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San Francisco Giants: Has Tim Lincecum Officially Returned to His Old Form?

Tim Lincecum has taken fans on a roller-coaster ride during the last three years, and it’s finally reached its peak.

Sure, it was a lot more riveting watching Lincecum dazzle fans with eight brilliant innings in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series. But since Lincecum’s miserable 2012 campaign left the Giants wondering what he would do for the rest of his career, Giants fans have never been more excited about the former ace.

Lincecum boasts a phenomenal 0.30 ERA in his last four starts, and his ERA for the season is down to a respectable 3.66. Giants fans want to believe he is officially back, but they’ve been fooled by Lincecum before.

After his deplorable first half in 2012, when he lost 10 games and posted a horrid 6.42 ERA, he tossed two straight gems. He posted a 1.20 ERA in that span and completed seven or more innings both times.

But then he gave up five runs and failed to make it out of the fifth inning in his next start. He finished the year with a 5.18 ERA.

Lincecum started the 2013 year poorly, but he rebounded for one great start on July 13: He no-hit the San Diego Padres in a thrilling, 148-pitch affair, lowering his ERA to a slightly below-average 4.26.

The Giants started to expect great things from Lincecum. But then he gave up eight runs in his next start. He finished 2013 with a 4.37 ERA and left Giants fans wondering which Lincecum would show up in 2014.

Until his second no-hitter, it was the mediocre Lincecum of 2012 and 2013. But now his numbers are not laughable. He’s been dominant lately, and the Giants are 13-6 in his starts this year.

Excluding his two worst starts of the year (in which he gave up 15 combined runs in 8.1 innings), he has a 2.67 ERA.

He has six quality starts in his last seven outings, and he’s given up three runs or fewer in 14 of his 19 outings (and four runs or fewer in 17 of them).

For a frame of reference, ace Madison Bumgarner has given up more than three runs in eight of his 20 starts. Lincecum has finally pitched well this season, and the Giants finally have legitimate hope.

But is this sample size too small?

Lincecum is still the same guy who had a 4.79 ERA spanning from the start of 2012 until the start before his most recent no-hitter. So there would have to be concrete evidence to determine whether this recent mastery is sustainable.

The fact that he’s striking out fewer batters seems to speak for this stupendous stretch being a coincidence, but it actually shows a change in pitching style. It shows efficiency from Lincecum.

Before his second no-hitter, he was averaging 17.64 pitches per inning, which was why he was averaging about 5.5 innings per start. However, since then he has averaged 14.24 pitches per inning.

Considering that Lincecum averages 94.2 pitches per start this year, he could finish an average of 6.61 innings per start at his recent pace. By also limiting walks (he’s walked just nine in his last four starts), he can be much more effective.

However, there are some more complicated metrics that also paint a clear picture. According to Brooks Baseball, Lincecum threw his fastball 417 times, or 28.58 percent of the time, in his first 15 starts of 2014.

It didn’t benefit him much.

Opponents hit .326 against Lincecum’s fastball, and since then he has thrown his fastball just 20.8 percent of the time. Opponents are hitting a mere .063 off of it, which could indicate improvement with the pitch.

But it could also mean that Lincecum has become less predictable by gaining confidence in all of the pitches in his arsenal.

His slider has been sharp, as he has yielded a measly .200 slugging percentage (in his last four starts) with the pitch. This is in contrast to four home runs and four doubles in 80 at-bats before.

His ability to throw strikes, last into the late innings and throw the ball well despite a plummet in strikeouts is phenomenal.

It goes without saying that the freak of nature, who blew scouts and hitters away with a 97 mph fastball as a rookie, is gone. But a doppelganger with a different style could attain similar success.

Lincecum has the same devastating off-speed stuff that has carried him to success before, but he also has a successful approach. He’s throwing strikes and using all of his pitches in all counts, which is bad news for hitters.

Obviously, it’s harder to dominate without a blazing fastball to allow a pitcher to get away with mistakes. So expecting another Cy Young Award for Lincecum is, well, foolish.

But expecting Lincecum to be a consistent pitcher, who puts up above-average numbers in the middle of the rotation, is not wild.

