By Jason Wojciechowski on September 3, 2013 at 7:44 AM
Opponent: Texas Rangers
Starting pitchers: Martin Perez vs. Bartolo Colon
First pitch: 7:05 PT
A's in the West: Tied for first with Texas, 14 1/2 ahead of Anaheim
A's in the Wild Card1: First wild card, 3 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay, 5 1/2 ahead of Baltimore
Baseball Prospectus playoff odds: 51 percent division, 46 percent wild card
Over the course of the weekend, which as you can see I mostly took off, though I did watch most of the games, the A's went from a solid shot at winning the division (four to one odds) to the ever-so-slight favorites. That's exciting! Here's what I wrote in my ESPN MLB Power Ranking comment for the week:
The A's can make their own destiny over the final month of the season: They play 20 games against bad teams (Angels, Mariners, Twins, Astros) and six games against the division-leading Rangers.
That's down to five games against Texas, what with Oakland taking the Labor Day game in true Oakland fashion: 4–2 with a bunch of near meltdowns in the back end of the bullpen—what could be more A's?
Speaking of the A's, Rangers, and Power Rankings, the comment I wanted to write but couldn't figure out how pointed out this fact:
That's freakish. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis are within 3 1/2 games of each other (and it was a lot closer before the weekend), but there's a 117-run spread from the lowest runs scored to the highest in that group and a 42-run spread from the lowest runs allowed to the highest. (Pittsburgh is the lowest and St. Louis the highest in each. You can figure out where the Reds sit.)
The A's and Rangers are just one run behind Detroit for the fewest allowed in the American League (Detroit has played one more game, though), which says a lot about the Rangers run-prevention unit given that ballpark, which StatCorner's park factors have inflating runs by around 10 percent. The A's, while less impressive, are also sixth in the AL in run-scoring (one run behind fifth, five runs behind fourth) despite their park suppressing runs by about 10 percent.
In today's run environment and in Oakland's ballpark, it's hard to hit .290/.369/.476, as Josh Donaldson has done, which is why his True Average (BP's hitting-value metric, which among other things does adjust for park) ranks 23rd in MLB among quasi-qualifiers (420 plate appearances). And it's why Brandon Moss ranks 13th in that stat. Did you know that? I honestly had no idea. His WAR figures at all the major stat providers are relatively low for a variety of reasons: he doesn't play every day (he trails Donaldson by about 130 PAs, e.g.), he plays first base (a killer for his positional value), and he plays it poorly (the various internet-based metrics agree and the eyes don't tell much of a different story—he's not unathletic, but he still looks like he's learning). But all of that goes to his overall value, which is not to take away from his bat, which has been remarkably good—that .496 slugging should not be sneezed at. Using Baseball-Reference's neutralized stats, Brandon Moss's slugging would rank 16th in baseball behind mostly a who's who of sluggers along with occasional weirdos like Will Venable and Marlon Byrd.
Prediction: A's win.
As I understand it, the A's and Rangers would play a tiebreak game to determine who goes directly on to the Division Series and who gets stuck in the Wild Card Single-Game No-Holds-Barred Deathmatch were they to be tied at the end of the year. Home-field advantage is determined by head-to-head record, which Texas currently holds, 8–6. ↩