Tag: San Francisco Bay Area

Ranking the San Francisco Giants’ 10 Most Important Players Heading into 2014

2014 is an even year, so the San Francisco Giants have to win the World Series. Right?

Not exactly, but San Francisco does have the pieces in place to make a playoff run if all goes well. Several players in particular will be important in making 2014 a season to remember, unlike 2013.


  • How much the team depends on the given player (higher dependence = higher ranking)
  • How certain the player’s success is (lower certainty = higher ranking); for example, Mike Morse’s success is less certain than, say, Madison Bumgarner’s.

Let’s take a look at the key players on the Giants roster in 2014.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Videos courtesy of MLB.com.

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Positives of the Giants’ 2013 Season, How They Will Translate to 2014 Success

Not much went right for the San Francisco Giants in 2013, as they saw their win total drop by 18 from the previous season thanks to a barrage of injuries and an underperforming pitching rotation.

Yet, despite the disappointing season, 2014 holds several promising signs for the Giants. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll have a few new faces on the field, with the return of Angel Pagan and Ryan Vogelsong in addition to the newly acquired Michael Morse.

But there are even positive signs when looking at how the Giants players who were on the field performed in 2013. Certain individual performances and second-half improvements in particular give the Giants reason for optimism when looking ahead to the upcoming season. Let’s take a look.


Madison Bumgarner‘s Emergence as the Staff Ace

Anyone who followed the Giants in 2013 knows that Matt Cain had a down year, with his highest ERA since 2006 and the lowest WAR of any full season in his career.

But Cain’s underperformance gave Bumgarner the opportunity to show his value as a legitimate top pitcher in the majors while proving he is capable of serving as the ace of the staff.

Looking beyond his standard statistics, few pitchers were as consistent as Mad Bum in 2013. He didn’t allow more than three earned runs in a start until June 1, his 20th start of the year, and it happened only four times all year. Opponents also batted just .203 against Bumgarner, fifth lowest in the majors.

Better yet, Cain has an excellent chance of rebounding in 2014. He had a minuscule 2.36 ERA during the second half of the season, a gargantuan improvement from his 5.06 ERA in the first half.

Assuming Cain returns to form, the Giants will have two aces next year, in addition to reliable veteran Tim Hudson. The former ace (but still effective starter) hasn’t had an ERA over four since 2006, and he’ll be pitching in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks, per ESPN, in the majors.

Remember the last time Hudson pitched in a ballpark like AT&T Park? That was with the Oakland A’s at the Coliseum, when he won 92 games with a .702 winning percentage, 3.30 ERA and three top-six Cy Young Award finishes in six years. The bottom line: Putting Hudson in a pitcher-friendly ballpark yields exceptional results.


Improved Overall Plate Discipline in the Second Half

The consensus is that the Giants are a bunch of free-swingers who only know how to get on base by hitting the ball. That’s not entirely untrue, but the team as a whole took a giant leap in the right direction regarding plate discipline following the All-Star break.

In the season’s second half, the Giants walked at a rate of 8.3 percent, good for 12th in the majors during that span. That’s a dramatic improvement from their walk percentage of 7.1 during the first half, 22nd in the majors.

Hunter Pence, generally viewed as the biggest free-swinger on the team not named Pablo Sandoval, was perhaps the biggest contributor to that positive trend. He nearly doubled his walk rate, from 5.8 percent to 10.1 percent, drawing six more walks in well over 100 fewer plate appearances.

Sandoval also drastically increased his walk rate between the season’s halves, from 6.2 percent to 10.4 percent. Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro increased their respective walk rates in the second half as well.

The inherent value of this statistic can be proved in part by looking at past top-performing teams. In the seven MLB seasons since 2006, only two World Series winners, the 2010 and 2012 Giants, finished outside of the top 10 in walk rate.

During each of those seasons, the Giants had incredible pitching staffs and award-winning play from Posey. Now that they don’t feature teams of quite the same caliber, they’ll have to start improving in a category in which they’ve gotten away with lackluster performances in the past: walking.

