Blengino: Examining the A’s epic near-collapse

From SABR member Tony Blengino at FanGraphs on September 18, 2014:

One of the biggest stories of the season’s second half has been the historic decline of the Oakland Athletics. They are flirting with accomplishing the extremely difficult feat of having the best record in baseball at the All Star break, and then missing the playoffs. Winning the final two games of their pivotal series with the Seattle Mariners this past weekend has sharply decreased the likelihood of that worst case scenario, but the collapse has been stark nonetheless. It’s convenient to tie the A’s second half results to the departure of Yoenis Cespedes in the Jon Lester trade, but the reality is a bit more complicated than that. There are many factors in play, but arguably the foremost among them has been the precipitous fall of two of their key offensive players – Derek Norris and Brandon Moss.  

As we stand here a week and a half away from the end of the regular season, one can still make a very strong case that the A’s are the best club in the major leagues, despite the fact that they currently trail the Angels by 10 1/2 games, through Tuesday’s night’s games. Their run differential remains the game’s best, and over a large sample size, they have proven to be a balanced, resilient club. They are 3rd in the AL in runs per game, and 2nd in runs allowed. They play strong defense. They don’t have wasted spots on their roster, platooning often in the lineup, and getting valuable contributions from both the back end of the rotation and bullpen.

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Originally published: September 18, 2014. Last Updated: September 18, 2014.