Bobby CrosbyToday, Athletics Nation constructs “a parallel universe where everything is about the same as this one, except Rich Harden’s body actually holds up, and when you put two socks into the dryer you get two back.”

The blog imagines a scenario where the A’s compete in the AL West and are buyers at the trade deadline instead of sellers.

Sounds crazy, right?

Yeah, I thought so, too. But then U.S.S. Mariner comes along and runs a bunch of computer simulations and determines that the 2008 Oakland Athletics are the favorites to win the AL West.

From U.S.S. Mariner:

The division favorite was not the Angels but the torn-down Athletics, 47% to 42%, and Texas won the division almost as often as the M’s. The A’s-Angels thing is as much a shock as anything. General analyst-on-TV-or-radio seems to be that it’s all about the M’s-Angels, but Oakland fields the best pitching/defense combination in the AL and their offense is decent too.

the masterOf course, preseason computer projections take for granted that a team’s players will be healthy. And the A’s have been anything but in recent years. We’re talking about guys like Rich Harden, Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby. If all three of them stay healthy it will be a miracle.

Still, let’s take a moment and contemplate the A’s. This team, which finished ten games below .500 last season and traded its best pitcher and star CF in the offseason, is a favorite — if only in the world of computer projections.

That’s just a little bit amazing, isn’t it?

I think we can all agree that if the A’s find a way to win the division this season, Billy Beane will need to be bumped to the top of this list. And he’ll probably need some kind of new title. “General manager” just won’t cut it any more. I’m thinking something with a little more flair. Maybe “jedi talent assessor” or “master of player acquisition.”

And if the A’s tank this season and finish in last place … well, that’ll just prove once and for all that you can’t trust a computer.

7 Responses to “Computers love the A’s”

  1. Sarah Green says:

    How about “hardball ninja” or “supreme swami of the hot stove”?

  2. Yeah, I saw that USS Mariners post too. And you know what the amazing part is? I believe that that computer projection maybe actually *did* take injuries into account, because it used the ZiPS projections, which not only project a players stats, but projects games played as well, based on prior injury history. To make that computer not say that the A’s would be a slight favorite, that guy had to go in and forcibly disable Rich Harden and other players for the whole year.

  3. Hey love the posts. All very interesting. Check out my stuff.

    do you by chance write on armchairgm?

  4. Nick, that’s crazy. I totally misunderstood that USS Mariner post. I thought he had to disable Harden b/c the computer didn’t take injuries into account.

    None of us writes for armchairgm, Sam.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    Yeah, I think it just goes to show that the A’s are actually still going to have an okay team, despite the trades. A lot of people are saying the A’s are going to lose 100 games this year, but I don’t see it. Billy Beane is not just running random guys out there – he actually has got reasonable major-league level players at every position, and several young guys who still have upside. And while I could easily see Chavez, Crosby, and Harden being injured all year again, at the same time it is also not entirely inconceivable that one or more of them could actually come back and have a good year. Plus, there is Beane’s talent for finding spare parts through out the year.

    So yeah, computers can be wrong, and even if the computer is right, a 47% chance for the A’s to win the division still means there’s a 53% chance that they won’t, so if the A’s don’t win this year, it doesn’t even mean the computer was wrong. But it’s not like the A’s are going to be complete doormats in the AL West.

  6. Nick Kapur says:

    For what it’s worth, I went and looked up the 2008 ZiPS projections for Harden, Chavez, and Crosby. It doesn’t have any of them playing a whole season, but apparently they play enough that the A’s might contend.

    Harden is projected to make 15 starts, tossing 92 innings. Chavez is projected to play 131 games, and Crosby is projected to play in 94.

    What is also notable is that Jack Cust, Travis Buck, Daric Barton, Dan Johnson, Eric Chavez, Chris Denorfia, and Mark Ellis are ALL projected to put up OPS’s above last year’s league average for their positions, leaving only Crosby and Emil Brown to fall below average out of projected A’s starters. So yeah, it’s not like the A’s are going to be just throwing scrubs or AA players out there this year the way that, say, the Marlins did after their fire sales.

  7. I’m an abashed Jack Cust fan. And Daric Barton is so under the radar. But Mark Ellis really may be the most underrated player in the game. I feel like Dan Johnson never fulfills his expectations, though. Maybe this year.

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