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How much do the Athletics really lose with Yoenis Cespedes gone?

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"We can’t replace him … but we can recreate him in the aggregate" - A's GM Brad Pitt

Oh god, now I'm sad.
Oh god, now I'm sad.
Jim Rogash

When we woke up to the news of the trade on Thursday, I think most people immediately feared for the safety of the A’s offense. This was the top-ranked offense in the major leagues, and its most immediately recognizable star, Home Run Derby champ, and top-ranking eyebrows in the MLB was gone. There were entirely valid reasons to think that this was an experiment that wouldn't go well. The miserable series vs. the Kansas City Royals since has reinforced that fear — except for a singles parade in the fifth inning vs. Jason Vargas and an explosive performance by Josh Reddick, the A’s have been mostly kept in check. Was trading Yoenis Cespedes a mistake?

Let’s define who the hell Cespedes even is as a player: good, but flawed. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Yo was hitting .256/.303/.462 on the season, and with a similar performance in 2013 we can pretty much assume that this is who he is. He’s going to slug home runs, but he’s also going to strike out way too much, not draw enough walks, and fail to hit for contact. He’s a mostly neutral defender and baserunner, with an excess of natural talent making up for poor instincts and stupid mistakes in the field. We all love to remember his crazy throws, but we forget about the flubbed catches that led to those plays occurring.

We’ve replaced him with Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld — both guys who should probably not get many ABs versus right-handers. Fuld is an interesting case, as he’s the most unknown quantity right now. He’s probably the same player as Craig Gentry — a speedy, plus defensive outfielder who should not be facing right handed pitchers on a regular basis. He’s interesting, because his ABs aren’t coming from an easily defined source. He has no clear platoon partner, and no clear path to playing time.

So, what’s the solution to the Fuld playing time issue? I can’t imagine this would be a popular solution, but I propose platooning Coco Crisp with Fuld. Coco’s been incredible this season, but his injury troubles have made his role as an everyday player … well, increasingly sketchy. Meanwhile, Fuld’s quietly been destroying left-handed pitchers, to the tune of a .296/.381/.426 line. His career numbers are not quite as good, but they back up the fact that he hits lefties much better than righties.

Meanwhile, Coco Crisp’s been having the opposite problem: .288/.403/.434 vs. righties, .253/.302/.392 vs. lefties. Those are platoon-worthy splits, especially when BoMel’s been on record saying that batting right-handed causes Coco’s neck injury to become aggravated. Coco’s crucial to the offense, but if holding him out of ABs allows him to stay healthy deep into the stretch run, Sam Fuld becomes an invaluable piece. Reddick would also be a clear platoon candidate (with a wRC+ of 18 vs. lefties on the season), but with Coco’s increasingly subpar defense, I’d be partial to keeping Josh in the lineup as much as possible.

I mean, he can't have a wRC+ of 18 vs. lefties forever, right?

Right?

The lack of Cespedes also opens up new sources of ABs for Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris. I really expect for the A’s to slot the 3-catcher lineup in as the everyday lineup versus right handed pitchers, with Vogt becoming essentially the everyday first baseman. Ray Fosse will be elated.

Here are what the new lineups look like, with their 2014 wRC+ vs. the handed pitching they'll face, and their career stats for context. Let's see if the average wRC+ of the lineup changes significantly.

Note that I'm not going to be using Kyle Blanks's 2014 stats, since he's only gotten about 30 ABs. I'll just be using his career stats.

Lineup vs. RHP
Player 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Coco Crisp, CF 141 103
John Jaso, DH 138 129
Josh Donaldson, 3B 102 110
Brandon Moss, LF 133 122
Stephen Vogt, 1B 152 106
Derek Norris, C 123 80
Josh Reddick, RF 144 102
Jed Lowrie, SS 96 97
Eric Sogard, 2B 59 74

2014 Average: 120 wRC+

Career Average: 102 wRC+

Lineup vs. LHP
Player 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Sam Fuld, CF 124 96
Jed Lowrie, SS 85 117
Josh Donaldson, 3B 194 166
Derek Norris, C 196 157
Jonny Gomes, LF 133 136
Brandon Moss, DH 134 100
Kyle Blanks, 1B N/A 114
Josh Reddick, RF 18 88
Alberto Callaspo, 2B 42 102

2014 Average: 115.5 wRC+

Career Average: 119.5 wRC+

Let’s compare that with how the offense looked before Thursday’s trades:

Lineup vs. RHP
Player 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Coco Crisp, CF 141 103
John Jaso, C 138 129
Yoenis Cespedes, LF 111 111
Brandon Moss, DH 133 122
Josh Donaldson, 3B 102 110
Stephen Vogt, 1B 152 106
Josh Reddick, RF 144 102
Jed Lowrie, SS 96 97
Eric Sogard, 2B 59 74

2014 Average: 119.5 wRC+

Career Average: 106 wRC+

Lineup vs. LHP
Player 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Coco Crisp, CF 96 94
Jed Lowrie, SS 85 117
Yoenis Cespedes, LF 115 132
Josh Donaldson, 3B 194 166
Derek Norris, C 196 157
Brandon Moss, DH 134 100
Kyle Blanks, 1B N/A 114
Josh Reddick, RF 18 88
Alberto Callaspo, 2B 42 102

2014 Average: 110.4 wRC+

Career Average: 118.8 wRC+

Reshuffle positions and lineups as you want, it doesn’t really matter.

So, what does this tell us? Yoenis Cespedes was overrated -- the only lineup where his presence made a significant difference was career numbers vs. RHP, and to have faith in that requires you to think that Stephen Vogt, Josh Reddick, Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, and Coco are all due to regress severely. If you think that, this A's team was probably doomed anyway.

The lineups look even better if you platoon Fuld with Reddick, and that's another likely option for BoMel.

Man, that 18 wRC+ is ... not, not great. It's a little, uh. Not great.

Defensively, these lineups are a wash as well: Fuld is a better CF than Coco Crisp is, but Jonny Gomes is a worse left fielder than Cespedes. However, if these lineups allow us to see the obviously superior defensive catcher Derek Norris take the place of John Jaso more often behind the plate, I'll give the defensive edge to the new lineups.

We all knew Cespedes was overrated. He’s a good player, but the A's are solidly built to contend without him.

So, that's right: the offense doesn't lose anything with Cespedes out. It's almost kind of uncanny. I'm willing to bet these are the same sorts of numbers that Beane used when making Cespedes expendable, and if an expendable piece can allow Oakland to upgrade from Jesse Chavez to Jon Lester ... dang.