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Giants and A’s: Grading out the Bay Area’s baseball teams after the first month of the season

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Sean Manaea, pictured in September of 2017, threw a no-hitter on April 22, 2018, and finally returned to form on Sunday. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A common thread connects both Bay Area ball clubs: The Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants can each feel legitimately optimistic — even if the latter currently has $76 million on the disabled list. Let’s get to the early-season progress reports and find out why.

Catcher 
A’s: B+ — The biggest offseason addition the A’s made to their rotation was a catcher. Jonathan Lucroy has been brilliant calling games and blocking pitches in the dirt. It’s no accident he caught Sean Manaea’s no-hitter.

Giants: B — Buster Posey has cooled after his scorching start and his power (two home runs) has been AWOL, continuing a worrying trend that dates back to 2016.

First Base
A’s: C — Decent average but little power (three homers). It’s been a confusing sophomore start for Matt Olson who still strikes out way too much.

Giants: A — Is this the elusive Brandon Belt breakout season? Six homers, an OPS north of 1.000? Sure looks like it.

Second Base
A’s: A+ — The crazy part about Jed Lowrie’s MVP start is that, according to one MLB team official, the A’s actually wanted to move the veteran before the season to clear way for top prospect Franklin Barreto.

Giants: INC — Joe Panik’s left thumb sprain has provided an opening for Kelby Tomlinson and Alen Hanson to prove they can be more than just nondescript utility dudes.

Shortstop 
A’s: A- — Marcus Semien is the Bay’s best shortstop right now and it’s not close. Sneaky pop (nine doubles) and he’s in positive territory in defensive runs saved, per Baseball Reference.

Giants: C- — While Brandon Crawford has somehow dodged the criticism, he’s gone from undisputed core piece to a $15.2 million zero at the plate. At least that glove is still gold.

Third Base
A’s: A- — Matt Chapman looks like Nolan Arenado in the field and is tied for No. 16 in the majors in exit velocity, per MLB’s Statcast. He’s proving to be exactly who the A’s hoped he would be.

Giants: B — Six errors for the three-time Gold-Glover? Woof. Still, the half dozen homers make Evan Longoria an early success.

Left Field
A’s: B — Chad Pinder (third on the team in OPS) has built off a breakout 2017 and has been the stronger half of this platoon with Matt Joyce.

Giants: INC — Hunter Pence looks cooked and 2018 Mac Williamson is promising but his three-game sample size is officially way too small to draw any definitive conclusions.

Center Field
A’s: A- — If you had Mark Canha emerging amid the wreckage of Boog Powell, Jake Smolinski, Dustin Fowler and Trayce Thompson, then you’re lying. This would be a good time to mention that Canha is second on the team in OPS.

Giants: F — Austin Jackson was supposed to hit lefties. Instead, he’s not hitting anybody.

Right Field
A’s: C — Like a season ago with the St. Louis Cardinals, Stephen Piscotty has been easy to miss. ‘Pedestrian’ puts it best.

Giants: D — Aside from two walk-offs in the first 10 games, it’s been a rough start for Andrew McCutchen in San Francisco. At least one advanced number says all is not lost. His 92.95 average exit velocity is tops on the team.

Designated Hitter
A’s: B+ — Khris Davis is just doing what he does. Low average, big power, high strikeout numbers.

Bench
A’s: C — Pinder, Joyce and Canha are all more than serviceable when Bob Melvin deploys them in reserve. Smolinski and Bruce Maxwell both OPSing in the .400 range? Not so much.

Giants: B — Injuries have led to lots of shuffling but Gregor Blanco — and to a lesser extent, Pablo Sandoval — have looked even-year like.

Bullpen
A’s: C-— There have been highlights, like Blake Treinen and his strikeout-inducing sinker. There have also been too many lowlights, like offseason headliner Emilio Pagan pitching his way to Triple-A and the pen allowing the second-most homers in baseball.

Giants: A- — Not enough credit goes to surprise relief stars like Reyes Moronta and Pierce Johnson. Hunter Strickland has pitched well enough to keep the ninth even when Mark Melancon returns. Tony Watson has been the club’s best free-agent pickup and that’s unassailable.

Rotation
A’s: B — Kendall Graveman accomplished the rare and ignominious feat of going from Opening Day starter to the minor leagues in less than a month. Fortunately, the 6-foot-5 Manaea — who looks like he was factory-built to be an ace — has been just that. Trevor Cahill has been a steady signing off the scrap heap and even Brett Anderson impressed in his (second) Oakland debut.

Giants: A — The fact this group hasn’t burst into flames in the wake of injuries to Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija is remarkable and speaks exceedingly well of Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and pitching coach Curt Young.

Overall
A’s: A- — The offense that never quits has made the team respectable. The pitching will dictate whether the A’s can hang in the Wild Card race this summer.

Giants: A- — No one would have blamed the Giants for kowtowing to the injuries. Instead, the team is trending upward as the return of Bumgarner looms.

kbuscheck@sfexaminer.com

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