In fact, when the Giants handed out what seemed to be a ludicrous $35 million deal to the quirky hurler, this is, most likely, exactly what they were hoping for.

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San Francisco Giants: Analyzing the Biggest Position Battles

It’s safe to say for the San Francisco Giants, everything looks different now than it did at the beginning of spring training.

Mark Minicozzi became a household name among Giants fans before getting optioned to the minors. Brandon Hicks has completely changed the infield battle. Ryan Vogelsong has worried many with his performance, but the other pitchers have quieted many critics.

Oh, and we have learned that Marco Scutaro’s back is worse than it seemed.

But what does that mean for the position battles?

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San Francisco Giants: Why Brian Sabean’s Offseason Strategy Is Costing Them

When one part of a team has struggled for years, it’s expected that the general manager would go out and try to upgrade that area.

Surprisingly, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean has different ideas.

San Francisco is known for its stellar pitching staff and poor offense. Its pitching staff wasn’t the same in 2013, but in years past, it has been outstanding. However, it suffered a season-long slump in 2013, and the 21st-ranked offense, notorious for its struggles, couldn’t pick it up.

As you would expect, the Giants were far from making the playoffs. They finished 76-86.

It might seem like the pitching staff, which had a horrid 4.37 ERA, was a major issue as well. However, it’s evident that starters Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum will be better in 2014. Once the Giants re-signed Lincecum, it would have made sense to look for starting pitchers but also focus on the offense.

Instead, the Giants have only focused on the pitching staff.

After the season ended, Sabean negotiated with, and signed, Lincecum for two more years. Seeing that the Giants only had two starters (and a potential fifth starter in Yusmeiro Petit) set in their 2014 rotation, that deal made sense.

The agreement with Tim Hudson, a durable, reliable former ace who will stabilize San Francisco’s rotation, also made sense. Hudson came for $23 million over two years, which is good value in this day and age.

Now, the Giants have a solid rotation. Most teams would feel confident with Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson and Lincecum, all of whom have been the undisputed ace of a pitching staff at some point in their careers, as the top four hurlers in the pitching staff. And most teams would then go fill another need before filling out the rotation.

Not the Giants.

The Giants apparently didn’t learn from 2013, when offensive starters Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco, among others, turned in horrendous offensive performances. The Giants were expected to pursue left fielders on the free-agent market or on the trade block, but they haven’t and likely won’t.

Instead, according to Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury, the Giants are still looking to sign pitchers.

According to Mark Sheldon, the Giants are interested in Bronson Arroyo, an older pitcher who wants a short-term deal. That fits the Giants’ criteria, so they are interested.

However, in pursuing a fifth starter to fill out the rotation, the Giants are neglecting to improve the offense, the aspect they desperately need to improve. And, if they do sign a solid pitcher, they wouldn’t have the cash to sign a bat.

In this year’s NL, that won’t cut it. No team has won with a below-average offense since 2003, when the Florida Marlins finished barely below the average. Recently, World Series winners have been offensive juggernauts, and you can’t win the World Series with an offense in the bottom 10.

Sure, the Giants won the World Series with some great pitchers. But having a solid rotation just won’t cut it anymore. In fact, the Giants needed the 12th-best offense, one that averaged more than 4.3 runs per game in the playoffs, to win the 2012 World Series.

But the current offense just isn‘t that good. It needs significant improvement, but Sabean is clinging to the past and refusing to fix its glaring holes.

If the pitchers hit a skid, the team will suffer a severe slump. With the rival Los Angeles Dodgers likely to reach the 90-win plateau annually, the Giants can’t go through those swoons anymore.

In 2010, the Giants were dismal in August, and in 2012, they hit a swoon in late July. Luckily for them, the second-place San Diego Padres weren’t dominant in 2010, and in 2012, the star-laden Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t have enough time to mesh. Consequently, the Giants escaped with NL West titles both years.

But now, Los Angeles is a bona fide juggernaut. It has meshed and has seen a playoff run, and it will continue to compete every year. The Giants simply can’t compete by trusting a good pitching staff; they need to score.

The Giants don’t have the money to sign a top target like Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin Soo-Choo, but they can sign a high-reward, cheap option. Corey Hart could fill that role and provide much-needed pop. He has an injury history and might not be graceful in left field, but he is competent defensively and offers a lot on offense.