The second half of 2013 was a promising start.


Brandon Belt’s Second-Half Surge

One of the most talked-about aspects of the Giants’ season (at least on the positive side) was Brandon Belt’s huge improvement after the All-Star break. 

Belt’s retooled swing helped him produce a 66-point increase in his batting average and a 131-point increase in his OPS. That came thanks to a decreased fly-ball percentage (43.9 to 38.2), a must with half of his games taking place at AT&T Park, and an explosion in line-drive percentage (21.5 to 27.7).

Whether Belt can continue his success at the plate will play a huge role in determining the Giants’ fate in 2013. Manager Bruce Bochy will rely on him as the team’s No. 3 hitter in the lineup, meaning it’ll be up to him to produce runs and get on base for the big bats behind him (Posey, Pence).

The Giants lineup hasn’t featured a reliable power bat since Barry Bonds’ departure; could Belt change that dry spell? 2014 will provide a good indication.


All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

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Brandon Moss Repeating His Breakout Season Is Key for Oakland A’s

The Oakland A’s have several position players whose performances will decisively dictate the overall success of the team in 2014.

One of those key players is first baseman Brandon Moss. In 2013, Moss played a full season for the first time in his career, and he performed exceptionally. He blasted 30 home runs, drove in 87 runs and slugged .522, the latter of which was good for sixth in the American League.

Those totals came one year after Moss compiled a .954 OPS with 21 home runs in only 265 at-bats in 2012. In total, Moss hit 51 home runs in 711 at-bats between 2012 and 2013.

Moss’ breakout year in 2013 came during a season in which the A’s ranked third in the majors in home runs. However, the high total is a bit misleading.

Yoenis Cespedes hit 26 home runs, but he performed so poorly in every other hitting category (.294 OBP, 137 strikeouts) that his relatively high homer total didn’t mean a whole lot.

Josh Donaldson also added 24 home runs, but his role was clearly not that of a slugger. He was a fantastic middle-of-the-lineup hitter, but the A’s certainly didn’t expect him to hit home runs with regularity when he stepped to the plate. His .384 OBP, 93 RBI and 89 runs showed his true value: driving in runs when given the opportunity and getting on base. (He hit .336 with runners in scoring position.)

In short, Moss was the Athletics‘ de facto power hitter in 2013. And they’ll be looking for him to play that same role in 2014.

History has shown that successful teams almost always have a true slugger in the lineup. In fact, since 2000, only the 2012 and 2010 World Series-winning San Francisco Giants have lacked a 30-home run hitter among title-winning teams.

In each of those years, the Giants featured exceptional pitching, even for World Series-winning standards. Also, their World Series counterparts each year featured teams with 30-plus home run hitters. The trend speaks for itself.

Team Year Player(s) with 30+ Home Runs
Red Sox 2013 David Ortiz
Giants 2012 N/A
Cardinals 2011 Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman
Giants 2010 N/A
Yankees 2009 Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez
Phillies  2008  Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell
Red Sox 2007 David Ortiz
Cardinals 2006 Albert Pujols
White Sox 2005 Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye
Red Sox  2004  Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz
Marlins 2003 Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell
Angels 2002 Troy Glaus
Diamondbacks 2001 Luis Gonzalez, Reggie Sanders
Yankees 2000 Bernie Williams


Clearly, the absence of a reliable power bat on a team means they will have trouble going far in the playoffs.

That’s not to say that if Brandon Moss hits, say, 27 home runs, the A’s automatically can’t win the World Series. There is no “golden rule” that a team must have a 30-home run hitter to win the title. But it certainly makes it easier to have a hitter who can drive in runs in a hurry, and when scoring is at a premium in the postseason, that ability becomes especially valuable. As the late, great Earl Weaver once said, “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.”

Furthermore, a power-hitting bat forces pitchers to sometimes pitch around that hitter, creating more RBI opportunities for other batters. For example, on the 2013 Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia saw many additional good pitches to hit because teams were wary of walking him in front of David Ortiz’s power bat. Also, when teams pitched around Ortiz, that gave Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava and all the other succeeding hitters additional RBI opportunities.

