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Oakland's Summer Fun: Monster Runs

By Robert Ferringo - www.docsports.com
6/26/2006

A recent study published in National Geographic proclaimed that the San Andres Fault is poised to unleash another colossal earthquake on California. Earthquakes and earthquake threats: two things that Northern California residents can count on every summer. Right up there with firestorms, the Stanford Jazz Festival, and incredible winning streaks from the Oakland A's.

The Jazz Festival is currently underway, flames have already engulfed parts of Western Colorado and there isn't rain in the NoCal forecast for weeks, and the Athletics have been tearing up the rest of the American League. It's like clockwork.

Yup, the A's are at it again. They posted a 10-game winning streak in June, earning dollar bettors around $1,100. That roll has also vaulted them back into first place atop the AL West, a half-game up on Texas. With the trade deadline a month away, the A's recent success may have shifted their position in the market and altered the trajectory of their season.

Oakland began the month 16-5, helping get the team back in the black in the Betting World. As recently as May they were nearly $1,000 in the hole for the season, but now they're up to around $350 in profit.

And if you think they are good now, just wait until the weather gets really hot.

Something about bikinis and barbeques really get the A's bats going. Oakland is 88-42 in June since 2002. And that's about the least impressive stat I can throw at you. Take a look at the absurd runs that Oakland has hit each summer since 1999:

1999: Won 9 of 10 in August.
2000: Won nine straight in June, went on 18-4 run in Sept.
2001: Closed the season by going 29-4.
2002: 20-game winning streak in August.
2003: 22-7 roll in Aug.-Sept., including 10-game streak.
2004: Marched through mid-August going 13-1.
2005: Went 12-1 in June and 23-4 in July-Aug.

Why and how does this happen? Who cares! It's like geothermal energy or Viagra. You don't need to know how it works you just need to know that you can count on it. Same goes for a mid-summer rampage by the Oakland elephants. You don't need to explain it, you just have to know when to recognize it and be ready to capitalize.

With Oakland General Manager Billy Beane and his boys it's all about mathematics. It's Moneyball. It's theorems and metrics, statistical measures and analysis. But when Oakland gets hot it's usually natural and organic. It just happens, like a streak shooter in a craps game or a hot blackjack dealer at the casino. The stars align, you catch a rush, and you go to the well until the well is dry.

Injuries and inexperience have factored into the equation during this most recent run by the Athletics.

Oakland has used the disabled list 10 times already this season. That's more than twice as much as any other American League team. Sluggers Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas and starter Rich Harden are all currently on the shelf, but should be back soon and ready to contribute. Their replacements, guys like Bobby Kielty (hitting .308 since May 2nd call-up), have filled the gap.

Oakland's small-market, low-budget business model puts a premium on youth and utility. The A's routinely field teams with younger players, which may factor into their late-season surges. Generally, these inexperienced players need time to gel and to get themselves into a groove. Take Dan Johnson. Oakland's fresh-faced first baseman started the season by going 1-for-29. That was April. Now in June he's 23-for-62, a .371 clip, with a .422 on-base percentage.

Also, because their backbone is pitching and defense, the Athletics are well-acquainted with the style of baseball with proven success down the stretch. As the playoffs near, runs are at a premium. Small ball and sound pitching win out. Since that's how the A's are accustomed to playing they're at an advantage in those late summer months. Comb through Oakland's results from the past few seasons and you'll see for yourself. You'll notice that the posted totals and final scores in April games are generally much larger than those in September and October.

Despite their ridiculous runs through the summer months, Moneyball hasn't exactly led to the A's being a "money team". In 2005 they finished on the right side of the ledger, netting +632. But in 2004 they dropped $510 and in 2003 they finished down $35. What that tells me is that the best time to make some coin on this club is during one of its surges. Other than that, pick your spots. This team is of similar ilk as the others I've referenced, so bank on another sweet run sometime in August or September.

Don't bet against a Streak. It's a fundamental. Like hitting the cut-off man. The A's take that principle to the next level. If you see them string a couple together, hop on. Because two can become 14 out of 17 faster than you can say "Hammer Time!"

Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at robert@docsports.com.

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