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Moneyball Takes A

Funny Hop For Beane, A’s

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Anyone Banking On The Oakland A’s Making A Deep Run Into The Playoffs After Acquiring Samardzija, Lackey And Hammel Might Have Misjudged How Important Cespedes Was To Connie Mack’s Old Team

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 19, 2014 — A few weeks ago, I was drinking the Oakland Athletics Kool-Aid and wrote that the team might finally capture the elusive Moneyball World Championship under Billy Beane.

It seemed like a pretty safe bet at the time. The A’s were on top of the baseball world and had just traded for two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. But, that trade and another big flop haven’t quite worked out how the team expected.

The main piece of the trade was Samardzija and he’s been decent, but Hammel has been downright awful—to the tune of a 1-5 record and 6.75 ERA.

Jeff Samardzija Stats
The combination of a so-so Samardzija and a terrible Hammel isn’t what the Athletics expected when they traded away top prospect Addison Russell. That’s one reason why the team has lost seven of its last eight games

Jason Hammel Stats
But, as bad as that trade looks, it may be another trade that has actually worked out, that will doom the Athletics to another ‘championshipless’ season. That’s right. I’m talking about the swap with Boston that sent slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for ace Jon Lester.

By all statistical accounts, the deal worked out for both parties. Lester is 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA since coming to Oakland. Cespedes is hitting just .237 for Boston, but has clubbed three home runs and collected 11 RBIs in 13 games.

The problem is Oakland’s offense has disappeared since the Cespedes trade. The team underestimated how badly losing his bat would affect the team. Sure, it gained an ace pitcher in return, but Oakland already had the league’s best pitching staff before any of these trades happened.

While Samardzija has been good but not great, we can assume that he’d eventually settle in and return to true form. That means, without Lester, the team would have three legitimate number one starters with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Samardzija.

Now, they can add an additional number one to that mix, but lost a significant part of the lineup in doing so. While Cespedes’ numbers don’t completely jump off the page, he has the kind of power that scares opposing pitchers. This means pitchers look at him differently and approach the lineup differently when he’s not there.

And it shows. Since the trade, Oakland is 7-10 and has scored over three runs in a game just four times. Fans might have complained about Cespedes’ low on-base percentage and lack of hitting in the clutch, but he did bring a presence to the lineup that is no longer there. Pitchers are coming right at Oakland hitters, and they can’t respond.

If manager Bob Melvin can’t find a way to wake up his team’s bats, the Cespedes-Lester trade could go down as one of the best AND worst trades the organization has ever made. It looks good on paper, but Billy Beane might have thought himself out of a World Series title.

That’s just the way the Moneyball bounces sometimes.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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