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Digging Out of the A's Massive Hole

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Is there enough time left for the A's to make a run at the postseason if their luck turns around?

How do the A's get from Abad to Agood?
How do the A's get from Abad to Agood?
Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
By basically any measure, the 2015 Oakland A's have been incredibly unlucky. While Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and Jonah Keri at Grantland both wrote articles covering this yesterday, here are just some of the "fun" (read: AHHHH MY EYES) facts about how unlucky the team has been thus far:

* According to the team's run differential (-4), the A's expected record to this point is 17-17. The A's have underplayed their run differential by 5 wins in just 34 games

* According to FanGraphs' BaseRuns, a measure of the expected runs scored for and against a team assuming their hits, walks, and errors were grouped randomly, the A's expected record at to this point is 18-16. The A's have underplayed their expected BaseRuns win percentage by 6 wins in just 34 games

* Despite mounds of evidence that a team's performance in close games is entirely random, the A's are now an astounding 1-11 in 1-run games. They are also 0-6 in extra inning games

* According to the FanGraphs Clutch Index, which measures team performance relative to the situation, A's pitching is 30th out of 30 teams at performance in high-leverage situations. A's hitting is a mere 23rd out of 30 in Clutch Index.

The fact is though, that the A's don't have the 18-16 or even 17-17 record we'd expect them to have; that 12-22 record is banked and set in stone. And while the A's luck is bound to improve (it's almost impossible for it not to improve since it's been so terrible), making some noise in getting to the postseason might already be a stretch despite the fact that it's early May.

The A's Path to the Postseason

The good news: with the advent of the 2nd wild-card slot, 5 teams out of 15 in each league make the postseason. It's easier than ever to make it with a slightly-above average team. Last year, the A's made it with just 88 wins.

The bad news: even if the A's play to their talent the rest of the season, 88 wins might be a pipe dream.

Like I said earlier, the A's horrible luck is very unlikely to continue: it's likely to regress to the mean. However, this does not mean that it will be balanced out by an equal stretch of *good* luck. It merely means we can expect the A's to revert to expectations moving forward. If you flip a coin and get six heads in a row, you're not more likely to get a tails on the next flip because you're "due" (this is known as the Gambler's Fallacy). Instead, you're more likely to go back to a regular assortment of heads and tails. In other words, you'd expect the A's to play to their talent level moving forward.

So. 88 wins. How do we get there? Moving forward, the A's would have to go 76-52 to reach 88 wins. That's a .593 record for the rest of the year, or a 96 win pace for a full season. While I think this A's team is actually slightly above average (and most of the projections systems had their win% at between .500 and .520 before the season started), I don't think 96 wins is its true talent level. So in order to get there, the A's luck not only needs to turn around, but swing in full force in the opposite direction... and that's just to get to 88 wins. Winning the division is probably a total fantasy at this point.

Could the A's make an insane run to the postseason? Sure, and they've done it before. But even this early in the season their deficit is so large that even with lots of luck they're going to have a hell of a time getting there.