The Oakland A’s Lost Advantage

Michael Lewis stated recently in an interview with MSNBC:
The [Oakland] A’s have no intellectual advantage, as evidenced by their performance.
Oakland is certainly not helping their cause with incompetent managing. After Oakland's Orlando Cabrera hit a leadoff double in the first inning of tonight's game against the White Sox, the team was in an excellent position to score runs - teams can expect to score 1.19 runs when they have a runner on second and no outs. But then the A's made a stupid, conservative error; the manager ordered Adam Kennedy to sacrifice bunt, moving Cabrera over to third. This move increased the chance that the A's would score at least one run (from 62% to 70%), but decreased their expected runs to 0.98, a loss of 0.2 runs. If the A's make one dumb decision like this every game (a low estimate), they cost themselves about 32 runs during the season. If the game is tied in the eighth or ninth inning, it makes sense for the A's to try to get a single run to take the lead. But at the beginning of the game it makes no sense to be reducing EV by pursuing low-risk strategies - the A's need to pursue the highest expected value course, even if, sometimes, they end up stranding the runner at 2nd. Unfortunately the manager is much more likely to listen to criticism for not moving the runner over than he is for not being risky enough. I'm somewhat ashamed to see the A's, whose front office puts such a high emphasis on statistical analysis, completely abandoning the math in their on-field decisions; it's as if there's a complete disconnect between the front office and the manager. Perhaps the A's have given up on the season already, and Beane and co don't care about what the manager does.

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One thought on “The Oakland A’s Lost Advantage

  1. D

    I have to admit that I agree with your conclusion in this case, although I would not that there are a few more factors to consider.

    1. You did not mention but did allude to the batting order, but it is worth noting that even early in the game it may make sense to bunt over a player from second to third, assuming that you are running into bottom half of a weak lineup (ahem, the Giants). In this case, it make no sense to sacrifice an out for your #2 batter. The top of the order should be encouraged and allowed to swing away otherwise what sort of message are you sending the players… we don’t trust even our best batters?

    2. I would argue that, in certain situations, it is worth considering the pitcher a team is going up against. Lets say you were facing Tim Lincecum and you were a couple innings into the game and had not managed to push a man home, that one run may be worth a lot more to the team (even if just for motivational purposes) than it would when facing a less dominating pitcher. That said, the #2 batter? Ridiculous.

    3. That is the A’s for ya…


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