The curious case of the Oakland A’s
Scan the bottom of the MLB standings, and you’ll notice a something a bit out of place. All of the last-place teams have hideous run differentials … except for one. That one team is the AL-worst Oakland Athletics, and they not only don’t have a poor run differential, but they have the fourth-best run differential in the AL (+36 heading into Friday night’s game).
So how the heck is a team that’s 29-40 have a run differential that good?
Well, the A’s do a really good job of winning games by a lot while also doing a heck of a job losing close games.
In their 29 wins, Oakland has outscored its opponents by 146, which is five runs per win. So in their 40 losses, they’ve been outscored by 110 runs. Nearly half of those losses have come by one run. 18 to be exact. Turn a third of those games the other way and you’re looking at a 35-34 team. Turn half of those games the other way and you’re looking at a 38-31 team.
When you look at some of the team stats, the A’s have the second-most runs in the league despite not being all that impressive in many of the hitting categories. When looking at average, OBP, SLG and OPS, they’re only in the top 10 in OBP, where they’re eighth.
Oakland also ranks sixth in ERA. So yeah, this is a team second in runs scored and sixth in ERA and in last place, 11½ games behind the first-place Houston Astros. Needless to say, that’s pretty wild.
Some of these stats bode well for the A’s possibly getting back into the thick of things in the AL. Obviously it’s going to be tough. Not only are they 11½ out of the division, but they’re also nine back in the Wild Card race.
Oakland will need to keep scoring runs at its current rate and also keep that ERA low. It’s also a must to start fielding better, as the A’s have by far the most errors in the league, leading to a bunch of unearned runs.
Oakland currently has 40/1 odds to win the AL pennant, per Bovada, so it could be worth it to throw down a few bucks and hope things start to go its way in the standings.