Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The 2001 Oakland Athletics

Are the 2013 Jays the 2001 Oakland Athletics? Who knows?

Jason Giambi.
Oakland started the season at 8-18 before going on
to get 102 wins for the season.

Jays start off 8-13. Are they done?

Rogers apologists like to look at the 2013 rendition of the Jays and say that's it's early. The fandom have all but concluded that this team is done and that drastic measures must be taken.

I took a look at the records of all playoff and likely playoff teams (those teams who would have made an enhanced wild card playoff) and looked for teams who were 5 OR more game under .500 after 20 - 22 games played and looked at the last 17 years of data (1996-2012) when a full season was played with the current division format seen.

Of 170 teams that would have made the playoffs in both leagues, there are 5 instances of playoff teams with 90 or more wins in a season who had a record of 8-13 or worse. That gives the Jays, if they were an average team a 3% probability of making the playoffs assuming 90 wins or more are needed.

These teams include the 2010 Atlanta Braves who started the season 8-13 before going on to win 91 games and a wildcard berth, the 2009 Colorado Rockies with the identical 8-13 record to win 92 and a wildcard, the 2005 Cleveland Indians (91 wins, 5th) and San Francisco Giants (91 wins, 5th). But the most notable comeback in modern memory is the 2001 Oakland Athletics.

The 2001 Oakland Athletics

On April 25, 2001, the Oakland Athletics dropped a 2-1 extra inning game to the White Sox to go to 7-14 on the season. The next game, they whalloped the White Sox 16-6 before losing 3-2, 7-6, and 3-1 to the Yankees over a three game sweep. Then they went home to host Buck Martinez's Jays on May 1 where they dropped a 5-4 affair and their record dropped to a dismal 8-18.

This was a team whose lineup at that point featured Johnny Damon (OPS .549), Frank Menechino (1.040), Jason Giambi (1.135), Terrence Long (.926), Eric Chavez (.742), Miquel Tejada (.748), Olmedo Saenz (.699), Jeremy Giambi (.556), and Ramon Hernanzez (.616).

In April, the A's starters had an (.288/.359/.460) line and a 5.83 ERA which improved massively to 3.10 after the All Star Break. This was a rotation of Mark Mulder (4.40 ERA), Barry Zito (4.58 ERA), Cory Lidle (4.96), Tim Hudson (6.35) and Gil Heredia (9.24). Gil was eventually replaced by Eric Hiljus.

The team then went on a 15-5 tear, sweeping the Jays in Toronto, the Yankees and the White Sox. But even then, the team hovered around the .500 mark until the All-Star break - the team was 44-43 and 19 games back of the high-flying Mariners.

The team went 58-17 to wrap the season with 102 wins. Jeremy Giambi ended up batting with an OPS of .841. They still managed to lose the division to the Seattle Mariners but made the playoffs before losing to the Yankees in the ALDS.

The Jays are actually a good team

On paper, this team certainly has the capability to turn it around. The Jays' offense is sputtering but the starting rotation has shown their talent now to keep the Jays in the game and the bullpen has been surprisingly good as well. Now it is up to Gibbons and the offense to start moving and start scoring more than 4 runs a game on a consistent basis and to start winning close games.

Someone has to step up to the plate to become the leadoff hitter and Gibby has to leave them there. I don't like the momentary lineups based on a streak of 3-4 games. That just shakes up the hitters and shows that Gibby is panicking. Gibby needs to decide on a leadoff tandem to start the game leading off and just leave it as it is. Those person is the duo of Bonifacio and Davis (Davis faces LHP, Bonifacio RHP).

Bonfacio is a lead off hitter and has played the majority of his career leading off. With Jose gone, put Bonifacio in the #1 spot and let his true talent show. Emilio is NOT A BUM, but he is certainly lacking plate discipline right now. His career walk / strike out ratio is close to 1:2 (not the 1:6 it is currently). Let him play against RHP, and let Rajai play against LHP. The speed will and the stolen base will be factors, which will only help Cabrera, who should be left in the #2 hole.

These are really your best options, and putting Kawasaki in the leadoff spot is insanity. His numbers are rapidly coming down to earth.

Let the long term numbers play themselves out and give your players a chance to gel. Don't hit the panic button *yet*. Wait a week.

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