The A’s added two new faces to their lineup this offseason adding infielder Nick Punto and outfielder Craig Gentry. They also saw two outfielders depart in Chris Young and Seth Smith. While Punto and Gentry are not offensive powerhouses they do provide a boost over Young and Smith. A few different statistics stand out between the two groups. These statistics may not seem like much, but GM Billy Beane certainly looked at them when he was signing Punto and acquiring Gentry.
Last season the A’s finished 20th in strikeouts with 1,178. The Texas Rangers finished 29th with 1,067. That’s a difference of 111. The A’s scored 47 more runs than the Rangers and hit 10 more home runs. The A’s made 11 more errors than the Rangers as well.
The Rangers went into the offseason looking to add offense. They certainly achieved that with the acquisition of Prince Fielder and the signing of Shin-Soo Choo. The A’s countered that with their revamped bullpen and signing of Scott Kazmir. However, with Gentry and Punto in the fold now the A’s got better in two other areas. Offensive strikeouts and defensive efficiency.
Seth Smith had 94 strikeouts in 368 at bats. Chris Young had 93 strikeouts in 335 at bats. Gentry and Punto combined had 113 strikeouts in 581 at bats. While Smith and Young had over 100 more at bats Gentry and Punto still struck out less at a far smaller percentage. Though there is no tangible way at this point to translate that into a real number there is no arguing the fact that less strikeouts correlates with more base runners. And of course more base runners means more run scoring opportunities.
Add that to the fact that Punto and Gentry are better fielders than both Smith and Young and you’re balance between runs scored and runs against leans even more in a positive direction. The more runs scored combined with less runs given up is a methodology Beane has been using for some time now. If you throw in a bounce back year from Céspedes and less strikeouts from Moss and Reddick, the A’s could have one of the best offenses, and best teams, in all of MLB.
The A’s are the defending AL West champions two years in a row. However, they are still in some circles around baseball not considered the favorites. The moves they made this offseason generated a lot of buzz because of the names, but they also made a lot of sense. Not only did the A’s potentially widen the gap in the statistical categories they led against the Rangers, but they also closed the gap on a couple of categories they did not lead in. This should make for an ever better A’s team, one that will silence the critics yet again come September and October.