DETROIT — The A's marketing slogan this season is "100% Baseball."

Ask manager Bob Geren, and he might go with "Play the Hand You've Been Dealt."

This year's A's roster, short on players who can knock the ball out of the yard, does have the youth and speed that's been missing from Oakland teams of recent history.

Geren has tried to take advantage of it, calling for more stolen bases and encouraging players to look for chances to bunt for hits.

So what in the name of "Moneyball" is going on here?

"It's just a necessity," Geren said. "We have more guys with speed, and I need to utilize that. I enjoy every style, but I enjoy (the running) part. I like seeing guys go."

The A's have cracked the upper half of the American League rankings in steals, coming in seventh out of 14 teams with 77 stolen bases. That's already the highest total for an A's team since they had 131 in 1998.

But the A's are choosy with when they decide to bolt. They've been caught stealing just 20 times. The AL team right behind them in stolen bases, Toronto, entered Sunday with 76 stolen bases but had been caught 27 times. The team behind the Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, has 74 steals and been thrown out 34 times.

"It has to be the right people to do it," Geren said. "I don't run just to run. You run the right guys at the right time."

In this season where runs have been so scarce for Oakland, the A's have been forced to get creative. They rank last in the American League in runs, batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

Therefore, it bears noting that the success of the running game hasn't translated into the desired results on the scoreboard.

"I think it's an effort to try and take advantage of the skills of some of the guys on the team," general manager Billy Beane said. "Given my druthers, I'd rather have guys hitting 30 to 40 homers. But we have some speed."

When Rajai Davis was claimed off waivers from the Giants in April, it gave the A's a true burner who was a threat every time he got on base. For a majority of the season, Davis was utilized as a pinch-running specialist and was effective in that role.

But he's started nine of the past 11 games in center field and is hitting the ball on the ground more to take advantage of his speed.

His 23 stolen bases are the most by an Athletic since Johnny Damon swiped 27 in 2001. Mark Ellis is second on the team with 14, a figure that would have led the A's in each of the past three seasons. Ryan Sweeney (eight steals) and Eric Patterson (seven) are newcomers this season who are threats to run.

Though Beane is pleased with the new facet the A's have shown, he doesn't think it holds the key to long-range prosperity.

"There's no question that moving forward, short-term and long-term, we have to get some power," he said. "Obviously you'd like to have young power, but in the short term we have to look at something for next season, too."

After the A's worked so hard to stockpile their farm system with prospects, Beane said he's reluctant to turn around and start trading those young players to acquire a proven slugger.

That suggests the A's will explore free agency this winter for an impact bat.

In the meantime, they'll work with what they have. And outfielder/DH Jack Cust thinks the A's are wise to utilize their speed.

"You see other teams that run, the Angels and even the Twins, they have guys that can walk or get a single, and then they're on second the next pitch," Cust said. "I like it, especially when we're not scoring runs and not hitting home runs."

Note: The Angels' win Sunday over the White Sox officially eliminated the A's from contention for the West Division title.

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglic@bayareanewsgroup.com.