What’s an ace?

Friday night’s Yankee-Red Sox game got me thinking: Why are we so concerned with what pitchers are or are not an “ace”? And perhaps more to the point: what is an “ace”?

Well, if we think that an ace is the best pitcher on each team, then there are at least 30 aces in baseball. But no one really believes that. Is it the pitcher who is your “stopper” and most likely to win following a loss? Well, that stat is so arbitrary that it isn’t all that useful.

This is obviously simply a bit of a language game, and for all intents and purposes, being an ace is being a #1 pitcher on an ideal team. So I think after all this, you can say an ace is a #1 on a well-built team. If we assume that roughly half the teams in baseball are decently built (ie have a chance to contend, which is actually a pretty fair assumption), and that some teams are lucky enough to have 2 pitchers good enough to be a #1, then there are probably 20-30 aces in baseball.

Obviously, I say all this because of all the debate regarding Chien-Ming Wang and his ace status.

This all a long-winded way of getting to my actual point: yes, Chien-Ming Wang is an ace, but it’s a pretty worthless designation. Sure, Wang got hit hard in the ALDS. He pitched great the year before. Sabathia has a rough postseason and won the Cy Young. If being an ace means being unbeatable, well then there’s no such thing.

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