The bottom line is that almost all successful teams have at least one big power hitter. Most even have two. For the A’s, Cespedes has shown he isn’t necessarily a reliable threat at the plate. That means Brandon Moss will have to step up this year. Again.

Luckily, a power outage won’t necessarily spell doom for the A’s. They have a solid rotation that is capable of dominating teams when the offense goes stagnant.

Yet, that rotation doesn’t quite stack up to that of the title-winning Giants. It is filled with question marks, including the performance of free-agent signee Scott Kazmir. There’s no telling whether the left-hander will have a year akin to his 2013 performance, when he was a respectable 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA, or to his time with the Angels, when he had a 5.31 ERA in 188 innings.

The lack of a dominant rotation and the historical precedent that title-winning teams almost always have power hitters means the A’s need Moss to step up this year. If his last two seasons are any indication, he should be more than up to the challenge.


All statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

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Brandon Belt Set for Huge Season in 2014 Thanks to Major Swing Improvements

Brandon Belt is set for a breakout year in 2014. The San Francisco Giants first baseman posted incredible numbers in the second half of 2013, batting .326 after the All-Star break after hitting .260 before. His OPS went from .784 to .915, a 131-point increase. But if you followed the Giants in 2013, you already knew that.

So what made the difference? Why did Belt start smashing line drives left and right in the second half of the season? Most of that can be attributed to an all-out change in his hitting style.

Stuck in a 1-for-19 slump in late July, Belt took some wise advice from hitting coach Hensley Meulens. According to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News, Meulens suggested than Belt look to Phillies slugger Domonic Brown for help.

Brown, like Belt, struggled upon arriving at the majors, despite being touted as a prospect with high potential. Then, in 2013, Brown broke out with 27 home runs. The explanation? An altered grip on the bat.

“Domonic said it only took him a couple of days to change his grip,” Belt said, per Pavlovic’s story. “I thought, if it only took him a couple of days, maybe I can do it in a couple of days, too.”

The rest is history, as Belt increased his batting average by 66 points in the second half while finishing with career-highs in every major category.

“I was stubborn in the sense that I had had success a certain way before, and I was assuming I could get back to being successful that way,” Belt said, again per Pavlovic. “It just took a little convincing to change, I guess.”

The real question is whether Belt can continue from where he left off when 2014 rolls around. The answer is most likely yes, which can be proven by looking at some of his more advanced numbers.

One of Belt’s most significant improvements in 2013’s second half came in his dramatic fly-ball percentage decrease. In the first half, Belt had an astounding 43.9 percent fly-ball rate, which would have ranked second in the National League had he maintained it for the entire season.

Fortunately, Belt decreased his fly-ball rate to 38.2 percent in the second half. While that number is still much too high, it is a step in the right direction. Decreasing his fly-ball rate even further is key, as AT&T Park’s cavernous dimensions are extremely unkind to fly ball-prone hitters, particularly lefties.

Belt had another important improvement in a batted-ball statistic in 2013’s second half: his line-drive rate. Belt had a mediocre line-drive rate of 21.5 percent in the first half; that total skyrocketed to 27.7 percent in the second half, which would have tied him for first in the National League if he’d done it over the entire course of 2013.

The decreased fly-ball rate and increased line-drive rate both led to a much higher batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in the second half. Belt increased that total by 73 points, from .319 to .392. That is an astoundingly high total, as only Chris Johnson of the Atlanta Braves had a higher BABIP during the entire 2013 season (.394).

Belt also decreased his strikeout percentage from 23.5 percent to 19.8 percent in the second half, a decrease of 3.7 percent. That might not seem like much, but it would translate to 22 fewer strikeouts in a 600-at-bat season. That could, in turn, lead to several more hits throughout the course of the season.

Despite his numerous improvements, Belt must get better against left-handed pitching. He batted just .261 against them in 2013, and his OPS was 112 points lower against lefties than it was against righties.

