single another inning. But the Lovable Muppets don't hit a lot of doubles, which is why they need to find a way--any way that works--to pick up that elusive base, the one which can turn two "safeties" into a run without the benefit of a double. Hey, if "silent e" can turn "ton" into "tone" then anything's possible.
It really doesn't matter how that extra base is procured, just that it is. It can be a stolen base, it can be sacrificing runners to second and third so the next out scores a run, it can be the hit-and-run that turns DPs into runner-advancing groundouts and moves singled runners from first to third in a single bound. It can be improbable tag-ups on rather shallow fly balls, it can be sneaking to the next base on balls that bounce only a few feet away from the catcher.
But folks: Four bases, three outs. Until the A's start hitting doubles at a rate better than 13th-14th in the league, they need to find that extra base as often as possible. Memo to the Oakland A's: Please don't wait until the 11th inning to remember your 1st grade Math--that might work once a year.