If Pitching and Defense Win Championships, Giants Need to Stand Pat

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJuly 1, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 17:  Pitcher Jeremy Affeldt #41of the San Francisco Giants celebrates after the Mets hit in to a double play with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning of their game against the New York Mets at AT&T Park on May 17, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I'll tell you what, although watching Albert Pujols hit two gigantic bombs last night was exciting, I would still much rather watch Jeremy Affeldt's intense celebrations after clutch double plays.

And I'll tell you another thing: Nobody would have predicted that come the dawn of July, the team with the second-best winning percentage in the National League would be 26th in runs scored, third to last (28th) in home runs, and dead last in walks.

However, for as putrid as those numbers may seem, the Giants would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

Clearly, the reason for their success is their pitching and defense.

San Francisco ranks second in team ERA with a 3.61 mark, just .01 behind the division-leading Dodgers.

Led by Tim Lincecum's 132 strikeouts, the Giants are also second in that category with 600, again only one behind the Dodgers (who have also played two more games than the Giants).

San Francisco is also first in team shutouts (nine), and second in complete games (eight) on the season.

The Giants are also first in earned runs allowed with just 283.

Behind the pitching staff that is at the top of the entire MLB in almost every major category is the team defense that ranks eighth with a .987 fielding percentage. That mark would be even better without Fred Lewis' team low .966 percentage, in the outfield no less.

Remember, pitching plus defense wins championships, right?

Well, perhaps not. To be fair, whenever any loyal baseball fan hears the saying "pitching plus defense wins championships," they kind of just nod along in agreement even though the really don't believe it.

In reality, it is extremely difficult to believe in the "pitching and defense win championships" philosophy on baseball.

Just look at the last few World Series winners:

2008 Philadelphia Phillies: The only two pitchers that come to mind are their ace Cole Hamels and their closer Brad Lidge. But what does come to mind is their potent offense. Players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, etc. They were and are a team built on offense.

2007 Boston Red Sox: Although they did have Josh Beckett throwing phenomenally during their '07 run, Schilling wasn't the Schilling of old, and Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't pitching well in October. Hence the players you think about are David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis.

2006 St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols is the first and only player that comes to mind unless you are a Cardinals fan. Chris Carpenter won the Cy Young in '05 and was solid again in '06, but his continued injury problems have diminished his tremendous career. The next couple of players that are most famous from that team are Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.

2005 Chicago White Sox: Now obviously Chicago's '05 rotation was rock solid with Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras. But as good as the pitchers were, their offense was front and center. Paul Konerko, Aaron Rowand, Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik come to mind when you think '05 White Sox.

However, despite the fact the current 2009 Giants clearly could use an impact hitter, or two, or three before the majority of MLB followers show them any respect, they ought to stand pat with their current lineup.

Rumors are running rampant about players such as Jermaine Dye, Nick Johnson, Victor Martinez, and Hunter Pence.

Three out of four of these players would require at least two top tier prospects in a trade, most likley even more, and perhaps an established big leaguer.

The only player that would not require "the farm" in return is Nick Johnson of the Washington Nationals. However, Johnson has hit as many home runs this season as San Francisco's current first baseman Travis Ishikawa.

Even though Johnson is currently hitting .295, his average as been taking a tumble of late, and he may not be that much of an upgrade over Ishikawa, if at all.

The other three players would probably force the Giants into giving up at least Angel Villalona and Tim Alderson, and maybe even Madison Bumgarner.

Now, with the Giants currently No. 2 in the National League in winning percentage, why risk trading away the your top tier prospects for hitters that may or may not produce with a change of scenery?

Dye and Martinez would be switching leagues and would have to adjust to new pitchers, and the younger Pence would definitely require a huge load of prospects since Houston's farm system is extremely thin with talent.

Currently, the Giants are exceeding expectations, and making the playoffs this year with their current roster would be a bonus.

But the realistic expectations for the Giants to compete are in the next few seasons, when Bumgarner, Alderson, Buster Posey and Villalona make their way to San Francisco.

If those four players are still with the Giants organization when they make their big league debuts, San Francisco could be a World Series contender for the next 5-10 years.

However, if any of them are traded away, a team with a rotation with only two aces in Lincecum and Matt Cain, plus a lineup with just Pablo Sandoval and Victor Martinez would not be nearly as potent if all the prospects were to stay in San Francisco.

A rotation including Lincecum, Cain, Alderson, and Bumgarner, and a lineup including Sandoval, Posey, and Villalona is much more valuable then trading some of the prospects away and going for it all in 2009.

However, even though the Giants need to stand pat and wait for their prospects to develop, the current Giants pitching and defense has the ability to win a championship.

Fans of other teams and pessimistic Giants fans can call me crazy, go ahead. I'm not saying the current Giants offense is a true championship offense, I'm merely saying that the pitching staff and defense is of a championship caliber.

And isn't that the saying? Pitching plus defense wins championships?

The Giants have a chance to prove the saying true with their current pitching and defense, but even if they prove it's not true, the championship caliber offense is coming.

Just be patient, because Buster Posey and Angel Villalona will soon be in San Francisco. That is, if Brian Sabean doesn't trade them away.


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