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What did we learn from the 2016 World Series?

As it pertains to the A’s cause whatever, Cubs.

NCAA Football: Oregon at California
Defense at the Cal/Oregon game looked a lot like the A’s defense.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The World Series was an all time classic, a seven game series that had everything, loaded with drama to the final out.

Well, it had almost everything. For my money, it was a little light on the Oakland Athletics even though both teams were littered with Oakland alumni. So let’s make it about us: what should the A's takeaway from this year’s Fall Classic?

There are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to score runs

You just need good players.

It’s easy to watch a team succeed and takeaway that that’s the way to win. Every year, there seems to be a certain narrative surrounding the championship team.

The word narrative has taken on a negative connotation in the baseball world, and probably unnecessarily. It’s true: all these teams had a storyline as to why they were so good. The 2013 Red Sox were mashers, the 2014 Giants were homegrown, the 2015 Royals were contact hitters, and the 2016 were a blend of all of those. The shared thread between all four teams (and most every championship team before them) is that they could score runs consistently with great hitters.

The mistake, to which Epstein alludes, is to think that’s the only way to win. The A’s are unlikely to follow the models of other teams, and they’re probably too poor do so even if they wanted to.

The key, and I can’t believe I’m giving out information like this for free, is to find good hitters. The A’s don't need to emulate the Cubs or the Indians, or anyone for that matter. They have some good hitters, the team is probably fine at least four positions and can probably get by at one or two more. Can they find a few more hitters to squeeze out enough runs to own a playoff worthy offense? It’s a tough proposition and will be the story of the offseason.

Defense matters

The phrase defense wins championships is obviously a little simplistic, but the last few postseasons have been dominated by teams that can straight pick it.

That’s bad news for the A’s, a team that needs to get better on both sides of the ball, but was historically bad with the glove last year. They can’t just go and pay 13 Andy Parrinos the league minimum and hope no one ever scores, and guys who can pick it and also swing it are rare and typically unavailable. You can bet the A’s will look to upgrade that defense this year, whether that be internally (by buying Jed Lowrie a one-way flight) or externally (Dexter Fowler or Colby Rasmus anyone?).

One of the many beauties of baseball is its sheer size. If you were to only catch a glimpse of the sport, a single game, you might be left with the impression that Eric Sogard is a better slugger than Mike Trout. That’s fun!

None of that shit is true for comparing the A’s and pretty much any playoff team defensively, especially the Cubs. It takes about one play to realize just how far off the A’s are from being a leading defensive team, and you can tell after just a glimpse how much of an impact good defense can have on good pitching. Can you imagine Kendall Graveman pitching in front of the Cubs defense?

As we all know, getting better on both sides of the ball is key to the A’s taking the next step. It’s easier said than done, especially for a team that’s money challenged and whose bread and butter is slightly flawed players. But it’s a must.

The effect of a dominant pen

By the end of the long postseason, both teams’ top arms were understandably exhausted. The story of the postseason though, Game 7 aside, was dominant bullpens seemingly shortening games.

The A’s do have upside in their pen. Ryan Madson was fantastic just a year back, Sean Doolittle looks to be back, and Ryan Dull is pretty fantastic. That pen is still a ways off from the dominant level of say, the Cubs, but it’s a solid foundation. Will the A's have relievers that can make games more or less six inning affairs? In a weak free agent class, there's room for the A's to make moves towards having a dominant pen.