Giving Starting Pitchers Their Due

This week, we have another one of those topics that bloggers across the Twins blogging community were invited to discuss at (roughly) the same time. This time, it’s “What is the most important position in baseball?”

Last night (or was it REALLY early this morning?) CapitalBabs posted her opinion and, while I agree that she makes some excellent points in support of her position… well… she’s wrong. The starting pitcher is, by far, the most important position on any baseball team (once you get past T-ball level, anyway).

It might sound like I leapt to this conclusion without even considering other possibilities. I did.

Yet, in my defense, after I made that leap, I did go back and consider other positions. The catcher, admittedly, is pretty important. Ask any team who doesn’t have a good one. Centerfielder is pretty important, too, especially if your team has a couple of cement statues playing the corner OF positions (we do know all about that, don’t we?).  Closer? If you really think that, you need to go read this Joe Posnanski piece (in fact, go read it anyway).

I also gave some thought as to what constitutes a “position”. Maybe we should look at position in the batting order. Is the leadoff hitter, perhaps, the most important “position” on the team? Maybe it’s the most important position in the first inning of a game, but after that, it’s arguably just another spot in the batting order. Yes, it’s important all game long, in that the leadoff hitter needs to get on base in front of the power sticks coming up behind him. But in that sense, it’s no different than the #9 or #2 hitters (and, some might say, with the Twins, the #3 hitter as well).

But, you may argue, starting pitchers only start every fifth game! Not true. There’s a starting pitcher EVERY game… and the question was not, “Who is a baseball team’s most important player?”.

Starting with the first pitch of every ballgame, the starting pitcher’s performance gives his team it’s best… or worst… chance of winning that game. I’m quite certain there are some of those fancy, new-fangled, advanced statistics that will back me up on this opinion, but I’m not going to bother looking for them. Why? Because I’m also certain there are some of those fancy, new-fangled, advanced statistics that will contradict my opinion. (That’s just kind of the nature of those fancy, new-fangled, advanced statistics, isn’t it?)

So how do I know the starting pitcher is the most important position? Easy… I played the game. In fact, at one time or another in my ballplaying career (ok, I never got paid, so it wasn’t really a career… but you know what I mean), I played every position on the field. Mostly, I pitched and played first base. I played a lot at other infield positions, too. I played quite a bit of outfield, when I was younger and coaches figured out I could catch line drives and fly balls, including some centerfield (until coaches realized my lack of speed made me one of those cement statues referred to earlier).

So with all of that experience behind me, how do I know starting pitcher is the most important position? Because I can honestly say, that in no game where I played first base or shortstop or outfield or catcher or even came in as a relief pitcher, did I feel after the game that I cost my team the game with my defense. On the other hand, I can’t begin to count how many times I felt that way after a poor start on the mound… almost always with good reason.


In addition to CapitalBabs’ post below, you can find other bloggers’ views regarding the “Most Important Position in Baseball” by clicking these links:

Andrew at Twins Target (I believe he’s responsible for hatching this idea… if you don’t like it, blame him!)

k-bro’s baseball blog (k-bro seems to agree with me… perhaps she should rethink her opinion.)

The Common Man and Bill at The Platoon Advantage (two writers who share a blog but don’t agree… hard to imagine, isn’t it?)

Jesse at Twinkie Town 

Andrew at Off the Mark

Cody at North Dakota Twins Fan

There may be more, but this is what I’ve seen so far!