If the Giants want a cheap, high-reward option, Hart would be a good fit. If they want to dish out more cash, they could sign Nelson Cruz, whose contract could be reasonable because of his PED suspension. Cruz, who has posted a slugging percentage better than .500 in five of his last six years, would provide power and be a perfect offensive fit.

Even if the Giants don’t sign a hitter, they can trade for one. Or, they could trade Pablo Sandoval.

At first, it doesn’t seem to make sense that the Giants would trade one of their best hitters to improve their offense. However, it makes more sense if you dig deeper.

They would have to risk an uprising in San Francisco, but it might be for the best. Sandoval is entering the final year of his contract, and patience is wearing thin with the third baseman. He is constantly out of shape, and, quite frankly, is overrated.

But because of his three-homer game in the World Series, Sandoval is known as a clutch hitter who, when on, is one of the best in the game. That means his trade value is high, and that means the Giants could get a good deal for him.

If they were to trade for a good long-term option in left field, like Alex Gordon, they could insert Joaquin Arias at third base and wait for third-base prospect Adam Duvall to come up. Arias isn’t a flashy option, but he is much more competent than Blanco (who would start in left field if the Giants get no one else) and having a solid left fielder long term would definitely trump having Sandoval short term.

The possibility of a deal makes sense for the Giants, but, unfortunately for the team, it won’t happen. The possibility of dealing a prospect for a big bat also makes sense, as the Giants have a wealth of quality arms in the farm and can afford to lose one.

However, as we all know, Sabean has tried that before. He traded Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran in 2011, and that didn‘t pay off. So, the conservative general manager likely won’t make any kind of big trade.

In other words, the Giants won’t make a huge splash this offseason.

The Giants won titles with pitching, but this scenario is different. The Dodgers are a great team, and if the Giants don’t make a big deal, they aren’t going to contend. 2013 was supposed to teach that to Sabean, but apparently, it hasn’t.

And because of that, the Giants will likely fill out a strong pitching staff and bullpen but leave the offense the same. Consequently, the team likely will be good but have a difficult time bringing home another World Series trophy.

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San Francisco Giants: Exploring Their Options This Offseason

The San Francisco Giants, for the first time in a long time, are going to make splashy moves in the offseason.

San Francisco already dished out lofty amounts of money to retain Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum, but    there is still more to do. Left field needs to be upgraded, the pitching staff needs to be filled out and the bench needs improvement.

What should the Giants do this offseason?

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Baltimore Orioles: Breaking Down Why They Are Serious Title Contenders

1983 was a magical year for the Baltimore Orioles. 2013 has the makings of a magical year as well.

The Orioles haven’t captured a championship since 1983, but that could change this season. Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and the other big bats are leading the charge, and so far, the team is doing fairly well.

Davis has cranked 37 home runs this season, and the Orioles are fourth in runs scored. In addition, the team leads the league in slugging percentage (.445). The pitching staff has struggled a bit, but the offense has propelled Baltimore to a 54-43 record.

However, despite their solid record, the Orioles trail the first-place Boston Red Sox by 4.5 games in the AL East. They are in third place, as they also trail the Tampa Bay Rays by 2.5 games. They are in a bit of a hole, but with their offense and their improved pitching, they should be able to climb right back in the race.

Baltimore’s starting pitching has brought it down, but with Wei-Yin Chen back from the DL and Scott Feldman now in the mix, the rotation appears to be fine.

Feldman was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs to bolster the staff, and he will continue to help. So far, Feldman has two quality starts with the Orioles (in three overall starts).

With Chen anchoring the top of the rotation and Feldman, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Jason Hammel filling it out, the Orioles are in good shape. Tillman made the AL All-Star team (as a replacement), and Gonzalez has a 3.48 ERA and has held opponents to a .232 batting average.

If Hammel, who finished the 2012 season with a 3.43 ERA, can return to his 2012 form, the Orioles will be ready to go. All of their starters have promise or have done well this season, and all are primed to help the team reach its ultimate goal.

