Moneyball 2.0: How a $66 Million Payroll can Result in 97 Wins

by Teegan Leader

This year’s American League Wild Card Game saw two teams from both ends of the spectrum battle it out in a winner take all. The New York Yankees had the 6th highest payroll in baseball this season and second highest in the American League, at $179 million. Meanwhile the Oakland Athletics came in with Major League Baseball’s lowest payroll of $66 million. In fact, that was the fourth lowest payroll in all of the four major sport leagues this season, according to Sportrac.com. Despite the odds stacked against them, the A’s were only three wins away from the century mark and six games away from an AL West crown.

 Photo credit: by  Keith Allison  on  VisualHunt.com  /  CC BY-SA

Photo credit: by Keith Allison on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

What Got Them There?

Bunting can certainly be ruled out of this equation because the Oakland A’s as a team only bunted a total of six times all season long. As they illustrated all season, Oakland could slug with the best of them, ranking 3rd best in the American League and 4th best in MLB. Additionally, when the A’s put the bat on the ball, they did so with tremendous force, finishing with 39.8% of all batted balls with a 95mph exit velocity or faster, the hardest contact by any team in Major League Baseball. Here are the other offensive numbers to see where the A’s stack up with the rest of the league:

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Under the Radar Pitching

Acquisitions such as relief pitchers Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney also proved to be beneficial during the A’s stretch run to close out the 2018 regular season. These two pitchers joined an already elite bullpen that saw a career year out of Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino. Not to mention a career season by young starting pitcher Sean Manaea, who saw his season end with a shoulder injury. Despite that, the Oakland Athletics pitchers held their own with the Major League’s best pitching staffs.

American League Wild Card Game and a Bright Future

 Photo credit:  Baseball Savant

Photo credit: Baseball Savant

The A’s made a lot of great moves to get them where they needed to be this season. However, one questionable in-game decision possibly cost them their entire season. Liam Hendriks was dubbed the “opener” for the American League Wild Card Game. Hendriks had never started a game in Yankee Stadium and had only pitched 4.2 innings at that venue in his entire career, totaling a 5.79 ERA in that span. There were better options here, including lefty Brett Anderson, based off of his statistics at Yankee Stadium throughout his career. He had the best numbers in that venue and most experience when compared to the rest of the Oakland pitching staff. Below are some of his metrics:

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Clearly, Anderson’s only outing this year versus the Yankees factored into the decision (5IP, 8 hits, 4 ER, in 97 pitches) when his overall body of work in 2018 and career should have factored more. Despite the Hendriks decision, the Athletics still had an extremely successful season as they surpassed all expectations. With a young nucleus led by Matt Chapman, Oakland has a promising future ahead of them.