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Infield Defense: Be Very Afraid

In honor of his defense, the A's have erected a Nate Freiman.
In honor of his defense, the A's have erected a Nate Freiman.
Bob Levey

The A's love their platoons (how patriotic), and so while Brandon Moss and Eric Sogard swing hard and bake cookies, respectively, against RHP, when a LHP takes the mound suddenly the Oakland lineup has a very different look. Seth Smith gives way to Chris Young, John Jaso sits and Derek Norris squats. And then there's the infield...

With the recent call-up of Grant Green the A's "vs. LHP" infield, to be on display tonight against John Lester, features Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, Grant Green, and Nate Freiman. This is...problematic.

In Lowrie, you already have a SS whose range to his left appears to run the gamut from "slow" to "slow motion," and whose throws to 1B make you wonder if he believes the "neighborhood play" applies at all bases. Lowrie has been a godsend this year, but that is because of his hitting.

Enter Green: All arms and legs, with no polish. In just a couple games, we have seen how difficult it is for him to make a quick transfer and how he must not only also believe the "neighborhood play" applies at 1B, but apparently he grew up in a really big neighborhood.

Good thing the 1Bman is 6'8", eh! Not really. Nate Freiman is an unfortunate 1Bman to put alongside Lowrie and Green. Somehow, Freiman manages to "anti-stretch" for throws, seeming to find a way to allow the ball to travel as long as humanly possible before hitting his glove.

Perhaps Freiman has heard Chili Davis preach "Let the ball get in deep" so many times he has forgotten that Chili is a hitting coach. Or maybe Freiman has read so much criticism of Daric Barton that he has vowed to be Barton's complete opposite. Whatever it is, there is no "stretch" in Freiman's game.

Meanwhile, Freiman's range is non-existent. On balls 5 feet to his right, you can see Freiman dive, in sections, and by the time he lands it's unclear whether he is diving for the batted ball or for Reddick's return throw to the infield. Comically, on balls 20 feet to his right you can observe the exact same dive -- it's just that the ball is 15 feet farther away, leaving you to wonder whether Freiman was diving for the ball or might just have tripped.

In combination, Lowrie-Green-Freiman is a throwing, walking, statuesque disaster. Ground balls to the left of 2B get through, the ones fielded up the middle are thrown errantly to a stretchless statue, ground balls between 1B and 2B are "all Green's" for better or for worse, and DPs ... aren't.

The A's are in the middle of a tight pennant race, one in which there has been separation of 1 game or less for 2 weeks running. I just can't see this experiment continuing for very long. Any of the 3 might be ok with different accompanying colleagues -- Lowrie throwing to Barton, or Green playing up the middle with Brendan Ryan, or Freiman taking throws from Ryan and Sogard.

But the Lowrie-Green-Freiman combo is the "trifecta of doom" and let me tell you something about Green's and Freiman's hitting: it ain't gonna be that good. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on the corners? I can see that. Freiman and Green? A little different.

So for tonight: Fly balls, A.J., fly balls. And then let's regroup during the All-Star break and figure out this half of the platoon.