Feb 26, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) and Oakland Athletics infielder Nick Punto (1) look at the umpire who said Sandoval was late with his tag at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports. Athletics won the exhibition game 10-5.

Why the Oakland Athletics Will be Better Than the SF Giants in 2014

The simple answer is this: the A’s were better in 2013, and have gotten better heading into 2014. The Giants on the other hand haven’t added enough to their roster to significantly improve.

After winning the World Series title in 2012, the San Francisco Giants ended 2013 with a 76-86 record, just 2 games out of last. The A’s on the other hand have had the best record in the majors over the past 2 years.

Last season the Giants struggled. The strength of their team, their pitching staff, turned in a dismal performance by their standards. Madison Bumgarner was the lone bright spot. He is being rewarded by getting the nod for an Opening Day start in 2014. Even the horse of the staff, Matt Cain struggled at times in 2013.

The beacon of hope for San Francisco coming in to 2014 is that Barry Zito’s contract is off the books, and so is his left arm. To replace him, they signed former Athletic, Tim Hudson. Huddy is a solid pitcher, and they are lucky to have him. Of the big 3, he is the only one that has had continued success this late in his career. The big question mark for Huddy is whether he is recovered from the ankle injury that he suffered late last year.

Across the bay, the A’s have been busy. On paper they have improved a solid bullpen and made it into an elite one with the additions of Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson and Eric O’Flaherty. They also acquired Craig Gentry in a trade with the Rangers, and signed free-agent grinder Nick Punto.

Gentry offers an upgrade in versatility, speed and defense over former Athletic Seth Smith. Nick Punto is a pain-in-the-neck player that you love if he’s on your team and hate to face.

The A’s also have a full season of Sonny Gray to look forward to. Last postseason he went pitch-for-pitch against Justin Verlander in Game 2 of the ALDS. Minus one pitch to the best hitter in baseball, he pitched a very solid game 5. He will have some growing pains, but will be the ace of the staff in the second-half of the season.

The Giants also added Michael Morse to their lineup, but I see his defense being a liability in the vast expanse of Triples Alley. His bat could be an upside in a Giant lineup that ranked 10th in the NL and 21st in baseball in runs scored, but he is also injury prone.

The Giants are banking on bounce-back years from most of their rotation, and hoping for the best with their offense. I am not an expert on their farm system, but if they considered Mike Kickham to be their most qualified to pitch in the show last year, I am guessing there isn’t a lot of major-league-ready talent there at the moment. Their bullpen is strong, but they can’t win every game by themselves.

My prediction for the Giants is that they finish at .500, 81-81, and will be fighting the Padres/Rockies off for 3rd place. If things don’t pan out, the Giants could find themselves looking up at the rest of the division.

The A’s will finish at 102-60, winning the AL West for the 3rd straight year. The Rangers added a lot of parts this offseason, but aren’t necessarily better. Yu Darvish, their best pitcher, is like catnip to A’s bats. Derek Holland, their 2nd best, is out for the beginning of the year due to injury. This leaves the door wide open for the A’s, and I believe they will capitalize on this opportunity.  Come October, the amusement park will be shut down, so if you want to watch baseball, come to Oakland.

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  • Pops Burke

    All Jason’s articles are insightful and well written.

    • http://swinginas.com Jason Burke

      Thanks Grandpa!

      • Mark ONeill

        Not a grandpa yet.

        • http://swinginas.com Jason Burke

          Haha, nope. Pops is my Grandpa. He is very supportive and I really appreciate it!

          • Mark ONeill

            I don’t usually show my age so demonstrably, but when I do, it’s bound to be tied in with technology…

    • Mark ONeill

      There is much to be said for insightful and well-written. I personally like to toss a modicum of accuracy into the mix. lol This will indeed be an entertaining year, and hopefully will result in the penultimate stage for two worthy opponents.

  • Mark ONeill

    Lots with which to engage in lively debate, but I will begin by saying that if “Huddy” is the only one of the Big Three to “have continued success” then who was that who rose to insurmountable heights in the 2012 Series? And how could any discussion of the last two years put the A’s ahead of the Giants, when much of the current team wears a World Series Championship ring from the October before last? Just asking.

    • http://swinginas.com Jason Burke

      I will give you that Zito was integral in the 2012 World Series run, but it is my understanding that the Giants fan base was not in favor of Zito or his contract for most of its duration. Huddy has been the most consistent since leaving the A’s. I think that is fair to say. The Giants won 2 years ago, but also finished just 2 games ahead of last in 2013. The A’s have been more consistent the past two years is all I was saying. Do the Giants have prospects that are ready to help them improve for 2014? Thank you for the feedback!

      • Nick Ware

        Hey Jason – I’ll engage the convo because, though you’re an obvious homer for your home team (It’s ok, me too!), you come across as straight and respectful, which is all I ever ask of any baseball fan. The Giants have a massive depth of pitchers coming through the system, but they were ALL in A+ in last year. All, that is, except for 22yo southpaw Edwin Escobar. After being promoted mid-season from A+ (2.89ERA, 11.2K/9) to AA last year, Escobar continued to kill while being very young for the league, posting 2.67ERA and a 9 K/9, 4.15 K/BB. Ideally the Giants would like to let him simmer for another season in Triple-A, but if the need arrises, he’s pretty much ready.

        • http://swinginas.com Jason Burke

          I hadn’t heard of Escobar before. Now I am excited to see him pitch! I had assumed that because Kickham was the guy they brought up that he was the best they had to offer. I still think he even has a chance to be good. 2 of his 3 appearances were on the road in Oakland and LA, the Giant’s 2 biggest rivals. That doesn’t seem fair to throw a new pitcher into the fire like that. Very hostile environments.

      • Mark ONeill

        The A’s HAVE been consistent, but not good enough. The Giants have been good enough, but not consistent. Let’s see how taking the WBC out of the mix helps the Giants by possibly keeping nine of its ten participants off the DL. Not an excuse, mind you, but a factor which contributed to the season overall.

        • http://swinginas.com Jason Burke

          The WBC does have that reputation, so that is a fair point. I was excited that no A’s players were participating last year. Same deal with the All-Star game and Home Run Derby. Yes, Cespedes participated, but he was already struggling, so it didn’t hurt him much.

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