The Giants, for whom runs will likely be in short supply in 2014, need Belt to step up at the plate. He will likely be their No. 3 hitter, at least on Opening Day. In order for the big bats behind him (Buster Posey, Hunter Pence) to have a chance to drive in runs, Belt will need to repeat his 2013 performance.

If he can further improve his fly-ball rate and become a productive hitter against left-handed pitching, 2014 will be a very fun season indeed for Brandon Belt.


All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Oakland A’s: Grades for Every Player in August

A month that began with the A’s scuffling and ultimately losing their lead in the American League West ended with a 5-1 flourish that enabled the team to record its ninth straight winning month at 14-13. And don’t be fooled, that record is indicative of how the A’s played in the month of August: up and down and all around. 

Even the nice finish was dulled a bit by the three-run lead lost in Detroit on the 29th as the A’s let a chance at a rare four-game sweep against the Tigers slip away. But as of this writing, the A’s have put themselves in prime position for another fantastic September finish by pulling back to within two games of the front-running Texas Rangers.

So like the month of July, the grades for the club will begin with the pitching staff. 

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Oakland A’s: Predicting What Oakland’S Starting Lineup Will Look Like Next Year

Even as the Oakland A’s fight for their second consecutive American West League Championship over the last six weeks of the Major League Baseball season, there is a truth that should hearten fans in the East Bay and everywhere else: This team is built to last. They are young and—although inconsistent at times—this team’s core is full of talent. 

With that said, even as this team fights to secure a spot in the postseason, they will likely be underdogs to capture the team’s first title in 24 years. However, with the nucleus likely in tact, it isn’t too early to project how the team’s starting lineup might look in 2014. Here is my highly unofficial look at that lineup, but first and just for fun, here was a projection NBC Sports baseball writer Matthew Pouliot had in February 2012.

2B Jemile Weeks
CF Grant Green
1B Daric Barton
RF Yoenis Cespedes
DH Seth Smith
3B Scott Sizemore
LF Michael Choice
C Derek Norris
SS Cliff Pennington

Obviously Pouliot could not account for trades and other factors but look at that lineup. Two players are no longer with the club (Green and Pennington), two have fallen so far that they can’t get playing time in Oakland (Weeks and Barton), and two lost their jobs due to either injury (Sizemore) or lack of production (Norris). 

As a matter of fact, the only player you can say will be on this team in 2014 is Yoenis Cespedes. And you know what?

That is not a bad thing.

Billy Beane converted a middling roster on the fly into a potential back to back division champion. So anyone who projected Oakland’s lineup for next year would be inaccurate.

So, what will that lineup look like in 2014? Here is my take:


2B Jed Lowrie

Lowrie is not a conventional lead-off hitter, but with Coco Crisp turning 34 and hitting free agency, I have a feeling the A’s will need a new bat at the top of the lineup. Lowrie has been steady, if not spectacular, at the plate and that is the kind of player the A’s need leading off.


DH Seth Smith

I have a feeling that 2013 was more of a fluke for Smith even though, for the second year in a row, his batting average has paled in comparison to his production in Colorado. Who doesn’t struggle when compared to time spent at Coors Field? I expect to see the power return and Smith is a solid number two guy initially.


CF Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes will move to his natural centerfield with the departure of Crisp. My lofty predictions might have to wait a year, but I think Cespedes will have a big year in 2014. 


RF Josh Reddick

Much like fellow neo-Bash Brother Cespedes, Reddick has had a largely underwhelming 2013. Is he as bad as he has been this year? No. Is he as good as he was in his 32 home run, Gold-Glove-winning 2012? Maybe not. But something in between would be a nice improvement for the A’s at this spot.

3B Josh Donaldson

Donaldson’s year has not been a fluke. While ultimately this position will be filled by phenom Addison Russell, for now Donaldson is entrenched at the hot corner for the A’s. 

