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.