A Brief Defense of the Mostly Disastrous Oakland A’s Series

The Padres beat the Oakland A’s 3-1 on Thursday, salvaging one piece from an otherwise ugly four-game set. In the series — we’re calling it one series — the Padres were outscored 32-11, which is bad enough against any team, but it happened against the 29-40 last-place A’s. As Geoff Young said earlier this week:

If the Padres are serious about contending this year, they need to start dominating bad teams. The A’s are a bad team. Although anything can happen in a short series, it would behoove the Padres to take three out of four.

They certainly didn’t do that.

Here’s the thing. The A’s aren’t that bad. Like, maybe, they aren’t even bad at all. They might even be good. So far this season they’ve outscored their opponents — not by a few runs, but by 36 runs, which gives them the seventh-best run differential in the majors. By Baseball Prospectus’ third-order winning percentage, which uses underlying statistics and adjusts for strength of opponent, the A’s .591 mark ranks even better, fifth in the majors. (The Padres’ figure is a scary-bad .407, by the way.)

The A’s have good players, one of the prerequisites to fielding a good team. Stephen Vogt and Josh Reddick rank 17th and 18th in the majors in wRC+, respectively. Billy Burns, Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Billy Butler, and Marcus Semien round out a solid if not spectacular lineup. The pitching staff includes Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez at the top, and Scott Kazmir and Jesse Hahn in the middle, hardly a weak spot. The bullpen, as Geoff mentioned, is the real weak link (along with the defense) and probably a major cause for the A’s 5-18 mark in one-run games. Hey, Geoff also mentioned the A’s positive run differential. Why am I writing this?

Anyway, the Padres played really poorly in the series, that much is obvious. Even if those same four games happened against the Dodgers or Cardinals or Astros (wait, the Astros?) or some other legitimately good team with a good win-loss record and everything, you certainly wouldn’t be happy with it. But at least you might take some solace in losing to a better team.

I’m not saying the A’s are a better team than the Padres, but it seems clear that they are significantly better than their early season record. It was an ugly series no matter how you look at it, but at least the A’s aren’t, like, the Phillies or something. The Padres can recover from this.

Plus we found out Alexi Amarista can pitch.

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