Would an Oakland A's Collapse Be the Worst of All Time?
The Oakland A's were just swept by the last place, barreling-toward-100-losses Texas Rangers. At home. To a team with an interim manager and a record of 57-92. And they were outscored 19-6 in the three-game series.
Friends, things in Oakland aren't going well.
The A's have already lost the American League West. The Angels have long since lapped Oakland, now 11.5 games worse than L.A. But now, their tentative hold onto a wild card spot is in serious jeopardy. They no longer hold the top wild card spot, as they're a half-game behind the Kansas City Royals. They lead that second wild card by just one game over the Seattle Mariners, with the Cleveland Indians still lurking, four games back.
If the Oakland A's fail to make the playoffs after trading away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel before the trade deadline, it will certainly go down as one of the greatest collapses in Major League history.
Their Place In History
According to CoolStandings.com, it would actually be the second-worst collapse of all time.
|Boston Red Sox||2011||99.6||9/3/2011||9|
|New York Mets||2007||99.5||9/13/2007||6.5|
|New York Giants||1934||99.2||9/6/1934||7|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||1962||98.1||9/22/1962||4|
|San Diego Padres||2010||97.2||8/25/2010||6.5|
Cool Standings uses their version of playoff odds to determine which teams suffered the greatest collapse. On August 24, 1995, the Angels held an 9.5 game lead over the Texas Rangers and a 12.5 game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the AL West. Their odds of making the playoffs was a robust 99.9%, but that was not enough as the Mariners came storming back to tie the Angels for the division lead after 162 games, forcing a one-game playoff that was won by Seattle. After being a lock to reach the playoffs, the Angels were out.
Back on June 21, Oakland had the best record in baseball and held a 6-game lead over the Angels. They had a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs, and had the added cushion of the wild card to fall back on, in the event the unlikely happened. That is tied with the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, who also had a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs, up 12.5 games on August 13. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they did not have the luxury of a wild card to fall back on as the New York Giants tracked them down in one of the greatest pennant races in baseball history.
Of course, this list is subject to opinion. Certainly, it seems odd that the 1964 Phillies, who had a 6.5 game lead with 12 games to play, would be 12th on the list. Their peak odds of making the playoffs was 96.3%, which is why they're so low on it, but everyone knows that was one of the five worst collapses in baseball history. Also, the Cincinnati Reds in 1999 lost a tough battle for the NL Central and wild card, even though they had a 98.4% chance of making the playoffs late in the season. The Reds were up by 3.5 games on September 21 and actually won six games in a row before losing four of their last five.
Still, it's a pretty good list that gives you some idea of the teams with the best odds of making the postseason who fell short.
So why are the A's collapsing?
|Last 30 Days||88 (14)||.220 (15)||.289 (13)||.326 (15)||.276 (14)||77 (15)|
Any way you slice it, the A's have been brutal offensively. Whether they really do miss Cespedes this much or whether it's just a terrific run of bad luck and slumps at inopportune times, Oakland ranks near the bottom in every offensive category over the last 30 days.
Only two players with at least 40 plate appearances have a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 100 or better, meaning they are producing runs at a better-than-league-average pace. Josh Donaldson (127) and August trade pick-up Adam Dunn (115) are the only two guys keeping their heads above water.
Sonny Gray, now at a career high 203 innings pitched this year, struggled in Thursday's loss to Texas, giving up four first-inning runs. He left after pitching five innings and gave up five runs total on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts. His season ERA stands at 3.28, but over his last six starts (40.1 IP) has an ERA of 4.46. Scott Kazmir's ERA of 8.22 in his last five starts (23 IP) has not helped either.
The top three in the rotation, all the new guys, have actually continued to perform well over the last month. Lester has a 1.80 ERA in his last five starts, Hammel's is 2.36 over his last four and Samardzija's is 3.02 in his last six, despite going 1-3 in that time period.
|Time||Runs Allowed||ERA||FIP||Blown Saves||HR/FB|
|Last 30 Days||28 (13)||3.33 (5)||4.51 (14)||7 (15)||15.9 (15)|
The A's finally have their closer, Sean Doolittle back from the disabled list, and not a moment too soon. While the bullpen's ERA of 3.33 is fifth-best in the American League over the last 30 days, their FIP of 4.51 shows they haven't been that good. That's evident in their 7 blown saves over the last month and their league-worst 15.9% HR per fly ball percentage. Only Dan Otero, Luke Gregerson and Fernando Abad have an ERA under 4 among relievers with at least four innings pitched.
Aside from a three-game series with the nothing-left-to-play-for Angels next week, Oakland's schedule should allow them to hold onto one of the AL wild card spots.
They open up a three-game home series with the dead-men-walking Philadelphia Phillies starting Friday night, host the Angels for three, then travel to Texas to take on the Rangers for a four-game series to finish out the season. Yes, the Rangers just swept three games from the A's at home, but they are a 92-loss team, a squad the A's should be able to beat.
According to our power rankings, we see Oakland as having a 93.6% chance of making the playoffs. They're still in the driver's seat and control their own destiny.
And should they fail, well, at least they'll make history.