To start off with, I have a confession to make. I haven't seen a single A's game all season. I haven't been to a game, watched one on TV or caught one on MLB.tv. This is the first time in a few years that I haven't gotten the MLB Extra Innings package, and without that, it's awful tough to get A's games in New York. I think that lack of exposure has really cut down on my A's blogging.
With that said, I'd like to take a look at what I've been missing by poking around in Win Shares. Through 6/5, the A's had won 33 games (standings available on ESPN.com). By definition, the A's then have 99 win shares to distribute amongst themsleves. Here's how it breaks down:
Batting - 45 win shares (46%)
Pitching - 39 (39%)
Defense - 15 (15%)
For the sake of comparison, here's what the Angels look like for that same time period:
Batting - 47 (43%)
Pitching - 44 (40%)
Defense - 20 (18%)
What does that tell us? Well, it means that the Angel's and the A's have been about even offensively, but that the Angels are getting more from their pitching and defense. At first blush, that's a bit of a surprise. I've felt like Billy Beane has built this A's team lately on pitching and defense, while the Angels have suffered from early-season injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, two of their top pitchers. Let's dig a little deeper, looking at how players who have played compared to a "baseline", given their playing time.
As teams, the A's are 36 win shares above baseline, while the Angels are 51 shares above baseline. That roughly accounts for the 3.5 game differential in the standings. Here's how it looks at an individual level:
Biggest Outliers (Win Shares Above Baseline - Oakland)
-Justin Duchscherer and Jack Cust have 4 WSAB
-Frank Thomas and Rich Harden have 3 WSAB
-Donnie Murphy, Rajai Davis, Travis Buck, Lenny Dinardo and Fernando Hernandez each have (-1) WSAB
Biggest Outliers (Win Shares Above Baseline - Anaheim/LA)
-Joe Saunders has 8 WSAB
-Ervin Santana has 7 WSAB
-Casey Kotchman, Torii Hunter and Chone Figgins each have 5 WSAB
-Juan Rivera, Chris Bootcheck and Dustin Mosely have (-2) and Brandon Wood has (-3) WSAB
The Angels have gotten great, unexpected performances from some young pitchers, while the A's have gotten merely good performances from those expected to do so. And for the A's to make up the (still) 3.5 game margin they face on June 16th, they'll need continued healthy performances from Harden, Thomas and Eric Chavez (who is off to a good start back from the DL). And they need the Angels to not improve, a risky bet -- Vlad Guerero has contributed about as much as you'd expect from a replacement player, and John Lackey has only started six games (compared to 14 for the Angels' other starters). With just those two players, the Angels have a lot of upside. The A's have an uphill battle ahead of them.