All right, this is just getting ridiculous.
We’re barely into June, and already the Oakland Athletics have a run differential of plus-115. How absurd is this? Only two other teams in all of baseball – Toronto and San Francisco – have a run differential above even plus-40, and neither has reached plus-60.
As you might imagine, the A’s have the best record in the American League (35-22).
How is Oakland doing this? Better yet, how does Oakland do this year after year with virtually no big names?
“Well, I think what the A’s really have going for them is they have management that is totally and utterly over the superstar thing,” former big league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst said on The MoJo Show. “I mean, you have so many other teams still in the league that are still willing to pony up the big-time cash to bring in megastars because they think, what, that’s going to anchor their roster?
“Now granted, if you have the production, you’re going to become a star at some point. But they are more concerned about having guys – even if they’re unknown, even if they’re unknown quantities – that fit their valuation process that they believe will be contributors.
“Billy Beane is aways steps ahead – it seems, at least – of the rest of the league. Now while the rest of the league is adopting Moneyball, he’s moved on to Moneyball 2.0. I think that the A’s are serious threats. They do a really nice job. They get guys who can do the job when they’re needed, who can do it on the cheap and they can do it year after year. And I think if Billy Beane’s formula really keeps cranking out winners, you’re going to see that for some time to come.”
One of the secrets to Beane’s success – especially given his payroll – is that he rarely pays for saves.
“I think one of the things that is misleading in baseball – and I think Billy Beane has never bought into – is the save,” Hayhurst said. “Whoever invented the save – and I used to know the guy’s name – but it was a reporter (Jerome Holtzman) who came up with it and it kind of stuck. And now you see guys that have saves next to their names getting paid beaucoup bucks, and Billy Beane is like, ‘Yeah, they’re great, and I’d love to have them, but (not) if I have to pay millions of dollars to get one. Statistics show that if I go into the ninth inning with the lead, if my guy can throw strikes, he’s going to become a closer. I’m not going to pay a premium for that. Just give me a guys who can throw strikes no matter what inning I put them in.’”
Elsewhere in the AL, the Blue Jays (35-24) have as many wins as Oakland, but the A’s have more staying power – for two simply reasons. One, Edwin Encarnacion is overachieving, and two, Mark Buehrle is overachieving.
Encarnacion is second in the majors with 19 home runs and third in the majors with 50 RBIs. Buehrle, meanwhile, is 10-1 with a 2.10 ERA – despite the fact that he has just 46 strikeouts in 81.1 innings. Even crazier? Toronto has scored 73 runs in Buehrle’s 11 starts.
That’s an average of 6.6 runs per start.
“They’ve been playing above themselves,” Hayhurst said, “especially when Buehrle’s on the mound.”
In other news, Hayhurst wrote an article for Deadspin this week bemoaning the antiquated notion of baseball’s unwritten rules, particularly when it comes to beanings.
“Your rules aren’t their rules, but teams get pissed at each other,” Hayhurst said, “and they hit each other and they bean each other and they take revenge on one another and they say, ‘It’s just part of the game. It’s just part of gamesmanship.’ No, it’s not. It’s part of being an ego-maniac.”