The same goes with the offense, which has carried the team so far. Baltimore is stacked throughout the lineup, as the team has seven great hitters and two serviceable starters. Second base is still a question mark, but the offense has talent in the outfield and the infield.

Six players have driven in 43 or more runs, and Davis has knocked in an insane 93 runs. He went into the All-Star break by hitting home runs in four consecutive games, and it happened for the second time this season. Davis has broken onto the scene as one of the league’s best hitters, and he will continue to boost the Orioles.

However, he’s not the only one chipping in. Markakis, Jones, Davis, Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy and Nate McLouth occupy the main seven slots in Baltimore’s order, and all seven are capable hitters. The seven helped the Orioles make the ALDS last season, and they will carry the Orioles farther this season.

Last season in the ALDS, the Orioles lost in five games to the New York Yankees. Baltimore came close to making the ALCS, but a poor performance from closer Jim Johnson and some tight losses cost the Orioles.

This year, Johnson has 34 saves, and he has spearheaded a stellar bullpen. The Orioles’ bullpen is 17th in ERA, but Pedro Strop, Alex Burnett and other players who are currently on other teams have dented the group’s 3.68 ERA.

Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day (among others) have been remarkable, and Johnson has a 1.74 ERA in his last 23 appearances.

If the bullpen can hold up and avoid injuries, it will be ready to handle talent-laden offenses. And Baltimore’s talent-laden offense will be able to handle top pitching.

The Orioles appear to be a complete team on paper, as they also have a top-tier manager (and the 2012 AL Manager of the Year) in Buck Showalter. The product on the field has done a nice job, but it hasn’t tapped into its full potential. Chen’s injury cost the pitching staff, and it brought the whole team down.

However, with the pitching staff now intact, the Orioles have just one hole. Second base is a position of need, and they could pursue a veteran like Michael Young to lead the team and occupy the position. But even if the Orioles shy away from making any more trades, they will still be hard to beat.

They are much better than the successful 2012 team, as Davis, Machado and others are performing much better. The offense as a whole has been great, as most hitters have improved upon their 2012 stats. Hardy and Wieters aren‘t getting on base a lot, but they are driving in runs.

In other words, the Orioles have a stacked lineup.

If injuries don’t hamper the club, it will be ready to dominate in the postseason. The Orioles have improved in every aspect of the game, and that doesn’t bode well for their beatable opponents.

While the Orioles don’t have many holes, the Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s, their main competitors, are flawed. Bullpen issues have plagued the Tigers and Red Sox, and the A’s offense has gone cold at times.

The Red Sox have scored 93 more runs than their opponents, but they are due to regress. Lots of Red Sox players have exceeded expectations, but lots of them, like Jose Iglesias and Daniel Nava, will also fail to keep performing well.

There’s a good chance that the Red Sox fail to win the AL East, which would be great for the Orioles. The Red Sox aren’t perfect, and they aren’t better than the Orioles.

Baltimore’s other main competitors, the A’s and Tigers, are both phenomenal teams, and they (among others) are going to contend for the AL pennant and the elusive World Series trophy. However, the Orioles have patched up their main holes, and they could end up cruising into the postseason. 

And, if all goes well, they could have their way in the playoffs as well.

The city of Baltimore was treated to a magical journey into the playoffs last season, but this season’s journey could culminate in something greater than a postseason appearance: a championship.

The Orioles will have to avoid injuries and keep performing, but winning it all is certainly possible.

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San Francisco Giants: 3 Players They Should Pursue at 2013 MLB Trade Deadline

Since the Barry Bonds era came to a close, the San Francisco Giants have been winning games because of top-notch starting pitching.

However, this season, it’s been different. San Francisco’s rotation has been horrendous, and the bullpen is falling apart. Surprisingly, the Giants are 35-31 and right in the thick of things in the NL West, but if they don’t make improvements soon, they’ll fall behind.

Who could help the Giants stay in the playoff picture? Here are three players the Giants should target at the 2013 MLB trade deadline.

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2013 MLB All-Star Game: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Worthy of an All-Star Berth

There are a lot of players worthy of being selected to the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, but not all of them will make it.

Thirty-three players make the AL All-Star team, and 33 players make the NL All-Star team. That means that a mere 66 players make the initial team, which is extremely tiny when you consider that 750 players are currently on active MLB rosters.

