The A's Don't Have A 'Feast Or Famine' Offense, Actually; They Just Have A Good Offense.

Scott Cunningham

So, there's this narrative floating around the AN-osphere, that the A's are 'feast or famine'; that their 'run differential' is mostly a mirage.

This is separate from the 'The A's have tanked since they traded away Cespedes' meme. It's meant to explain the many (too many lately) games in which the A's fail to score enough runs to beat their opponents. It is based on a subtext (reinforced by so many years of failure, for sure) that the A's 'just don't 'have what it takes'.

It's just plain wrong, and I'm going to show you the details to prove that it is wrong, armed with a wonderful tool from Baseball Reference, herieinafter known as B-Ref: the 'game log' function. A shoutout to Alex Hall for highlighting this function is due here- I appreciate it, Alex!

• Feel free to play with it to your heart's delight. Explanation: if one were to highlight 'Teams' at BRef, then 'Batting', then 'Game Logs', one would arrive at a page with the results so far of whichever team one chose to highlight at 'Teams'. I, of course, chose the A's. Then, finally, if one were to click on the header of the statistic which is of interest, in this case runs, each game is ordered by how many runs the team scored. A second click will put the runs from lowest to highest.

Some background: the 'feast or famine theory' is a narrative in which the A's' (hey, I just legitimately used TWO apostrophes in the same possessive!) run differential is 'just a mirage', because the A's absolutely have had many blow outs where they have just creamed the opponents, but also way too many games where they have failed to score even 3 or more runs.

Think about this 4-game series the A's just finished losing 1-3 to the Royals, for example: the A's scored 2, 11, 0, and 3 runs, for a total of 16 runs. Meanwhile, the Royals scored 3, 3, 3, and 7 runs, for a total of 16 runs. The A's kept up with the Royals in runs scored, and thus didn't hurt their Major-League-leading 'useless stat', run differential, but the Royals out won the A's by 3-1. It's all fake! It means nothing! The sky is falling! We are doomed! The baseball gods HATE us!!!!

• (Well, no - the baseball gods don't hate us. They might dislike us. They HATE the Texas Rangers. ...talk about a 'bad' year. The Rangers have had a legitimately horrid bad year, the kind that might require virgin-sacrificing, heart-eating, or whatever sacrificial rite might expunge their woes. We can't even begin to complain...)
• Also: I have ignored NL teams, because the NL is a different run-scoring environment: NL teams spend the majority of their games with a pitcher or a PH charged with doing something to produce runs. AL teams spend the majority of their games armed with a DH. Scoring should be impacted by these differences, therefore, given the different run environment, what applies to the A's might not apply to the NL...
• So, the methodology here is pretty brutal/simple: how many times did a team score 0 or 1 runs, and what was its record when doing so? Second, how many times did a team score 2 or 3 runs, and what was its record when doing so? I guess, given that a start in which 3 or fewer runs and 6 or more innings pitched is called a 'quality start', that scoring 3 or fewer must be a 'non-quality' performance for an offense. I then totaled the teams' records' and winning percentage for all their low-scoring games. At the other end of the scale, I counted up the number of times a team won by more than 6 runs as a proxy for blowout wins. (Easily done on B-Ref's handy W-L bar graph of each team's season page).

In the chart below, the numbers are team W-L record when they score 0-1, 2 or 3 runs, and then their overall record and winning percentage when scoring 3 or fewer runs. The rightmost column shows how many games the teams won by 6 or more runs, which I'll use as a proxy for blowout wins.

 TEAMS 0-1 RUN 2 RUNS 3 RUNS W-L & PCT 3 OR LESS WON BY 6 OR MORE A's 1-17 2-11 11-8 14-36 .280 18 Angels 1-9 5-13 5-15 11-37 .229 11 Mariners 1-27 5-11 11-7 17-45 .274 11 Royals 2-24 4-9 7-13 13-46 .220 10 Tigers 1-16 5-15 2-9 8-40 .167 14 Indians 0-19 5-12 8-12 13-43 .232 12 Orioles 1-15 7-12 9-10 17-37 .315 12 Blue Jays 0-21 2-10 8-11 10-42 .192 11 Yankees 2-20 5-11 8-11 15-42 .263 10 Rays 3-23 6-12 4-8 13-43 .232 9

OK, so what does this show? Two teams have had fewer low-scoring games on offense: 48 for both the Angels and the Tigers, but the A's are just behind them with 50 games. By contrast, the Mariners have played 62 such games. One team has had a "better" winning percentage in those games, the Orioles at .315, but the A's are second at .280. Overall, the A's haven't played a particularly large number of these types of games, and they have played fairly well in them by comparison with the other teams in the hunt for the AL postseason.

On the other side of the ledger, the A's have had blowout wins a lot more often than any of the other teams in the hunt. Taken together with their decent performance in low-scoring games, that's not evidence of a 'feast or famine' offense, it's evidence of a good offense.