Monday, April 30, 2012


As we noted a couple of entries back, offense has rallied over the past ten days or so and we aren't showing anything quite like the level of decline that looked to be the case in the middle of the month. Among other factors in play, there's the weather, which had dipped below average but is now back into normal-to-above ranges.

Bartolo Colon
But in the midst of this, we have two teams in each league who seem to be gearing themselves up for a level of offensive anemia that hasn't been seen since the first round of expansion. The Oakland A's in the AL and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL are both averaging less than three runs per game (in the case of the Pirates, they're averaging less than two and a half runs per game); together, they make up more than 95% of the current offensive dropoff.

Currently both clubs are remaining respectably mediocre (the A's are 11-12 as we write this; the Pirates 9-12) because their mostly unheralded pitching staffs are near the top of their respective leagues.

But their lack of punch is, at least in the early going, flirting with all-time lows. The A's are averaging 2.9 runs per game, which still leaves a good bit of wiggle room with the old Washington Senators, who only socred 2.45 per game back in 1909 en route to a 42-110 season.

The Pirates, however, are averaging just over 2.3 runs per game (though their estimated runs scored is low by close to 20%, suggesting that they've been having trouble hitting with runners on base: their actual R/G is close to half a run below where it should be) and are giving the 1908 Cardinals and Dodgers a run for their money as the most punchless team in NL history.

Erik Bedard
Both squads have an adjusted OPS in the 60s--the Bucs at 68, the A's even lower at 64--that, if it stays intact over the entire season, would produce the lowest team OPS+ in major league history. (For the record, the lowest OPS+ we can find belonged to the two NL expansion teams in 1963, the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s. That OPS+ figure: 73. In 1981, the Toronto Blue Jays--one year away from their transformation into a playoff-bound franchise, posted a 74 OPS+, though they managed to average an almost luxurious 3.1 runs/game.)

So far, well-known veteran pitchers (Bartolo Colon for the A's; A. J. Burnett and the oft-injured Erik Bedard for the Bucs) have been leading the way for their newly-adopted teams. These guys were all top-flight starters at one point or another in the past decade, but the number of people who expected any of these three to be enjoying a major career resurgence in 2012 could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Brandon Inge, upon hearing that the A's plan to
bat him in the #2 slot in their batting order...
The A's, who've been particularly beleaguered by a lack of offensive punch from their third basemen in '12, have just signed recent Tiger castoff Brandon Inge, who will probably get at least a month to see if he can snap back into anything resembling major league ability with the bat. At this point, however, Inge's ability to outperform the flatlining troika of Josh Donaldson, Eric Sogard and Luke Hughes seems highly questionable.

The A's are about to embark on a portion of their schedule where they'll be playing some of the AL's better teams, including most of the teams in the East, so things may get a good bit dicier for them over the next several weeks; the Bucs will mostly avoid such a fate in the first half of May. Either way, however, it's hard to see either team suddenly developing much run-scoring ability...we might be looking at a couple of teams that will actually score fewer than 500 runs in a season. Who woulda thunk it possible?