The Winter Meetings are in full swing and we've seen more than our fair share of names come (and go...). Why not a change of pace from the doom and gloom of watching free agents run away? There seem to be a lot of widespread misconceptions about the season that the A's recently finished. Some have wildly spun out of control from an inner kernel of truth, while others are just plain factual inaccuracies. Here are what I believe to be the three biggest misconceptions about the 2010 Oakland Athletics.
Myth #3: The talent level of the 2010 A's was that of an 81-81 team.
If you're going to keep track of all of the offseason acquisitions and do some back-of-the-envelope accounting to try and see how many wins the A's still need to pick up for next year, don't start from 81 wins. Sure, the A's did finish at a spectacularly average 81-81 record, but a team's final record is not always the same as their talent level.
In 2010, Oakland scored 663 runs and allowed only 626. That's a run differential of a nice +37, which doesn't fit an 81-81 team. By the Pythagorean expectation formula devised several years back by Bill James, that run differential should come out to 85 or 86 wins. If you strip out all luck and go by total team WAR, Fangraphs has the A's at 35.6 (with Baseball-Reference/Rally at a 35.9). Depending on the year, a replacement-level team would win somewhere between 46 and 52 games, which supports the notion that the 2010 A's were more like a mid-80 win team.
Point is, we're a bit closer to a division title than the 2010 A's would have had you think.
Myth #2: Advanced pitching stats say the starting rotation was bad.
The A's led the American League in team ERA, and that's including the mediocre bullpen. If you take out the relievers, the starting rotation actually led the entire majors in ERA, which is a great accomplishment for a rotation that had an average age of 12. (Or so.)
Unfortunately, they also led the majors in ERA/FIP differential, by a mile. But contrary to what you may have heard, FIP still thinks the A's starting rotation was a hair above average, although very slightly below the median. xFIP gives a similar result. And if you go by tRA? The rotation was 8th in the majors and 2nd in the AL (or, in math speak: three-quarters of a standard deviation above average). The difference between FIP and tRA can likely be chalked up to the fact the staff ranked fifth among all teams at inducing groundballs, and first in the majors at allowing the least amount of line drives.
And when you consider that the A's let Ben Sheets face more than 500 batters, well, things could be on the upswing, pitching-wise.
Myth #1: The offense was below average.
I know, shocking, right? So, so much has been written and discussed about the complete and utter ineptness of the A's and their bats. And yet...the A's offense wasn't bad. At all.
The A's had a team wOBA of .315, which is only six points lower than the 2010 average of .321. That's a bit less than 30 runs below average, which isn't all that much when it's spread around an entire team. But it's also important to remember that the A's play half of their games in a large park in heavy marine air. After adjusting for the park, Fangraphs has the A's at a combined wRC+ of 99, which means that they were only one percentage point below the average. Statcorner uses a slightly different calculation method, and they have the A's offense at a combined 1.6 runs above average. Yes, above. Long story short, in spite of all of the negative press that was focused on the lack of offensive production, the A's offense was right in the middle of the pack.