Which Would You Rather? A Strong Pitching Staff Or A Strong Offense?

Jared Sandler
May 29, 2020 - 9:20 am

DALLAS (105.3 The Fan) - Rangers fans might face a reality they’ve arguably never before faced: a team that is way more talented on the mound than in the batter’s box. 

While I’m actually more bullish on the bats and a little more hesitant to crown the arms, the public perception about this Rangers team is that, arguably for the first time in franchise history, they’ll be carried by their rotation and their success could be held back by their lineup. Why I don’t necessarily believe that’s a fair representation of their lineup is for another article in the near future because this isn’t intended to be a critical analysis of advanced statistical measurements but more a discussion on a very simple questions: Would you rather your favorite team have an average lineup with outstanding pitching or outstanding hitting and average pitching?

Rangers fans have enjoyed the fruits and dealt with the frustrations of having a dynamite lineup and a pitching staff that struggled to win with massive run support. Of course, a majority of this decade has featured really good teams that, even with an arguably better lineup, still had a really good pitching. Obviously, that’s ideal. But what if you had to choose? Which is more likely to win? Which is more enjoyable to watch?

The old sports adage Defense wins championships is…well, old. Now we see all sorts of teams wins titles. The one commonality shared by all in all sports is that you just can’t really suck in an area. For instance, the Chiefs were unreal offensively and good enough defensively. Before, when they sucked defensively their dynamic offense wasn’t quite enough. On the diamond, the 2011 Rangers almost won the World Series without a dominant rotation. The 2015 Royals also didn’t have a special rotation. The Nationals, the most recent World Series winner, had a really good rotation but a bullpen that left a lot to be desired. 

Now, with that said, the Rangers’ rotation was great during that 2011 run. The Royals rotation was good enough and their bullpen was hellacious. Washington’s bullpen was aided by days off and using non-relievers in those roles. The point is that, despite how we want to pigeon-hole what a championship team looks like, they come in all shapes and sizes and at the end of the day, no matter how they get from A to B, they score more points or goals or runs than the other team more often or in a more timely fashion than anyone else. So, if you had to build a team with a preset of the two options from a competitive standpoint, which would you choose?

While I wouldn’t want to totally compromise my rotation, I think I’d choose the outstanding lineup. For one, pitching can wither as the season goes on with workload. Secondly, it is easy when competitive to build a good bullpen that can help cover your rotation. Now, I’m winning the World Series with a bad rotation, obviously, but I think i’d choose the group of players who would player every game. I admit I might be jaded by the 2016 Rangers. They had the best record in the AL and were well-positioned with a rotation led by Darvish and Hamels but those guys each had one bad start and that was that. Those are my thoughts, but it obviously isn’t an exact science. 

What about just from the standpoint of enjoying the product?

A 14-11 game is fun every once in a while but probably isn’t enjoyable regularly, though suggesting that would be a regularity would be a stretch. I feel the same  way about a 2-1 game, though. Every once in a while they’re fun, but I remember stretches of seasons in which the Rangers bats go cold and it stinks. Especially today when it is likely a series of offensive stinkers is resulting in lots of strikeouts which isn’t fun to watch. The perception, fair or unfair, is that a well-pitched game is a tighter, more properly played game, whereas the higher-scoring game is a sloppy version of the great game. Can both be true on occasion? Yeah. Every time? No. At the end of the day, as much as I enjoy a low-scoring showdown every once in a while, I think I’d rather watch a team that can score runs with some challenges on the mound rather than the alternative. 

What about you?