TMS Team Preview: The 2016 Oakland Athletics

March 01, 2016 | Comments (1) | by Rich Funk

Over the coming weeks, Thunder Matt's Saloon will have previews of all 30 MLB teams. We're starting at the bottom and working our way up based on the current Vegas odds for winning the 2016 World Series.

Today we pull back the tarp on the unused seats that are the Oakland A's.

2015 Finish: 68-94 (Last Place in AL West)

So Long: Edward Mujica, Barry Zito, Jesse Chavez, A.J. Griffin, Craig Gentry, Ike Davis, Drew Pomeranz, Brett Lawrie, Aaron Brooks

Welcome: Rich Hill, Liam Hendriks, Jed Lowrie (again), Yonder Alonso, Marc Rzepczynski, John Axford, Ryan Madson, Henderson Alvarez, Khris Davis, Chris Coghlan

Projected Lineup (via
1. Billy Burns CF
2. Jed Lowrie 2B
3. Billy Butler DH
4. Josh Reddick RF
5. Khris Davis LF
6. Danny Valencia 3B
7. Stephen Vogt C
8. Mark Canha 1B
9. Marcus Semien SS

Starting Rotation: Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn (Injured), Rich Hill, Kendall Graveman, Henderson Alvarez (Injured), Chris Bassitt, Jarrod Parker (Injured)
Setup: Ryan Madson
Closer: Sean Doolittle

Rap Lyric That Describes Their 2015 Season:

"I got furniture to move/And we'll both be 30 soon/In Oakland, in Oakland"
     - Childish Gambino, Telegraph Ave.

It's hard not to feel bad for Oakland fans sometimes. They're really doing the best they can with the payroll and facilities they have, but nothing ever seems to work out right. In the Moneyball days of the early 2000's, they had as impressive a young core as any team in the majors, with the three headed beast of Hudson/Mulder/Zito backed up by All-Stars and MVP candidates in Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada. In 2001, they won over 100 games and were rewarded with a playoff series against the 3-time World Series champion Yankees, who eliminated Oakland from the playoffs. They won 100 games again in 2002 and were eliminated by the upstart Minnesota Twins. In 2004, they blew a 2-0 lead in a best of 5 series against the eventual World Series champion Red Sox.

Every year, the A's would lose their best players and every year, they would remain competitive under the shrewd moves of GM Billy Beane. In the 16 seasons since 2000, the A's have finished either first or second place in the AL West 11 times and have nothing to show for it. No World Series wins. No World Series appearances. One ALCS appearance (a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers).

So where do we find the A's in 2016? In the same place they always are - stuck in limbo between competing and rebuilding without committing to either. Maybe they like things in limbo. After all, it's full of unbaptized babies, right? Babies are cool. And it gives Billy Beane a chance to tap into a new pipeline of talent - amazing baseball players that were born before the coming of Jesus.

Billy Beane: "Can any of you heathens play center field?"
I look at the current A's lineup and I see nothing worth liking. Billy Burns looks like he could be the next Great A's Leadoff Hitter, picking up the torch that was held by the likes of Ray Durham and Coco Crisp and Johnny Damon. But then what? Josh Reddick seems to always have a busted wrist, Jed Lowrie hasn't had a healthy season since Chris Perez was relevant and Billy Butler is always a threat to roll a teammate into a tiny ball and eat him for lunch.

Billy Butler just now finished rounding the bases on a home run he hit in 2011.
And on top of the metaphorical shit sandwich that is the Oakland lineup, they also have to live in a literal shit sandwich because their stadium is so old and decrepit that it floods with poop 1-2 times a year. That's not an exaggeration. They continue to play in a toilet of a stadium that even the Raiders found a way to escape. The Raiders! You know who runs the Raiders? This guy:

Oakland was middle of the back in runs scored in 2015 and in the bottom third of the league in ERA. Expect more of the same this season.

One bright spot to call out is the truly out of nowhere emergence of Rich Hill last year, cashing in some late season success with the Red Sox into $6 million this season. Cubs fans may remember Hill from his awesome 2007 on the North Side. That was NINE seasons ago! And now he's back with his killer curveball. Hopefully he fares better with the A's than he did in his later seasons in Chicago because we all know what happens after Rich Hill goes away: He's replaced by Shawn Estes (gross).

Reason To Watch: Not all is dark and gloomy for the Athletics. They have one of the game's top young shortstops in Addison Russell. Or at least they would have if they didn't trade him for 2 months of this:

Thanks, Oakland!

Reason To Drink: They gave up a top 10 prospect for 2 months of this:

What looked like a curious move at the time seems downright laughable now. Maybe that's the next evolution of Moneyball: trade your best players before they even get to the majors!

The Fans: Do they have fans?

Their Worst Contract: Nothing truly terrible, but holy crap are there a lot of contracts that just seem awful when you look at them all at once. Bully Butler and Coco Crisp at $11 million each? $7.5 million for the corpse of Jed Lowrie? Let's hope Billy Beane and Assistant GM Virgil can hit paydirt before they get to the 3rd circle. Cerberus is a bitch to negotiate with.

Fantasy Standout: Sonny Gray is somehow a little bit better and a little bit worse than you remember at the same time. Sure, there are signs that Gray is a true ace in the making: he won 14 games for the second consecutive season, finished 3rd in the AL Cy Young race and posted a 2015 season ERA below 3.00...

Fantasy Bust: ...but his strikeout rate dipped for the 3rd straight season and his FIP the last 2 seasons (3.46/3.45) were significantly higher than his actual ERA (3.08/2.73) meaning he's had a lot of luck on his side. Some pitchers can maintain a track record of having a FIP higher than their ERA (Matt Cain did this for years), but it almost always catches up to you. Plus, again, Gray will have a home stadium clogged with turds for at least another few seasons. There's no luck in that.

The Pop Culture Equivalent To This Team Is: Arrested Development season 4. On paper, everything looked like a great idea but holy shit was it just not worth doing. Does that mean I think the 2016 Oakland A's should just not bother playing this season? Yes it does. Would anyone notice?


Mark Davis' Mom @ 1:28 PM, March 01, 2016

Don't blame me. Mark flies to Palm Springs for that haircut.