Because less than 9 percent of the league’s players end up on one of the initial teams, some deserving players miss the team. However, because players and managers vote for most of the All-Stars, some players who don’t get any attention from the national media are recognized.

This year, there are more players who have done well but have flown under the radar. Here are five of those players.

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Barry Zito: Breaking Down Why He Has Lived Up to His Lucrative Contract

Before the 2012 season, San Francisco Giants fans cringed when they heard Barry Zito’s name.
Now, the former AL Cy Young winner brings fond memories of a season-saving masterpiece, a mind-boggling streak of 15 consecutive wins, the honors of throwing the first World Series pitch and the honors of beating Justin Verlander to jump-start a four-game World Series sweep of the mighty Detroit Tigers.

Barry Zito redeemed himself during the 2012 season after five sub-par years chock full of boos, as he won a remarkable 15 games and propelled the Giants to wins in his last 14 starts of 2012 (he extended that streak to 15 games in his first start of 2013). Zito turned in a huge start with the season on the line in St. Louis, throwing seven and two-thirds scoreless innings and stifling a powerful Cardinal lineup.

Then, Zito took the ball in Game 1 of the World Series, and he had to face the unstoppable Verlander, who went 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA in a down year. Verlander, however, struggled, as Pablo Sandoval hit two home runs off of him and Zito even chipped in with an RBI single.

Oh, and Zito also twirled a nice start, throwing five and two-thirds strong innings and earning the crucial win.

Without Zito, the Giants wouldn’t have won the World Series, and obviously, the World Series is extremely important. Going 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA is never easy, and doing that in the postseason against three prolific offenses is definitely impressive.

Another impressive feat accomplished by Zito is that he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in his last nine starts (including the postseason), which is also incredible. It speaks to how valuable and consistent Zito has been, which is something Giants fans aren’t exactly used to seeing. Zito came out firing again in 2013, keeping the ball away from the heart of the plate (which he has done a great job with), avoiding walks and getting key outs when needed.

The result? Seven brilliant shutout innings and another win.

There’s no doubt Zito has been valuable and there’s no doubt that he helped the Giants win the World Series, as he learned from missing the 2010 postseason roster (because he lost 14 games and was easily the Giants’ worst starting pitcher). However, most people believe that he hasn’t lived up to his contract that most believe Zito never should have received.

Zito was paid $126 million over seven years during the 2006 offseason, and he will be a Giant again in 2014 if he can log 200 innings, or six and two-thirds innings per start for 30 starts. While Zito has proven to be valuable, paying $126 million for any player over any period of time is always a gamble, and it didn’t help that Zito did very little in his first five years with the Giants.

However, the fact remains that even if the Giants had another good pitcher in the rotation instead of Zito, they wouldn’t have won the World Series. In 2007 and 2008, the Giants were awful, as they were well below .500 in both years. In 2009, the Giants were 88-74, but they were still virtually out of playoff contention with a week left in the season.

In 2011, the Giants were eliminated from the NL West race with 11 days left in the season, and they were a few games back of both the Cardinals and the Braves in the Wild Card race. However, the Giants never really had a chance then without star catcher Buster Posey and with the injury bug attacking in so many ways.

Zito still won some games in 2010, and the Giants still came up triumphant then. So, Zito really shouldn’t be taking much blame for being left off the 2010 playoff roster, especially after his 2012 success. He never cost the Giants in terms of production, and he helped them win the championship in 2012.

This money is invested in players in hopes of a championship. With Zito, the Giants have won championships in 40 percent of his years. When you consider that there are 30 teams in the MLB, winning the championship 40 percent of the time is impressive (in any period of time).

Zito is also bound to do more in 2013, judging from his 2012 success, positive attitude and first start. He is pitching almost as well as he did when he won the 2002 Cy Young, and he has been absolutely remarkable lately. With Tim Lincecum pitching far from flawlessly, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain coming off of bad starts and Madison Bumgarner fresh off some bad 2012 outings, the Giants need Zito.

