Goatriders of the Apocalypse

What an Ace pitcher is, and is not

Since this site is turning into the home of shouting your false hopes into the cruel winds, I will simply provide a service today by stating what is and what is not an Ace pitcher.

Contrary to what Kurt stated yesterday, an Ace pitcher is not merely the pitcher that has the best chance to win today.  By Kurt's definition, the Ace pitcher is merely today's starter.  On any given day, the pitcher with the best chance of posting the "W" in his ledger is the man starting the game.  All he has to do is pitch five innings, leave the game with the lead, and have his team preserve the lead the rest of the way.  The other four starters on the team will not participate on this given day, and thus cannot earn the win.  The relievers COULD earn the win, but they would have to enter the game either behind or tied.  Possibly they could even enter with a lead, like Kevin Gregg did in the middle game in Florida, blow the lead, and have his offense bail him out in their half of the inning.    Statistics indicate, however, that the starting pitcher has the best chance of winning that day.

Last night, the pitcher with the best chance to win for the Chicago Cubs was Tom Gorzelanny.  Does THAT make him a Staff Ace?  Of course not. 

A Staff Ace does more than win a game on a given day.  First of all, he wins a lot of games.  These days, he wins more than 15 games.  Every year.  For several years.  He usually pitches the most innings on the staff.  He more than likely has a very low ERA, and has a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio.

A Staff Ace is a stopper, of course.  When the club is on long losing streaks, he takes the ball and stops the streak.  These are all things we know already, but there's way more to the job than stats.

A Staff Ace knows how to pitch, not just throw.  And he doesn't hoard that information all to himself.  He shares it with the other pitchers on the staff.  He works in concert with the pitching coach, serving as an assistant.  He can do that, because of the respect the rest of the pitchers have for him.  They don't resent being told what to do by a fellow pitcher.  They welcome the input from a true Ace, because they know the Ace has their best intentions at heart, and they know the Ace knows what he is talking about.

A Staff Ace is a leader.  He is dependable.  The vast majority of the time, like 98%, the Ace is there when it is his turn to pitch, and he goes deep into the game.  He knows how to pitch, so his pitch counts stay low, and he is able to either finish what he starts, or gives it to the late guys in the pen.  He leads by example.  He never shows up an umpire.  At the same time, he does communicate with the umpire, in a non-argumentative way, to shape his strike zone the way he wants it.  He works through minor injuries.  He takes care of himself, following the advice of his training staff, so he can take his turns week after week, month after month, year after year.  We rarely have to read in the paper about the physical problems of the Staff Ace, and we NEVER have to read about the emotional problems of the Staff Ace.

The Staff Ace is more than your best starter.  There are precious few true Aces out there anymore.  There are far many more teams (30) than true Aces (less than 10).  If you have the opportunity to acquire a true Staff Ace, you should do so, at nearly any cost possible, short of gutting the very core of your MLB ballclub.  A Staff Ace is more than one out of 25 on the roster, more than one out of 12 on a staff, more than one of 5 in a rotation. 

Many, if not most, winning teams have a true Staff Ace, because that Ace accounts, whether on field or off, for more than his share of wins.  Some teams have an Ace, but do not win it all.  In those cases you tend to find that without the Ace, that team would be hard pressed to not lose 100 games.  There are teams, like ours, that have several good starting pitchers that, when healthy, compile a lot of strikeouts, "Quality Starts", and relatively low ERAs.  But whether for physical, mental, or emotional reasons, none of these guys truly measure up to Staff Ace status.  Not all staffs have one.  The result is a collection of individual efforts that, sometimes end up successful, but other times wanders around the .500 mark like the rudderless crew we currently back.

That's all.  I don't want to be accused of sinking the good ship Lollypop again.

I can think of a very large

I can think of a very large number of true ace pitchers, Cy Young Award winners, first ballot Hall of Famers, who fit few-or-none of your descriptions of "staff ace." Ask the Blue Jays if Roger Clemens was a team leader, or a guy who even played the role of "teammate" even as he won a ridiculous amount of games with them, and that's just the easiest example.

Not every team has an "ace," but on any team Carlos Zambrano would fit that role. And there can only be one guy who delivers to his team the "best chance of winning" on any given day -- any given day meaning "against any opponent, regardless of their superiority or inferiority of talent."

Line Drawing

A Staff Ace does more than win a game on a given day. First of all, he wins a lot of games. These days, he wins more than 15 games. Every year. For several years.

Sounds like Zambrano, because he's been better at winning games than just about everyone else in the past several years. Since 2004, only three pitchers have more wins than Carlos Zambrano's 85 (he's tied with Beckett). Sabathia is one ahead of him, with 86. The only others who have won more are Santana (99 wins) and Oswalt (92).

Z also has the fifth-best won-loss percentage over that span (.659 -- a 106-56 pace).

Roger Clemens

In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throws the baseball from the pitcher's mound
toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter who attempts to
either make contact with it or draw a walk.In baseball, a team's ace is the best starting
pitcher on the team and nearly always the first pitcher in the starting rotation.Just like
Roger Clemens also known as Rocket who is a former MLB pitcher. He won 7 Cy Young Awards more than any other player.

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