The Oakland A's have created a monster

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland is famous for its platoons and there is one in particular that is making a lot of noise.

The Oakland Athletics are pretty good at baseball. That's apparent to anyone who has been paying even the tiniest bit of attention to the MLB in 2014. It's also not altogether surprising given the strong squad the A's fielded last season.What might be a bit surprising to some is how excellent they have been offensively. The following shows their numbers and league ranks in a couple of major metrics.

*Statistics are prior to yesterday's game vs. the Detroit Tigers.

Runs Home Runs AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
266 (3rd) 59 (4th) .248 (16th) .333 (2nd) .410 (8th) .330 (4th) 111 (2nd)

This team can really hit, and they've done so despite a .280 BABIP, meaning there isn't an obvious reason to believe they'll regress significantly. The A's are also scoring buckets of runs without a true superstar driving their production. Josh Donaldson produces like a superstar, but he probably isn't appreciated like one just yet. Brandon Moss is another guy who is very productive but might not get the credit he's due. In likelihood that credit is coming, but right now it's possible to see why a fan could be a bit puzzled by Oakland's offensive surge.

One of the things that the A's have traditionally done well is use platoons to their advantage, and this season is no exception. They shelter their players from same handed pitchers and tend to field lineups that put their players in the best position to succeed. A great example of that is this year with their catchers. With the tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris A's catchers are absolutely destroying opposing pitching. This is what their production from the catcher spot looks like in 2014:

BB% ISO AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
13.4% (1st) .195 (5th) .297 (3rd) .395 (2nd) .492 (1st) .391 (1st) .154 (1st)

To put that in perspective, a wRC+ of 154 would rank 14th in the league at the moment, if the A's catchers were one player. Instead, you have two players who are perfectly utilized. Here's the breakdown of their playing time.

Player % of 2014 PA vs. RHP 2014 wRC+ vs. RHP Career wRC+ vs. RHP % of 2014 PA vs. LHP 2014 wRC+ vs. LHP Career wRC+ vs. LHP
John Jaso 91.8% 158 129 8.2% 26 54
Derek Norris 55.6% 129 71 44.4% 199 151

It's been well established that Jaso cannot hit southpaws, so the Athletics have completely sheltered him from them. Norris is a bit more complicated as they have found ways to get him into the lineup against RHP because he has been so hot this season. Both players can and have played in the same lineup against RHP with Jaso at DH and Norris at catcher. Even still, Norris has seen a high percentage of lefties considering their rarity compared to right handers.

All of the 2014 numbers here are based on small sample sizes and while Jaso has a relatively proven track record, Norris is in new territory and it remains to be seen how much of his breakout is sustainable. However, even ignoring this season and looking exclusively at the career platoon splits for the Jaso/Norris combo, it is clear that the potential is there for a very strong offensive performance.

If Norris falls to earth, the monstrous performance of this duo may taper off to an extent. If it does, the Athletics have still put themselves in a position to get a lot of run production from their catchers by utilizing two players whose skills complement each other beautifully.

Turns out the A's are using previously unheralded (although to be fair at one point Derek Norris was a Baseball America top 100 prospect) players in an intelligent way.

What else is new?

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker