Who's better: Athletics or Giants?

One team won 88 games and had a colossal disaster of a season. The other team won 88 games and became a dynasty.

There is no love lost between the rich-kid Giants and their ballpark on the cove and the poor A's from the wrong side of the tracks with their stadium that smells of sewage.

But which club will be better in 2015?

Catcher: Josh Phegley/Stephen Vogt versus Buster Posey

Let's move on.

Edge: Giants

First base: Ike Davis versus Brandon Belt

I've remained a believer in Belt and I think we need to dismiss his injury-riddled 2014. He hit .289/.360/.481 in 2013 and I think he'll do that again, with maybe a slight uptick. Davis was an interesting buy-low acquisition for the A's, although it seems most people have lost interest in him by now. At worst, he'll at least post a respectable OBP in a platoon role and maybe he finds some of that power from 2012, when he hit 32 home runs for the Mets.

Edge: Giants.

Second base: Ben Zobrist versus Joe Panik

Let's pencil Zobrist in here, although he'll likely play some shortstop and outfield as needed. Look, I know Panik had a nice rookie debut, hitting .305 and making some key defensive plays in the postseason. But he has to hit .305 to be a useful player. He doesn't have any power. He didn't steal a base in 73 games. He didn't walk much. The Steamer projection system has him hitting .255; ZiPS projects .264. Maybe the projection systems are wrong and he can come close to a .343 BABIP again.

Edge: A's.

Third base: Brett Lawrie versus Casey McGehee

Both teams have new third basemen and I know which one I don't like. McGehee drove in 76 runs for the Marlins and drew a lot of praise for that because too much attention is still given to RBIs. He started 127 games of his 160 games in the cleanup spot; of course he knocked in 76 runs. It's not that hard to do hitting cleanup. He still hit just four home runs. He grounded into 31 double plays. He doesn't have much range at third. Look, Pablo Sandoval wasn't exactly Mike Schmidt -- well, at least in the regular season -- but McGehee hit .223 in 2011 and .217 in 2012. There's a good chance the Giants are looking for a new third baseman by July.

Edge: A's.

Shortstop: Marcus Semien versus Brandon Crawford

Watch This, or this.

Edge: Giants.

Left field: Sam Fuld/Craig Gentry versus Gregor Blanco/Norichika Aoki

Whatever happened to the classic left fielder? You know, statue-like defense, 30-homer power, growls at reporters and complains when he gets moved down to fifth in the order? Both teams have defense-first left fielders. The A's have a natural left/right platoon while the Giants have two lefties who actually hit lefties pretty well last year. The Giants had Mike Morse sharing time with Blanco in left field in 2014, but his defense was so bad I don't think the Giants will miss all that much.

Edge: Giants. Although I can't say I'd be willing to argue anyone over this.

Center field: Coco Crisp versus Angel Pagan

This is all about Pagan's back surgery and if he'll be good to go. When he rejoined the Giants as a spectator during the World Series following surgery, he said he wasn't in pain and would be ready to go for spring training. But he's also 33 and you have to wonder how he'll hold up and if he'll still have the range to play center. But Crisp had his own health issues last season, playing through a neck injury (and also hurting his hamstring in the wild-card game). He's 35. They're similar players with near identical projections.

Edge: Athletics. Only because Pagan seems a little more of an unknown.

Right field: Josh Reddick versus Hunter Pence

It's Hunter Pence's world and we all just live in it.

Edge: Giants.


Of course, we've listed a lot of the Oakland bench players already. Really, it's the depth that Billy Beane is counting on more than anything to give his club a good offense, sort of a sum greater than its parts. Zobrist, Lawrie and Reddick and designated hitter Billy Butler are the four guys you can pencil in every day; the other five will be a rotating cast of platoons.

The Giants' bench has been an issue in recent years, although Travis Ishikawa and Blanco stepped up in the 2014 playoffs. This could be their best bench in years. Andrew Susac projects as a solid backup catcher, allowing Posey to take some days off from catching and play first base or DH in games in American League parks. Aoki will play some left, allowing Blanco to move over to center for Pagan from time to time. Infielder Matt Duffy doesn't have any power, but he hit .332 in Double-A.

Edge: Athletics.

No. 1 starter: Sonny Gray versus Madison Bumgarner

Just throwing this out there*:

Baseball-Reference WAR: Bumgarner 3.6, Gray 3.5

FanGraphs WAR: Bumgarner 3.6, Gray 3.3

* Does not include postseason.

