A closer look at Ramon Laureano’s extraordinary July

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Ramon Laureano is in a zone; perhaps best evidenced by one singular play in the A’s win on Friday night.

Laureano cracked a what looked like a routine ground ball single up the middle of diamond and, sniffing out the extra maneuvers centerfielder Max Kepler would need to turn the play, whipped off his helmet and gunned to second base for a double.

“That’s how he plays,” manager Bob Melvin said of the play. “He’s a very aggressive player, he’s always looking to take the extra base. He’s always looking to put the pressure on somebody in the outfield.”

Sure, Laureano’s improved tremendously on his discipline at the plate. A more consistent swing pattern formed the backbone to a silly rate of success spelled out into a July in which he’s batting .455 with a 1.000 slugging percentage (six home runs and 12 RBIs).

But Laureano’s magic seems to stem from his guts to use his pure athleticism, affinity for improvisation, and speed to go a bit off-script. The initial horror when he goes off the book and awe when his risks pay off. it’s a quality that’s shaped a few Bay Area sports icons.

Like, Rickey Henderson perhaps? Watch the two A’s run side by side, the intense arm motions and gusto draw parallels, Melvin said.

“They’re low to the ground, very strong lower half,” he said. “So he looks like a guy who’s a high maintenance runner, turf’s flying everywhere, just a real strong lower half.”

But Henderson’s base-stealing invincibility was baked into his game — it became a known variable that drew shock and awe throughout his 25-year career. Laureano is just 146 games into his big league career, so mystery still colors his game.

Laureano’s decision to turn a single into a double — to take risks in big games against first-place teams and defy unspoken guidelines for how to play the game the right way — is reminiscent of some other Bay Area sports icons.

Like, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson?

Melvin himself characterized Laureano’s style in one thought bubble.

“It’s kind of like the 3-point shot where you say ‘no, no,no’ and it goes in and you’re like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,’” he said.

Laureano isn’t revolutionizing the sport, per say, but there’s intrigue to his style of play that’s undeniably propelled the A’s offense and defense this season. His defensive metrics don’t register atop the league. His -2.2 SABR Defensive Index rating is one of the worst; the statistic measures efficiency, and Laureano often runs questionable routes in center field. But he makes up for it with an innate ability to alter the course of a game with one home run-robbing catch or gun-down throw.

Those gaudy July numbers aren’t a product of ordinary routine, but his penchant for the extraordinary not only adds an extra layer of potency to this A’s offense, but is must-watch for Bay Area sports fans.