Oakland Athletics

Five ways A's have had eerily similar season to 2018 playoff campaign

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USATSI

Five ways A's have had eerily similar season to 2018 playoff campaign

As the late, great Yogi Berra once said, it's déjà vu all over again.

Through 94 games, the A's 2019 season has followed a very familiar pattern, almost perfectly mirroring last year. Both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns saw Oakland get off to a slow start, only to catch fire just prior to the All-Star break.

Of course, the A's still have plenty of work to do if they want to match last year's 97-win total, but to this point, there are a handful of stunning similarities between the two seasons.

Same exact record 28 different times

This year's A's squad has already had the same exact record as last year's team on 28 different occasions. From 1-2 to 31-31 to the club's current mark of 53-41, this season has followed last year to a T.

There have also been numerous occasions where the 2018 and 2019 records have been just a game or two apart. It's really quite eerie examining the two schedules side by side.

Within three games of last year's record the entire season

Perhaps even more amazing than matching last year's record 28 times already is the fact that Oakland has never been more than three games behind or ahead of last season's pace. Even when last year's A's fell to 5-10, this season's team was only two games better at 7-8. And when this year's A's plummeted to 19-25, they were only three games behind last season's 22-22 mark through 44 games.

Now 94 games into the season, the two records have never separated more than that margin.

Nearly identical season-lows

Last year, the A's got off to a sluggish 5-10 start. That ended up being the most games they would fall below .500 all season. This year's low mark was just slightly worse at six games under .500.

Oakland stumbled to a 15-21 start and then hit that number again at 19-25. Since then, the A's are 34-16.

Matching season-highs

On July 12 of last year, the A's beat the Astros to improve to 53-41, getting to 12 games over .500 for the first time all season.

A year later, Oakland completed a three-game sweep of the White Sox to push their record to 53-41, and it once again was the first time they have been 12 games over .500 this season.

[RELATED: Giants, A's move up in MLB power rankings as trade deadline nears]

Mid-June turnarounds

On June 15, 2018, the A's lost to the Angels and fell to 34-36. From there, they would win 19 of their next 24 games to improve to 53-41. This season on June 16, Oakland lost to the Mariners and dropped to 36-36. They responded by winning 17 of their next 22 games to again improve to 53-41.

Will this season's script continue to follow last year's right into the postseason? Stay tuned.

Why Ramon Laureano's power surge doesn't surprise A's manager Bob Melvin

Why Ramon Laureano's power surge doesn't surprise A's manager Bob Melvin

OAKLAND -- Just by looking at Ramón Laureano, you'd have no idea he could crush baseballs as far as he does.

The A's centerfielder stands at 5-foot-11 and is more well-known for his blazing speed, but this season, he has truly become a bona fide slugger.

Laureano, 24, blasted his 18th home run of the year Sunday, helping the A's sweep the White Sox, 3-2. His 18 homers rank third on the team and are three away from passing Coco Crisp for the most round-trippers by an Oakland centerfielder in the last 19 years.

Laureano's power surge might come as a surprise to some, but not Bob Melvin.

"At some point in time, we felt like he had a chance to be a 30-home-run guy," the A's manager said. "Maybe on pace a little sooner than we expected based on experience in the big leagues. But not (surprised) at all if you watch him take (batting practice). He's a strong guy all the way around, whether it's throwing arm, whether it's speed -- he stole a base today pretty easily -- and he's got a lot of power. So understanding the league, making adjustments and so forth, no not a surprise to me."

The power aspect of Laureano's game is relatively new, however. Prior to this season, he had never hit more than 15 home runs at any level of professional baseball. Laureano credits his weight room work -- he added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason -- and plate adjustments for the improvement.

"Over the years, I get older and bigger," he said. "(The power) will come. I just try to help the team win in whatever (way) I can."

Laureano has been especially productive as of late. Sunday marked his fourth home run in the last five games and his 12th since the start of June. He's also shown the ability to hit the long ball to all parts of the field, including center and right.

"Just stay back (on the ball)," Laureano said of his main plate adjustment. "That's it."

Incredibly, Laureano has hit two more homers than reigning home run champion Khris Davis this season. He trails Matt Olson by just one long ball and Matt Chapman by three for the team lead.

[RELATED: A's acquire Bailey from Royals]

Perhaps most importantly, Laureano's increase in power has not caused a drop in any other part of his game. He is still reaching base and using his speed on offense, and of course, his centerfield arm remains spectacular.

We've said this before, but the A's really owe the Astros a nice gift basket for letting Laureano get away.
 

How A's reliever Yusmeiro Petit became baseball's version of a unicorn

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AP

How A's reliever Yusmeiro Petit became baseball's version of a unicorn

Yusmeiro Petit has bucked just about every trend of a major league relief pitcher.

Nowadays, most relievers come in throwing high-90s gas, yet Petit's fastball has never averaged 90 miles per hour in any of his 12 big-league seasons.

Most relievers can only throw one inning per appearance and must have their total innings limited throughout the season. Petit, on the other hand, has ranked in the top two for innings pitched among true relievers in each of the last three seasons.

Many relievers experience a sharp decline when they reach their mid-30s. Petit, 34, seems to just keep getting better with age.

In December of 2017, the A's signed Petit to a two-year, $10 million contract with a club option for a third year. That might seem like a high price to pay for a non-closer, but the right-hander has been worth every penny, and then some.

Last season, Petit went 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, helping Oakland reach the postseason for the first time since 2014. He pitched 93 innings, second-most in the majors among true relievers.

This year, Petit has been even better, going 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. His 51 innings again rank second among true relievers and his 45 appearances are tied for second. Petit is on pace to top 90 innings out of the bullpen for the third straight season.

"And it's not like he's 24 years old anymore," A's manager Bob Melvin noted. "Most guys coming out of the bullpen are throwing 96 miles an hour now too. He does it very uniquely. It seems like he gets better as the years go by. He's probably the one guy right now that we look to give multiple innings. He comes in, gets out of a jam, and then goes back out there again. I don't know how many times he's done that."

To Melvin's point, Petit has already accumulated 16 multiple-inning appearances this season. While he has only averaged 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings, he has walked just six batters the entire year, giving him a phenomenal 6.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio, seventh-best in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 innings.

As previously mentioned, Petit has remained effective without throwing hard -- his fastball sits at just 89 mph -- by mixing an effective curveball, slider, and changeup, all pitches he can throw for strikes. 

"The appearances, the games -- similar to last year -- there are very few guys that can do what he does and do it effectively without 95 miles an hour," Melvin said. "He was a great signing for us and continues to be."

[RELATED: Do A's have closer controversy?]

Petit's value also lies in his versatility. The Venezuela native began his career as a starter, as most pitchers do. He can still make a spot start if needed or follow an opener for a handful of innings. He can even serve as a closer, having recorded four saves for the Angels in 2017.

To put it simply, whatever you need, Yusmeiro Petit will provide it.