Outsider’s Perspective: Was the A’s 2012 Season a Fluke?


March 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics pitchers warm up before a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

2012 was not a fluke.  In a division loaded with talent, the A’s surprised everyone by winning the AL West, and doing so in dramatic fashion.  Up until the point where the A’s actually won the division, media exposure on a national level was basically zero, and I will admit I knew very little about the A’s season myself up until that point.  As the A’s were having success on the west coast, another team was taking their division by surprise, the Baltimore Orioles. At face value, both teams looked very similar. Young players anchoring their respective teams, playing hard and getting some breaks here and there. Although both teams’ records were within 1 game of each other, the success of the Orioles can be attributed more to luck in close games rather than being the more talented baseball team.  The 2012 A’s season was no fluke and they should be expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2013.

Pythagorean Win-Loss is a stat that uses a teams run differential to determine what its expected W/L record should be during and at the end of the season.  By comparing a teams actual W/L record to their Pythagorean expectation, we can see whether a team is overachieving, underachieving, or preforming to their expectations. The higher the run differential, the more wins a team should be expected to have.  In 2012, the A’s had the third highest run differential in the AL at 0.6 runs per game (third only to the Yankees at 0.8 and the Rays at 0.7).  Looking deeper, we can see that this differential can be attributed to the performance of the pitching staff.   The A’s staff allowed 3.8 runs per game, the second lowest in the AL.  On the other hand the A’s only scored 4.4 runs per game, good enough for league average.

At the end of the 2012 season the A’s Pythagorean W/L was 92-70 and their actual W/L record was 94-68.  Although the A’s outperformed their expectation by 2 games, 92 wins would be within range of a wild card spot most years (although last year they would have been the odd man out by a game to the Orioles).  The A’s were able to put together a 94 win season with exceptional pitching and only average offensive production.  With the additions of Jed Lowrie and Hiro Nakajima and another year for improvement from Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, the offensive production should improve, and as a result of solid pitching should improve the team’s run differential. As we have learned, a better run differential means more wins expected and a win expectation over 90 should mean playoff chances.  If the offense can improve,  A’s should remain competitive for a playoff spot come September.