Edge: Giants.

No. 2 starter: Scott Kazmir versus Matt Cain

These two guys will be huge keys for both teams. Cain made 15 starts last year before getting his elbow cleaned up. He's a combined 10-17 with a 4.06 ERA the past two seasons and while he's just 30, he's logged a lot of major league innings at a young age and you wonder if his best days are behind him.

The good news for Kazmir is that he made his most starts (32) and pitched his most innings (190.1) since 2007 last year. He certainly appeared to tire as the season wore on: 11-3, 2.38 in the first half with 108 strikeouts and 27 walks versus second-half numbers of 4-6, 5.42, 56/23.

When evaluating the Giants' rotation, you have to keep in mind the big benefits their pitchers get from AT&T Park. Check out the home/road splits of their rotation over the past five years:

Home: 3.38

Road: 4.09

Of course, Oakland is also a pitcher's park, although not as extreme.

Anyway, I'll take Kazmir for 2015.

Edge: Athletics.

No. 3 starter: Jesse Chavez versus Tim Hudson

I'll pencil in Chavez as the No. 3 guy for Oakland right now, although it wouldn't surprise if ends up back in the pen or in a hybrid role. He started off strong last year, but tired and was eventually moved to a relief role after the club acquired Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija. He has a five-pitch arsenal and while none of his pitches rates as a big plus by themselves, he's learned to move the ball around and his cutter and changeup actually made him more effective against left-handers in 2014.

Hudson turns 40 in July, but the active career leader with 214 wins keeps rolling along, posting a 3.57 ERA last year. Like Kazmir, he hit the wall in September (0-4, 8.72) although he did have a good start against the Nationals in the Division Series. The Giants would probably be wise to limit him to 25 starts instead of 30-plus -- and having Yusmeiro Petit provides them that luxury.

Edge: Giants.

No. 4/5 starters: Drew Pomeranz/Jesse Hahn/others versus Jake Peavy/Tim Lincecum/Ryan Vogelsong

I have no idea who ends up here for the A's, but they have depth to get excellent production from the back end of the rotation. Pomeranz had a 2.35 ERA in 69 innings last year, although he had a 3.77 FIP, so the ERA was a little lucky. But he was a good find for Oakland, a young lefty with a good arm who just needed to get out of Colorado. I liked the Hahn pickup from San Diego for Derek Norris; he's a big righty with mid-rotation stuff but is a wild card as he was often injured in the minors. Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade with the Blue Jays, could also get starts here and Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin could be ready by midseason from their Tommy John surgeries.

The Giants re-signed Peavy and Vogelsong, which tells me that Lincecum isn't a lock for the rotation. And he shouldn't be, not with a 4.76 ERA the past three seasons -- 5.55 on the road.

Edge: Athletics.


This is pretty even: The A's had a 2.91 ERA last year and added Tyler Clippard from the Nationals (while losing Luke Gregerson); the Giants had a 3.01 ERA and bring everyone back. Considering the rapid turnover of most bullpens, it's amazing how long Bruce Bochy has been able to stick with his core group of Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. Petit and Jean Machi provide depth.

Edge: Giants. If only because A's closer Sean Doolittle is questionable for Opening Day with a rotator cuff injury.

The projection system at FanGraphs likes the A's at 84 wins, the Giants at 83. Beane has built a team that lacks star power on paper but makes up for it with 25-man roster depth. Maybe that will be enough, but there are a lot of moving parts here and I think they're going to miss Donaldson's bat and glove and I don't see the outfield providing enough offense. Gray, if not already an ace is close to one, and the rotation has a chance to be sneaky good, but it could also collapse if Kazmir doesn't produce and the young guys don't come through.

The Giants have the big names: MadBum, Posey, Pence. Losing Sandoval will hurt, not so much that he was a big star but that I didn't like the McGehee acquisition. There's no power beyond Posey, Pence and perhaps Belt and while they've proven they can win without home runs, it certainly makes things more difficult. In the end, I see a team that won 88 games last year, but didn't improve itself in the offseason.

The A's are in a tough division. While I wouldn't be shocked to see them win it, I'm not quite as optimistic as the projection system and see them finishing with 79 wins. I have the Giants dropping a few wins to 85 ... and missing the playoffs.