By Tyler Bleszinski
Oct 6, 2011
Yesterday was the first part of the Billy Beane exclusive for Athletics Nation. Today you get part 2 where Billy delves into Moneyball, the minor league system and where he actually was for that mammoth 20th consecutive win.
Remember the conclusion hits Friday morning.
Tyler Bleszinski: If you were to grade each aspect of the team in 2011, how would they do – from bullpen to starting pitching, from the offense to the defense?
Billy Beane: Oh heavens Tyler, you don’t expect me to answer that? That’s what the pundits do at the end of the year, there’s no sense in us chiming in. I think the sum of the parts, for some of the reasons we talked about earlier, wasn’t what anyone would have wanted it to be. But if you look at individual performances, some have been what you would have hoped or expected. Just talking about some of the individuals, a guy like Josh Willingham, as we stand now 28 homers (29 now), close to 100 RBIs, I think that was certainly as much or more than we expected when we brought him over here. Brandon McCarthy has been a real find for us as he’s been outstanding. I think Grant Balfour has been outstanding. He’s done everything we’ve expected him to do after Brian (Fuentes) had a tough go there for a couple of weeks, but he sort of settled down and pitched very well. So the sum didn’t work; some individual parts exceeded expectations. Understand that there were some significant changes when you look at Daric’s year, not only the start he had but missing the rest of the year due to the injury. And Jemile (Weeks) coming up, I’m pleasantly surprised and while we all recognized his talent, I’m pleasantly surprised at how quickly he’s adapted from an offensive standpoint. He truly has a chance to be a very, very exciting player in this league and for him to be doing what he’s doing when I think that everybody expected him to spend the whole year at Triple-A, has been a very, very pleasant surprise. You know Sizemore wasn’t exactly an expected acquire, but we were happy to get him and he’s made the transition to third and still going through the growing pains, essentially his rookie year playing every day. But I think there is some hope there. But at the risk of going on about every single guy, I think that there have been some individual things that have been very good and as expected, but the sum of the parts because of some reason or another didn’t work.
TB: You seem to have an ability, and I don’t know whether it’s strictly you or the organization as a whole, but regardless of how, the A’s have an ability and maybe it’s the ballpark that you guys pitch in, as well, but you seem to have an ability to put together a quality young pitching staff and bring in guys that are quality. Why do you think you guys have been able to be successful in repeatedly seemingly re-stocking great starting pitching? I mean you lose Hudson, Mulder, Zito, and now you’ve got an assortment of Cahill, Anderson, Gio, Dallas, you seem to be able to replenish that much more easily than the bats have been able to come. Why do you think you guys are so good at identifying starting pitching and getting them in there?
BB: If you do this job long enough, you end up being good at one thing and bad at another, and then it flip flops. When I first took this job, and I’ve said this many times, we hadn’t developed a starting pitcher since Curt Young, so I do think you do run through some streaks in the organization. One of the things we realized with pitching – it sounds redundant – is you can never have too much pitching, but it’s actually true. And we’ve lost some guys through injury; some of our best prospects have fallen to injury, significant injury. Certainly Brett and Dallas, but if you go down to the minor leagues, our best pitching prospects, Josh Outman we lost for a year, Joey Devine we lost for a year, Michael Inoa we lost for a year, as well. Even though we have some good ones, we should have more. And we didn’t lose them for a month or two. But as to why we’ve had more pitching than another aspect of the team, some of it is just that we did focus on pitching when we made some trades because we realized that in this marketplace, you’re going to have to draft or trade for it. But the idea that you’re going to bring in a sort of veteran free-agent pitchers to put together a competitive staff is just probably not going to happen. You look at the small market teams that have had success; they’ve all built their pitching internally. Tampa Bay is a very recent example of that. Once again, I think it’s in streaks. We focused on position players in the first round the last couple of years, save for this year when we took Sonny Gray, who we thought was the best player on the board. We feel very good about the progress of Grant (Green), Michael Choice and Jemile Weeks.