San Francisco’s $126 million man has proven that he can step up in big situations and pitch like the guy that won the Cy Young award. Zito’s contract has garnered boatloads of criticism during his tenure in San Francisco, but the bottom line is that Zito is a good pitcher who is finally pitching like one. He tightened the break on his curveball and has improved his location, and that has contributed to his recent success.

And his recent success has made Zito’s contract completely worth it for the Giants.

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Francisco Peguero: Breaking Down Why He Should Make the SF Giants’ Roster

When Andres Torres signed with the San Francisco Giants, the Giants set up their left field platoon of Gregor Blanco and Torres, both speedy and talented outfielders.

However, after just two weeks of spring training, some of those thoughts have significantly changed. And that’s because of another left-field hopeful that has broken onto the scene.

Francisco Peguero has dominated this spring, hitting .550 (11-for-20) and playing decent defense. Peguero is smoking the baseball and running out ground balls, and he has impressed a lot with his hustle. Peguero will make routine ground balls into close plays, and he sometimes beats out those ground balls with great speed and hustle.

In other words, Peguero has looked a lot better than he did when the Giants called him up late in August of 2012.

Peguero went 3-for-16 after being called up as a backup outfielder, and he looked a bit rattled at the plate. Peguero pinch-ran a lot and stole three bases, and he was never caught. He has lots of speed, and that’s something the Giants value. However, it didn’t translate into immediate success, and Peguero was left off the postseason roster.

Blanco and Torres are both great defensive players, but neither has much pop. Peguero has a lifetime minor league average of .305, and while his plate discipline has brought up concerns, it’s not slowing him down now. Peguero is hitting the ball and hitting it incredibly well, and that’s something the Giants want.

Because the Giants aren’t a team built around big names on offense, they need production from everyone. Having Blanco or Torres, both of whom strike out a lot (25.3 percent strikeout rate combined), isn’t going to be enough. Neither have good batting averages, as neither reached the .245 mark last year.

However, it’s almost guaranteed that one of those guys will start, largely because of their defensive value. On the bench, the Giants would have whichever left fielder doesn’t start, a backup infielder (such as Kensuke Tanaka or Wilson Valdez) and Hector Sanchez. None of those guys has pop, and they won’t help the Giants pinch-hit.

Last year, Giant pinch-hitters hit .218. Peguero could most definitely change that with the ability to record extra-base hits. He can keep the chain moving for the Giants, which is very important considering that the Giants were last in the league with 103 home runs last year.

You could say that Cole Gillespie or even Brett Pill could fill that role, as Pill has pop as a pinch-hitter. However, Pill hit .210 with an offensive wins over replacement (oWAR) of -0.3. Pill needs regular at-bats to succeed, and he won’t get them with Brandon Belt at his natural position, first base.

The transition to left field could also cause a problem for Pill, and that would not be good for the Giants, who need good defense to thrive. Pill has power, but he’s going to have trouble keeping the chain moving. Pill has a .239 batting average in the majors and a .280 batting average in the minors, neither of which stands out. Pill could steal a spot as an infielder, but he’s not going to make the roster as a left fielder.   

Gillespie, however, could make the roster as a left fielder. In 110 career major league at-bats, his batting average is just .236 and his on-base percentage (OBP) is .292, but he has impressive minor league stats. This spring, Gillespie’s batting average is .261, but his OBP is .370 and he has three doubles.

His career major league fielding percentage (.981) is also decent, showing that he can support the Giant pitchers with defense—something that’s very important in San Francisco. However, Peguero has a .1000 fielding percentage in left field and a .979 fielding percentage in the outfield. This suggests that both are good at defense, which is a true statement.

Both can hit, too. Gillespie has a stellar minor league batting average of .290. While it’s not as good as Peguero‘s, it shows he can get hits off the bench. Peguero has better hitting numbers, and he has shown that he wants to start. He’s been outperforming everyone, including Gillespie. If Peguero keeps this up, he will be assured a starting role.

Gillespie is a good all-around player and a nice backup option, but Peguero has more potential. Torres has been hurt a lot, and if he does get hurt again, it could hurt the Giants. Gillespie has struck out in 27.3 percent of his MLB at-bats, and the Giants don’t want guys who strike out. Peguero struck out in 17.9 percent of his minor league at-bats, and he can keep the chain moving with good hits. He’s certainly done that this spring.  