1B Brandon Moss

Moss was destined for a fall off after a pretty remarkable burst in 2012 (.291/.358/.596 splits) which saw him smash 21 home runs in 84 games. So even though he is hitting under .240 and has few home runs after 110+ games than he did in all of 2012, Moss is still the man at this spot. He may alternate time with— 


LF Michael Choice

The curveball comes with prospect Michael Choice. Scouted as an all-or-nothing type power-hitter, Choice has displayed an improved eye in 2013 and, while his power numbers have dipped, he looks like a better hitter. Choice impressed in the spring and probably would have been the first guy from Triple-A in the outfield if the A’s weren’t so deep at that spot. He gets his chance in 2014.


C Derek Norris

If John Jaso were to ‘win’ the battle at catcher (imagine them likely platooning next year again), you could swap Jaso and Smith at the number two and eight spots. But I think Norris gets a chance to finally put a solid season together. Ultimately, whoever is behind the plate must improve defensively as the A’s catchers have struggled in 2013.

SS Hiroyuki Nakajima

Nakajima has a giant INC for a grade next to his 2013 as his spring injury and the play of Lowrie and Eric Sogard kept him from getting up to Oakland. But the contract plus the talent (he is up to .293 at Triple-A Sacramento) will merit an opportunity for the Japanese star. At least initially.

So there you have it. I think the A’s might try to bring Chris Young back at a discounted price, but he will likely draw attention on the free agent market. Alberto Callaspo should step in for Adam Rosales as the A’s utility player du jour in 2014. That is a marked improvement. I look at Eric Sogard backing up Nakajima more in terms of money than production because quite simply, we don’t know what the Japanese star has yet. 

Ultimately, some of the major components to upgrade the roster are likely a couple years away still. This includes Russell, Renato Nunez, and not Michael Taylor. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Taylor reminds me of that line from the X-Files: I want to believe. But after all this time, it is pretty clear that in Oakland, he is a AAAA player and not the potential stud he appeared to be when acquired. 

Oakland’s offense will improve as key components improve. I’m not saying that there might not be a trade or two as well as a couple of signings. But these will likely add to depth and not supplant the core players currently on the roster. What you see is what you get. And, even though the little things drive you crazy as an A’s fan (situational hitting!), there is still enough talent to win again next year.

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San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt, Sandoval and the Final Days of Barry Zito

All season long, through the early good times and the recent bad-to-terrible times, I’ve implored San Francisco Giants fans—loyal and capricious alike—to stay on the ship. There is no worse non-criminal life form than the bandwagon fan—but the raging, pessimistic fan ranks a close second. (I call them “Quaids.” If you’ve seen the old Charlie Sheen movie Major League, you get the reference. But I’m not here to talk about the past.)

Even ardent fans will eventually reach a point of attrition, given enough exposure to shoddy, uninspired play unworthy of fan support. I reached mine when the Giants blew three winnable home games against a lousy Chicago Cubs team two weeks ago. Not because the Giants were losing—I’d never turn my back on my teams strictly based on losses. 

It was how they were losing. Walks, baserunning blunders, repeated failures to bring home men from second base with zero out—I wasn’t watching what I felt was major league baseball. I think most fans can tolerate (not accept) losing to a degree if the team is focused, playing hard, playing smart and aware of the situations they’re presented with. For a while, the Giants came up way short in all but the effort categories.

Since that Cubs debacle, San Francisco has played better—though far from superlative—baseball (not that it could have gotten much worse, but still). 

They kicked off a six-game trip taking two-of-three from the Philadelphia Phillies. Granted, it was a Phillies team minus Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee (with Lee rumored to be held out of action as a 7/31 trade candidate, though he was officially resting a “stiff neck” as reported by CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa). One could argue the latter trio’s absence as addition by subtraction when you recall how SF schooled them in the 2010 playoffs, however.

On that trip, Brandon Belt got his swing back. All it took was a minor grip adjustment and some pressure by a rejuvenated Brett Pill to unleash the player who tore through the Pacific Coast and Arizona Fall Leagues, as well as the 2013 Cactus League.

