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Slows Starts and Hot Finishes, A Look At Seasonal Win Tendencies of the Oakland A’s

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Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
Sweeping the Texas Rangers in 2012 to close out the year with an AL West win
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

If you’ve learned anything about me by now, it’s that I like to check facts. I spent two hours yesterday trying to figure out if the A’s-Giants Adam Pettyjohn transaction counted as a “trade” (it wasn’t, it was a waiver claim where the Giants received nothing in return except the roster space and salary relief that comes from losing a player; Burch Smith was a “trade” because the Giants received cash considerations* in return).

*Related Reading: Why hasn’t Cash Considerations made his debut yet?

Speaking of facts, here’s something that’s been on my mind this month - around AN we occasionally point out the A’s tendency to start seasons slowly and then claw their way back into contention. The 2012 season is an exemplary example of an Oakland summer surge. The A’s were 22-30 (.423) on June 1st, went on to finish the season 72-38 (.654), swept the Rangers in the last series of the year (yay!), and won the AL West with a final record of 94-68 (.580).

2012 was fantastic and magical and full of misfit toys. It was also just a single data point for the question at hand. We have one example of a slow start and a strong finish, but is this truly a decades-long pattern? I know we talk about the Big 3 / Moneyball era A’s (2000-2006) also having this tendency. But talk is cheap my darling. You gotta feel it on your own. And so I went off down another fact-checking rabbit role and am back today with findings! And data! And a pretty chart!

Included below, for your viewing pleasure, is a table showing the A’s record, month-by-month, for every season in the Beane era (1998-2019). The winningest months are shaded in red (hot, hot, hot!). The months with the worst win total are the least shaded. I’ve also included the final season win totals and highlighted the best and worst seasons overall.

I Spy With My A’s Fan Eye...

I’ll let AN have fun looking for patterns, but here’s some things to look out for:

  1. The 20-game win streak made Aug 2002 the best month on record over this time period
  2. Surprisingly, 2019 was arguably the most consistently winning season in the Beane-era
  3. The end of 2014 .... *sob*
  4. There have been some really bad Sept/Oct finishes (I’m looking at you 2003 and 2004, grr)

Broad Patterns

Taken as a whole, there’s more variability in the seasonal ebbs and flows than I was expecting. Every season has its own unique story to tell. That said, here are three things I learned after taking a long, newly data-infused look at past A’s seasons:

  1. March/April is unquestionably the worst month(s) for the A’s. Cold starts are very much a “thing”
  2. The mid- to late-season winning surges are more spread out than I’d thought. The majority of highly winning months occur equally(-ish) between June, July, Aug, and Sept/Oct.
  3. Most impressive to me - the A’s do not experience extended summer/fall flops. 2000 and 2014 are the only two seasons out of thirteen winning years (>.500 end of year) where the A’s had back-to-back losing months in summer or fall. That’s the big takeaway for me. The “strong finishes” trend is not a 1-2 month phenomenon. It’s the ability to flip a switch sometime around May-June and then do better overall spread somewhere throughout the four remaining months.

So AN, anything I missed here? What patterns are you seeing in the monthly data? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

One final thing. With the seasonal data laid out like this, I thought it’d be neat to vote on our favorite overall season when considered as a whole from start to finish. Vote for your top choice in the poll posted below.

Okay, enough of my rambles, let’s go see that chart...

- - -

A’s Winning Pct. Month-By-Month, 1998-2019

Note: Can click on the image to embiggen

Poll

What is your favorite season from the Beane era when considered as a whole from start to finish?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    1998
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    1999
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    2000
    (7 votes)
  • 5%
    2001
    (20 votes)
  • 13%
    2002
    (46 votes)
  • 1%
    2003
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    2004
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    2005
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    2006
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    2007
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2008
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2009
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2010
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2011
    (0 votes)
  • 57%
    2012
    (202 votes)
  • 3%
    2013
    (11 votes)
  • 1%
    2014
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    2015
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    2016
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    2017
    (0 votes)
  • 5%
    2018
    (18 votes)
  • 6%
    2019
    (24 votes)
353 votes total Vote Now