And if he keeps it up, Peguero could even slide past Blanco and Torres and into a starting role.

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Oakland Athletics: Breaking Down the Mess That Is the Infield

While the Oakland A’s had a successful season by all means in 2012, the infield is bound to be a lot better in 2013. 

The A’s went out and got Hiroyuki Nakajima and Jed Lowrie, and they will return formerly injured Scott Sizemore in 2013. Brandon Moss hit .291 in 2012, and Donaldson hit .284 in his last 225 at-bats (for the regular season). Sizemore doesn’t have too much on his resume, but he is a talented player who may start at second base.

Lowrie has some pop, as he homered in 4.71 of his at-bats in 2012. He is a good middle infielder, and while he might not start, I see him improving on his stellar .331 on-base percentage (OBP) and seizing a starting spot eventually.

Right now, however, the leading candidates appear to be Sizemore and Jemile Weeks, who broke out and had a spectacular 2011 season before regressing significantly and getting sent down to the minors. Weeks hit .303 in 2011, but in 2012, his .158 well-hit average placed him among the 10 worst players in the league at making hard contact.

Weeks has speed, however, and while he isn’t a great defensive second baseman, he can play defense. However, it’s going to take a lot from him in the spring, as his numbers were appalling last year. It’s hard to post a horrific minus-one wins over replacement (WAR) and bounce back so significantly the next spring to win the starting job.

And, unfortunately for Weeks, that’s the position he is in.

Sizemore, however, is also in a tough position. He tore his ACL in 2012 and was forced to watch Oakland’s magical playoff run from the dugout. Due to his injury, his chances of starting in 2013 have significantly decreased. Sizemore is only a career .239 hitter, so it’s not like he’s automatically penciled in as a starter.


In 2011, Sizemore posted a .345 OBP with the Athletics, which is good by all means. Sizemore has a career .958 fielding percentage as a second baseman, a mark that needs to improve. However, he seems to be a better and more proven option than Weeks, which gives him a slight edge.

Lowrie is expected to get time everywhere, backing up Nakajima, who was projected by scouts to hit .270 or .280 in the big leagues. Lowrie, who doesn’t hit for average, is predicted to be a utility player, although he piqued interest from teams as a trade target and should see significant time at lots of positions.

Lowrie won’t be playing first base, however. Moss did a great job in 2012, hitting .291, and Daric Barton is a capable backup. He isn’t great, but he has posted a .360 OBP over his career. Unfortunately for him, he will need to build significantly on his .204 batting average for 2012 if he wants to work his way into a platoon.

Luckily for Barton, he should be on the roster, unlike some players. The A’s cannot afford to carry eight infielders, and presumably, they will keep Weeks, Sizemore, Lowrie, Nakajima, Donaldson, Moss and Barton. Guys like Andy Parrino and Adam Rosales have an outside chance of making the team, but they don’t bring anything special.


Donaldson locked down third base due to his great end-of-year performance, as he almost hit .300 over a span of 225 at-bats. Moss and Barton have first base under control, and a strong start from Nakajima will give him shortstop.

Second base is the only position that appears to be in doubt, and while I believe Sizemore will start on Opening Day, we will see if Weeks can rebound from his sophomore slump and if Lowrie can make a good first impression on manager Bob Melvin.

It will be interesting to watch how the infield works together, who plays when, where and how often. Any of these guys can play designated hitter, especially someone like Weeks, who isn’t an exceptional defensive player.

The infield is set in terms of which guys will make the 25-man roster, but the mess is yet to be sorted out. Melvin will have a difficult task at hand, and he will have to decide a lot of things. While I think he’s fairly confident about all four positions and how the infield can help the A’s, he has to be worrying about how to shuffle everyone around.


Spring training will be vital for all second basemen and just infielders in general, so everyone can prove that they’re ready to contribute in 2013. Oakland has enough depth and talent at each position that they are completely set in the infield, a place where they had lots of trouble in 2012.

What does that mean for the A’s? It means they are ready to embark on a legitimate championship journey, and every man in the infield will play a vital role in the team’s fate.

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