After being benched in Philly, Belt went a hard 3-for-4 with a homer at Tampa in his return to the starting lineup. He next lit up the Brewers and Orioles in San Francisco to the tune of 11-for-25—many to the long-ignored opposite field—with two home runs, three doubles (all smoked) and five RBI. In fact, Belt has driven in five of the Giants’ past 11 runs and (excluding the two homers) scored three others.

Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum both re-discovered their ace stuff; in fact, as a whole, the entire starting staff has been dealing as of late. Since July 30 (Barry Zito‘s final start to date), The Freak and friends have thrown six or more innings in 10 of 12 starts and allowed a composite 20 runs in those 12 starts.

For their efforts, Giants starters own only a 4-2 record over that period—while they’re not being saddled with an excess of undeserved losses, they’re not being rewarded with enough wins (although the G’Men did a great job salvaging Cain’s eight strong innings with a late comeback off Philadelphia’s Jon Papelbon August 1.)

Though he’s fallen into a slump, Panda Sandoval continues to exercise better selectivity at the plate ever since his embarrassing flail at a pitch that went through his legs on July 3 at Cincy. Sandoval is never going to be Ted Williams or Barry Bonds in terms of condensing the strike zone, and no one is asking him to be. The guy can beat a “bad” ball with the best of ’em—Pablo’s productivity would suffer if his approach turned passive.

That said, not even he can do anything with a pitch headed straight for him—or a pitch thrown 58 feet. Or a pitch closer to a pitchout than a strike. Sandoval’s cold right now, but for the most part, he’s getting off good swings and not getting himself out—unlike his June cold snap coming off the injured list.

Some of Sandoval’s more impressive “takes” of late include:                

  • a nasty 0-2 changeup from Phillie Antonio Bastardo on July 30 
  • a tempting Wily Peralta (Brewers) 2-2 curve on August 6
  • two back-foot breaking balls (from Milwaukee’s Jon Hand August 8 and Baltimore’s Bud Norris August 11, respectively) nearly identical to the July 3 leg-splitter

…among others he would usually pounce on.

Those unfamiliar with Sandoval won’t be impressed at a sixth-year major league hitter exercising dish discipline on its face, but what you must understand: Panda laying off dirt-dusters and third-eye heaters is no different than a crook returning a dropped wallet to the police station fully intact—it goes against everything that comes naturally to him. This is what makes Pablo’s batting slump so mystifying, but I’m confident he’ll wrap 2013 strong.

Zito predictably lost his rotation spot after the aforementioned loss in Philadelphia that left him with the following home/road splits (as a starter): 4-1. 2.45 ERA/0-7, 9.50 ERA (with a WHIP approaching 2.4, twice that of his home WHIP). And that doesn’t even include the eight road unearned runs.

This is the final year of Zito’s infamous seven-year contract; even with up to three rotation holes to fill at season’s end, there’s just no way a 36-year-old Zito with his 83-mph-and-dipping “fastball” returns in ’14 even on a Triple-A deal. I’ve defended and supported Zito for years, but even I have to admit that at this point…I’m not sure he’s a MLB pitcher anymore.

His curve is still filthy. His slider and changeup can be effective. But his command has never been worse, which is saying something since even in his outstanding Oakland years, Zito routinely finished among league leaders in walks and ran up high pitch counts. When going well, Zito can often escape jams and hitter’s counts with one of his off-speed pitches. When he can’t command them…you’re left with June-August 2013.

True, he’s had effective starts this year. So did Jamie Moyer in 2012. So did David Wells in 2007. So did Kirk Rueter in 2005.

Given the contempt in which Giants fans held the under-performing Zito in the first half of his tenure and how he earned their respect (if not admiration) with two clutch playoff starts in 2012, it’s fair to say Giants fans—at least the more astute ones—pulled for Barry to turn in a decent year on his way out of town, and for a while he obliged.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear he will go out strong, but Zito’s contribution to the 2012 champs along with his work ethic, stand-up attitude and exemplary representation of the Orange and Black inside and outside the lines over these last seven years should be loudly acknowledged at any future reunions.

