San Francisco Giants: Why Pitching and Defense Don't Win Championships

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2010

Almost all of us who follow the game of baseball have heard the claim that “pitching and defense win championships.”

But is there any truth to that claim in this day and age?

While teams built primarily on pitching and defense may have been more suited to win World Series Championships in past eras, the current age of baseball is built on offense.

A popular phrase in American football is that today’s NFL is a “quarterback’s league” and similarly, MLB can be considered a “hitter’s league.” Just like a quarterback can make a difference in any of his team’s games, everyday hitters can make an impact bigger than any one pitcher.

Ask any baseball fan you know the following question:

Who would you rather have the Cy Young Award winner or the MVP (assuming the MVP isn’t a pitcher)?

Almost every knowledgeable fan would tell you they would rather have the MVP.

Why, you ask? Because the MVP usually is a position player that finds his name etched in the lineup on a daily basis.

In fact, in the National League a pitcher hasn’t been named the MVP since Bob Gibson back in 1968.

Pitchers make a difference, but if any one team had the option of adding either Albert Pujols to their team or Tim Lincecum, they would assuredly take Pujols.

If said team had equally mediocre pitching and offense, adding Pujols to the squad would do more to win games than adding Lincecum. That is simply the nature of the game.

And the nature of a hitters league is highly evident when it comes to the San Francisco Giants. The squad by the Bay has the highest amount of young talented pitching (both at the Major League level and in the minors) than any team in the entire league.

Now if pitching and defense have won championships, one would think the Giants could trade one of their young talented pitchers straight up for a young talented hitter.

Of course rumors out there suggest that this could have happened.

Matt Cain for Prince Fielder was a popular rumor a while back but that would have been a terrible move for the Milwaukee Brewers because Fielder is someone the opposing team fears every single game he plays. Cain on the other hand goes out there once every five games.

Clearly, a young top of the rotation pitcher is not of equal value to a young impact hitter. Now there are varying opinions to how much more would be added to a deal to equal the value of a talented young hitter, but clearly something has to be added.

And with a team like the Giants, you would think a deal could be reached with a team that has a surplus of hitting talent but a shortage of pitching.

The unfortunate problem for San Francisco fans is that their team appears to be valuing their pitchers higher than they should.

A deal including one established starter (like a Cain or Sanchez), and a top notch prospect like Madison Bumgarner, Zach Wheeler, or Thomas Neal, would probably be enough to swing a deal to get a young impact middle of the order bat.

But instead, Giants fans have Aubrey Huff as their cleanup hitter.  A 33-year-old free agent first baseman who has played the position of designated hitter more than any other position in his career.

San Francisco is paying their cleanup hitter $3 million and yet they are paying their super utility man $3.5 million? Who has ever heard of a team paying more money to a bench player than their cleanup hitting first baseman?

Go figure, right?

The Giants are built on pitching, but all eight teams who made the playoffs last season (while each had their fair share of pitching talent), were built on offense.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Kendry Morales

Minnesota Twins – Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer

Boston Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jason Bay

New York YankeesAlex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter

Los Angeles DodgersManny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp

Colorado Rockies – Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton

Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez

St. Louis Cardinals – Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick

All these teams had quality pitching because that is a requirement to make the postseason in baseball, but nobody ever said you needed the best pitching in the league to make the postseason.

The Rockies didn’t exactly have a great rotation. Neither did the Phillies, nor the Twins.

But the everyday offense propelled each of them to the postseason.

As for the Giants, the claim that the continued veteran offseason additions are just to bridge the gap to the talented young position players is overstated.

Nobody truly knows how prospects will pan out in the big leagues. A team like San Francisco who holds a benefit of having a deep farm system should realize that parting ways with some of that talent in order to get an established hitter is a necessary sacrifice.

All the rumors and proposed trades for San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez are always scoffed at by the majority of readers and professional media members.

But if anyone could create a package for such a player, wouldn’t it be the Giants?

Word around the league was that the Padres weren’t against trading their slugging first baseman, so why was it scoffed at that the Giants could acquire him?

The reason is because the Giants have over valued their roster of pitchers and their minor league prospects.

In order to win championships, teams need hitters and hitters are more important than pitchers.

It’s about time the Giants brass realizes that.

The author originally published this article for and it can also be seen here:


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