The 2010 A’s finished 81-81, becoming the first Athletics team since 2006 to not post a losing record. Unfortunately, unlike the 2006 team, they also failed to post a winning record. Though it may not deviate from any other preseason plan, the 2011 A’s face winning expectations they’ve not seen in years.
The 2010 season was plagued by injuries and an anemic offense, using the DL more than any other team in baseball, and finishing 11th in runs scored. While it may not guarantee a healthy 2011, the A’s did away with Head Athletics Trainer Steve Sayles in place of former Rays Assistant Athletic Trainer, Nick Paparesta. Solutions to the offense required a bit more innovation on behalf of General Manager Billy Beane. Here’s a look at the offseason additions and subtractions taken by the A’s on the offensive side of the game.
|Additions||2010 WAR||Subtractions||2010 WAR|
|David DeJesus||2.6||Eric Chavez||-0.4|
|Andy LaRoche||-0.6||Jack Cust||2.4|
|Hideki Matsui||1.9||Rajai Davis||1.2|
|Josh Willingham||2.7||Gabe Gross||-0.6|
This analysis, though not a sure-fire predictor of the future, illustrates a +4.5 WAR – essentially 4 to 5 more wins over the course of the 2010 season using the A’s offensive additions, as opposed to their subtractions. While five more wins would still leave the A’s four games back of the AL Champion Texas Rangers, it speaks volumes to the improvement of the team that took place in the offseason in simply one aspect: offense.
Another area of improvement that received attention this winter, albeit attention often coming in the form of raised eyebrows, happened to be the bullpen additions, most notably RHP Grant Balfour and LHP Brian Fuentes. The interesting part of these signings, while most people (including Billy Beane himself) make the claim that the A’s plucked the two relievers off the open market because they had money to spare, is that the A’s finished 6th in bullpen ERA in 2010, despite have the best team ERA in the AL. Although there is little room for improvement on behalf of the starters, the bullpen was merely “above-average” in comparison to the rest of the league. The additions of Balfour and Fuentes solidify the bullpen, as well as strengthen the entire pitching staff.
This spring, open spots on the team can be found at the backup-catching position (Powell and Donaldson), the fifth starting pitcher (Cramer, Harden, McCarthy, Outman, and Ross), and the utility infielder (LaRoche, Sogard, Timmons, and Tolleson). In traditional A’s fashion, these competitions will likely meet their conclusion in the final spring series again the Giants in the Bay Area, just before the final cut.
Even though defending American League Champions are what stand in between the A’s and a division title, there is little doubt that improvements have been made, and expectations are high in the East Bay for the first time in a long time.
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Written by Patrick Ryan