The Imperfect and Underperforming A's

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron recently published a piece entitled "The Cubs Look Like a Perfect Baseball Team" featuring a chart showing the Cubs' upper echelon performances in virtually every aspect of the game.

I figured it'd be interesting to take a crack at presenting that same chart, but with the performance of the Oakland Athletics in the 2016 season to date. The results ain't pretty.

(Numbers are through May 11th, 2016 and pulled from Fangraphs.)

Hitters Performance Rank
wRC+ 89 23rd
wRAA -22.1 25th
BsR 1.0 13th
UZR -14.1 30th
DRS -18 28th
OFF -14.8 22nd
DEF -23.3 30th
WAR 0.6 28th
Pitchers Performance Rank
K-BB% 11.4% 19th
HR/9 1.34 27th
BABIP 0.311 24th
ERA- 128 29th
FIP- 114 26th
xFIP- 104 19th
WAR 0.8 27th
RA9-WAR -0.9 27th

Following an abysmal series against the Red Sox, these statistics admittedly come at a particularly low point in the season. But they still paint a pretty clear picture: the Oakland A's of 2016 so far aren't really good at anything.

Yes, it is early in the season and many of the Oakland players have performed below expectations to such a degree that it is reasonable to expect some regression back to the mean. Sonny Gray will most likely figure out how to be an ace again, Sean Doolittle ought to work the kinks out eventually, Yonder Alonso is showing signs of life, and if Danny Valencia ever stays on the field consistently he looks like a pretty solid hitter.

The problem is that the absolute best performance we could have reasonably expected to get out of this offense is around league average. Instead, we are nearly a quarter of the way through the season and the offense ranks toward the bottom of Major League Baseball alongside teams with better excuses for their suckitude (the Yankees' lineup is ancient and other teams are either tanking or reliant on run prevention). Even if the offense could pick it up and score runs at league average rate for the remainder of the season, they've already dug themselves a deep hole.

The weak A's offense has nothing to fall back on when it comes to preventing runs either. Despite obvious improvements to Marcus Semien's game and the comforting defensive presence of Yonder Alonso scooping throws at first base, the A's are still among the very worst defensive teams in baseball. Partial season defensive stats aren't the most reliable yardsticks but the ineptitude of the Athletics' fielding is often obvious when watching games.

The fielding-independent pitching is also an area of concern, although the staff appears to be allowing home runs at a fairly lofty rate of 14.6% of fly balls (5th highest rate in MLB) which should hopefully calm down eventually.

After so much roster turnover throughout the past 18 months or so, this is an entirely different Oakland A's team than what we're used to seeing. Sure, the intriguing scrap heap pickups and misfit toys still fill out the roster, but whereas the A's of Billy Beane's tenure have regularly been atop the league in pitches-per-plate-appearance and walk %, now they rank around the very bottom of MLB in these measures.

Any semblance of a pitching-and-defense style ballclub with a strong bullpen also appears to have faded away. The current bullpen still looks great on paper and I'm holding out hope that the back-end combo of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, and John Axford becomes a team strength but so far...not so much.

Playing around with league splits, the only thing the A's seem to be really good at these days is putting the ball in play. They don't walk much, but they also don't strike out a ton. Yet they've also posted a league-low BABIP. Not a very effective combo. Oddly enough, they've also swung at the most 3-0 pitches of any team in baseball so far this season.

I still follow this team closely and watch their games loyally, so forgive the apocalyptic tone here. But as an A's fan, all of this is concerning. The comeback and subsequent blown four-run lead against the Mariners last week was troublesome, the collapse over the weekend against the Orioles was rough, and the series against the Red Sox in Fenway was an all-time low point for the Athletics franchise.

We all know that if the A's don't put together a winning streak soon, the dismantling of this team will inevitably begin and anything that isn't bolted down will be shipped out. And looking at current contracts, there isn't a whole lot that's bolted down.