After a much-needed off-day, the Giants take on a Nationals team that’s arguably the only one more disappointing than they in 2013. Though a combined 16 games under .500 and 29.5 games out of first place, these franchises do have something to play for. The star-studded series should be entertaining if nothing else. Thanks for reading and go, Giants!

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Oakland A’s: History Dictates That It Is Far Too Early to Panic over 2013 Start

After their first 40 games, the Oakland A’s are 20-20 in the 2013 season.

Remember 2012? The A’s started 20-20 as well. In 2006, The A’s—led by Frank Thomas—rode a five-game winning streak to get to 21-19 after 40 games. 

Historically, the A’s have tended to be a slow-starting team. Under manager Bob Geren, the club never started better than 23-17 through 40 games (2008) and started as slowly as 15-25 (2009) while opening 20-20 three times. 

Go back to the Moneyball era when the A’s opened 21-19 (2000), 18-22 (2001) and 19-21 (2002) after 40 games. Oakland went on to win 91, 102, and 103 games those three seasons, respectively.

In many ways, the 12-4 start that the Athletics have raced out to this season was a bit of fool’s gold. Eleven of those 12 wins came at the expense of AL West foes Seattle, Los Angeles (Angels) and Houston. Those teams sit a combined 31 games under .500 heading into Tuesday, May 14.

Once the torrid starts by guys like Jed Lowrie and Seth Smith died down, so did the early offense. Add to those laws of averages the injuries to Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker as reality dragged the A’s back down to earth.

The only thing is that this is still a very talented team. WIth a quarter of the season gone, the projected Oakland lineup has played less than 15 total games together. Even if the A’s don’t duplicate their wins from 2012, there is no way that Anderson and Parker continue to post ERA’s of 6.21 and 6.86,  respectively. 

It is still a marathon in the game of baseball and right now, the A’s have run roughly 6.5 of the 26.2-mile 2013 race. They’re just getting warmed up.

Relax and hope that players like Daric Barton can hold the fort down when called upon until all of the gang gets back. When they do, the A’s will take off like they traditionally do when the talent takes the field in Oakland. 

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MLB: Selecting the AL West’s Quarter-Pole All-Star Team

As the 2013 Major League Baseball season race reaches the quarter pole, it becomes time to take stock of where teams and players are in terms of production. 

In the American League West, the Texas Rangers have taken their customary position of being the front runner, largely due to tremendous pitching and consistent power in the lineup. The A’s and Mariners have both been largely inconsistent, with the A’s scuffling back to .500 since starting the year 12-4. 

However, the biggest story has been the lack of success in Anaheim as the Los Angeles Angels are not fighting for an expected spot at the top, but trying to keep clear of division newcomers the Houston Astros. In the basement.

There have been solid performances from individuals on all five teams. But sometimes, overlapping positions keep deserving players from receiving deserved accolades. This will likely be no exception. 

So instead of lamenting who is not, we shall spotlight who is. Starting with catcher and ending a pitching rotation (relievers included), here is the AL West’s Quarter-Pole All-Star Team.

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Oakland A’s: Ranking the 10 Greatest Pitching Performances in Team History

Since the team moved from Kansas City to Oakland 45 years ago, the A’s have largely been a team built on great pitching. Whether it was Charley Finley’s Mustache Gang, the 1981 “Billyball” club, the Walter Haas owned/Tony LaRussa run team from 1988 to 1992 or Billy Beane’s Moneyball teams, Oakland has always won with great pitching.

As such, there have been great pitching performances—some in the regular season, others in the playoffs or even the World Series. Finding the 10 best is a matter of circumstance and history. It is also highly subjective. Having followed this franchise since 1985, I have seen good, bad and ugly. But it has almost always been interesting. 

With that said, here’s a nice look back in to time. Here’s my list for the 10 greatest pitching performances in Oakland A’s team history. 


*Stats are courtesy of “Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.

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