No front office executive makes lemonade out of lemons better than Billy Beane.
The architect of the Oakland Athletics, Beane held the title of General Manager from 1998 to 2015 before being promoted to Executive VP of Baseball Operations. Beginning in the early 2000s, Beane revolutionized baseball by applying new age sabermetrics to evaluate players. While he hasn't won a World Series, Beane found a way to build highly competitive teams using a shoestring payroll, getting the most out of players that other teams overlooked or gave up on. Michael Lewis wrote a best-selling book about Beane in 2003 called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. In 2011, the movie Moneyball was released with Brad Pitt starring as Beane.
Last season, the Athletics went 97-65 but came up short in the postseason, losing the one-game playoff to Tampa Bay. It marked the second consecutive 97-win season for the A's, but also their second straight loss in the one-game playoff. Since 2000, Oakland has made the playoffs 10 times but reached the ALCS only once (2006). Its last World Series win came in 1989. Under current manager Bob Melvin, Oakland has reached the playoffs in 5 of 8 seasons.
It has been an incredibly quiet offseason for the A's. Oakland traded infielder Jurickson Profar to the Padres for a pair of prospects. They also waved goodbye to free agent pitchers Blake Treinen, Tanner Roark, Homer Bailey and Brett Anderson. Oakland re-signed pitchers Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit. But that's about it in terms of major transactions.
One reason the A's didn't make many free-agent additions, aside from their small budget constraints, is that they welcome back several key players who didn't contribute much in 2019, including young stud lefties Sean Manaea and rookies A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo. Oakland also returns Frankie Montas, who went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA last season before being suspended for PEDs.
Here is the Athletics' projected 2020 starting lineup. Oakland will count on the trio of third baseman and budding superstar Matt Chapman (.249, 36 homers, 91 RBIs), shortstop and leadoff hitter Marcus Semien (.285, 33 homers, 92 RBIs) and power hitting first baseman Matt Olson (.267, 36 homers, 91 RBIs).
1. Marcus Semien SS
2. Ramon Laureano OF
3. Matt Chapman 3B
4. Matt Olson 1B
5. Mark Canha OF
6. Khris Davis DH
7. Stephen Piscotty OF
8. Sean Murphy C
9. Tony Kemp 2B
Oakland's starting rotation is deep, talented and has major upside, especially if Manaea stays healthy and Luzardo and Puk can pitch to their reputations.
1. Sean Manaea
2. Frankie Montas
3. Mike Fiers
4. Jesus Luzardo
5. Chris Bassitt or A.J. Puk
The A's bullpen is led by closer Liam Hendriks (1.80 ERA, 25 saves), along with set-up men Petit, Diekman and Joakim Soria.
At BetMGM, Oakland's win total is 32.5. This translates to 87.75 wins based on a 162-game schedule. For a team that has won 97 games for two straight years and returns the same core, the over automatically seems appealing. Sharp bettors seems to agree. The over 32.5 is juiced up to -115 with the under -105. This signals a combination of wiseguy action and house liability on Oakland winning 33 games or more.
FanGraphs, one of the most respected sites for advanced baseball analytics, projects Oakland going 32-28, which puts them right at their win total.
Oakland is favored to make the playoffs for the third year in a row, but just slightly. The A's are a modest -120 favorite to make the postseason and + 100 to miss the postseason.
The Athletics have the 2nd-best odds to win the AL West at + 265, trailing only the Astros at -182. The Angels are + 650, followed by the Rangers + 1600 and the Mariners a distant + 6500.
The A's are tied with the White Sox and Indians for the 5th-best odds to win the American League at + 1200. Only the Yankees (+ 170), Astros (+ 380), Twins (+ 1000) and Rays (+ 1000) are higher.
Oakland is + 2500 to win the World Series.
Chapman has the 7th-best odds to win the AL MVP at + 2000. Semien is + 4000.
Chapman's over/under home runs is 12.5 (over -110, under -120). His RBIs over/under is 30.5 (over -120, under -110).
Semien is + 1200 to lead the AL in runs. Chapman is + 1400.
Olson is + 2500 to lead MLB in homers. Khris Davis is + 3300 and Chapman + 6600.
Montas is + 4000 to win the AL Cy Young and Manaea + 10000.
Hendriks is + 700 to lead the AL in saves, giving him the 5th-best odds overall behind Aroldis Chapman (+ 400), Roberto Osuna (+ 500), Taylor Rogers (+ 600) and Brad Hand (+ 600).
Oakland has two of the top ten Rookie of the Year candidates with Luzardo + 500 and Puk + 2000.