I absolutely hate math, but I have grown to love numbers as my love of baseball has grown over two decades. There was something so satisfying about waking up every morning to read the previous day's box scores in the newspaper to find my favorite players atop the statistics leaderboards. Now all you have to do is google the data you want to find and it appears, up-to-date, and easily sortable by all kinds of parameters. These numbers don't tell the whole story, but they can help fill in the details. For example, the 2015 Oakland Athletics were one of the worst teams in baseball, their overall record will tell you that. Their more than 30 losses by just one run tell you how they became so bad so quickly.
I don't want to get into why the 2015 A's were bad. I want to share some tidbits and numbers that explain why the A's might be good in 2016. Spring training is nearly finished and Opening Day is less than a week away. Optimism reigns supreme these days and for good reason. There is plenty to be excited about in this new season of Oakland A's baseball.
Here are my 16 things for 2016:
1. You'll find some research I did also posted here on Fangraphs, but I want to go a tiny bit deeper. From the time he was called up to the big leagues in September of 2014 through May 21, 2015 when Ron Washington joined the coaching staff, Marcus Semien hit to the tune of an .826 OPS, 131 wRC+, .358 wOBA, 9 home runs, and 7 steals.
2. From May 22, 2015 through August 22, 2015 when Washington was working exclusively with Semien on defense Semien's offensive production stalled: .592 OPS, 63 wRC+, .260 wOBA, 4 home runs, and 3 steals.
3. After Washington was hired as Oakland's third base coach from August 25, 2015 through the end of the 2015 season Semien reverted back to his productive self: .830 OPS, 131 wRC+, .359 wOBA, 5 home runs, and 1 stolen base.
5. In 2015 Semien was 52nd among all batting title qualifiers in pitches per plate appearance at 3.94.
6. The 2015 A's featured 6 regular players among the top-100 in pitches per plate appearance: Billy Butler at 93, Brett Lawrie at 77, Semien at 52, Josh Reddick at 51, Ben Zobrist at 30, and Stephen Vogt at 15.
8. 2016 addition Chris Coghlan was a batting title qualifier and he finished 36th in baseball with 4.01 pitches per plate appearance.
9. Only 34 major leaguers had a better wRC+ than Coghlan's 128 against right-handed pitchers the past two seasons.
12. The 2016 A's will feature four regular relievers who can strike out more than a batter per inning: John Axford (10.02 in ‘15), Liam Hendriks (9.88 in ‘15), Rodriguez, and Sean Doolittle (10.46 for his career).
13. In 2015 Hendriks was 17th among major league relief pitchers in fWAR at 1.5.
14. The 2015 A's did not feature one relief pitcher who posted a positive Win Probability Added.
15. The 2016 A's include two relievers who posted a positive WPA in ‘15: Axford (0.01) and Ryan Madson (2.12).
16. Despite missing all of 2012-2014 Madson has the 27th most fWAR (6.7) and the 28th most WPA (8.63) among MLB relievers since he became a full-time reliever in 2007.