The 1990 Oakland A’s compiled the best record, 103-59, in the major leagues that year with a lineup that included AL MVP, Ricky Henderson, and AL Cy Young winner, Bob Welch. They swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, but were unceremoniously swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.
According to Baseball Reference, the 12 top A’s of 1990 by WAR included:
- Ricky Henderson – 9.9 WAR
- Mark McGwire – 5.7 WAR
- Jose Canseco – 5.4 WAR
- Dave Stewart – 5.2 WAR
- Dave Henderson – 4.8 WAR
- Walt Weiss – 4.2 WAR
- Dennis Eckersley – 3.3 WAR
- Bob Welch – 3.0 WAR
- Gene Nelson – 2.3 WAR
- Willie Randolph – 2.3 WAR
- Felix Jose, – 1.8 WAR and
- Mike Gallego – 1.2 WAR
While Oakland teams of the 90’s are often associated with power hitting, ala the Bash Brothers of McGwire and Canseco, the 1990 team impressed with great pitching and defense. McGwire and Canseco did finish second and third in the AL with 39 and 37 homers, respectively, but well back of the 51 dingers posted by Cecil Fielder, and as a team the A’s were fourth best among all MLB teams with 164. However, the A’s pitching staff led the majors in team ERA with a 3.18 rate that was .67 better than the major league average of 3.85. They also lead in team shutouts with 16, nearly 1 in 10 games, and a team WHIP of just 1.223, .126 better than the MLB average. Interestingly, the 1990 A’s pitching staff recorded the fourth fewest strikeouts, 831, among major league teams.
According to Baseball Reference, the 1990 A’s defense led MLB with a Defensive Efficiency of .732, 32 points better than the MLB average, and tied the Toronto Blue Jays for first in Fielding Efficiency at .986%. Walt Weiss led the team with a 2.7 defensive Wins Above Replacement rating.
Rickey Henderson’s MVP season consisted of leading the majors with an On Base Percentage of .439, 21 points better than Lenny Dykstra, and in On-Base Plus Slugging with a phenomenal 1.016, 46 points better than Barry Bonds. He finished second in the majors to Cecil Fielder with a Slugging Percentage of .577, and second to Vince Coleman with 65 Stolen Bases. He was second in AL Batting Average behind George Brett by just 4 points at .325.
The 1990 Oakland A’s placed 3 pitchers in the top five for the American League Cy Young Award: Bob Welch, 1st, Dave Stewart, 3rd, and Dennis Eckersley, 5th. It was one of the more controversial years for the award with both Stewart and Roger Clemens, 2nd, posting better numbers than Welch. Stewart led MLB in Innings Pitched and Batters Faced, he tied with Clemens for most Shutouts and with Jack Morris for most Complete Games in the AL. Clemens led the majors with an ERA of 1.93 and Stewart was 5th at 2.56. Welch won the award by being the runaway leader in the MLB with 27 wins and a winning percentage of .818. He undoubtedly benefited from an average run support of 5.21 in his starts. By contrast, the A’s scored 3 or fewer runs in 12 of Stewart’s starts (33%) and did so only 3 times in starts by Welch.
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