Introducing the Ace Barometer
Defining the criteria that separate an 'ace' from the rest
With last season being dubbed the "year of the pitcher," and scoring down even further this year, it's no wonder that most of our focus these days is on the men on the mound. And with Josh Beckett and Cliff Lee facing off Tuesday, and Jon Lester and Cole Hamels throwing down Thursday afternoon, it got those of us at Insider thinking about "aces."
But how is one defined? Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein attempts to get a subjective definition elsewhere on Insider today, and while there is merit to Justice Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it" line of reasoning, why settle for the subjective when the objective is sitting write in front of us?
To that end, I've created the "Ace Barometer," which was inspired by "The Eliminator", a college football series by Insider's Jeff Dooley that attempts to predict the national champion based on certain statistical benchmarks.
In an attempt to statistically define an ace, I went to the indispensable Baseball-Reference.com Play Index. I began at the start of the 2009 season and entered the following parameters: A strikeouts-to-walk ratio of greater than 3.0, fewer than one home run allowed per nine innings and an adjusted ERA of at least 125, which is 25 percent better than the league average.
Why those numbers? For starters, I wanted to have a decent enough sample (2½ years in this case) to weed out any one-year wonders. To truly be an ace, you have to maintain a high level for a few years in a row. The Rays' James Shields has been a beast this year but has been inconsistent throughout his career, and I don't think we can call him an ace.
As for strikeouts, they had to be included because they are the best indicator of dominance. But strikeout rate alone doesn't do the trick. If it did, the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez would be considered an ace, and aces have to control the strike zone. However, if you're whiffing three times as many men as you walk, you're doing a heck of a job -- just 24 qualified starters pulled it off last year.
Now, it's not imperative to be stingy with home runs because they don't hurt you too much if you're not putting a lot of men on base. That said, it's tough to be an ace if you're gopher ball-prone, and the easiest way to avoid big innings is to keep the ball in the park.
I added ERA+ in order to adjust for league and ballpark. Because let's face it, some leagues and parks are a lot tougher than others.
After entering the above criteria, these are the nine names that were spit out (arranged in descending order of ERA+, minimum of 40 starts since Opening Day 2009):
To read more about what Matt Meyers thinks constitutes a pitching "ace", subscribe to ESPN Insider.
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- A-Rod sells house for $30M, makes $15M profit
- Blue Jays move Happ to 60-day disabled list
- Red Sox put Victorino, Middlebrooks on DL
- Royals staffer revives fan, 14, after collapse
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Insider MLB Content
WEEK OF OCT. 30Nov. 5: Bowden: Grading the Jim Thome deal
Nov. 5: Law: Thome, Phillies aren't a great fit
Nov. 4: Bowden: Pricing the free agents
Nov. 3: Law: Ranking top 50 MLB free agents
Nov. 2: Jedlovec: Worst Gold Glove selections
Nov. 1: Meyers: Buyer beware of C.J. Wilson
Oct. 31: Cameron: Papi a fit in the Bronx
Oct. 30: Perry: Finding free agency solutions
Oct. 30: Szymborski: St. Louis without Pujols
WEEK OF OCT. 16Oct. 28: Law: Chapman still needs work
Oct. 26: BP: Batter-pitcher data is overrated
Oct. 24: FanGraphs: A blueprint for C.J. Wilson
Oct. 21: Cameron: Cards should bench Berkman
Oct. 20: BP: Why did Washington walk Punto?
Oct. 19: Szymborski: Sims favor the Rangers
Oct. 18: Bowden: Ranking all 50 WS players
Oct. 18: Jedlovec: Previewing WS defenses
Oct. 17: Perry: World Series hinges on relief
Oct. 16: Szymborski: Milwaukee without Fielder
Oct. 16: FanGraphs: Brewers' NLCS miscues
KISS 'EM GOODBYEOct. 30: St. Louis Cardinals
Oct. 29: Texas Rangers
Oct. 18: Milwaukee Brewers
Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
Oct. 8: Arizona Diamondbacks
Oct. 8: Philadelphia Phillies
Oct. 7: New York Yankees
Oct. 5: Tampa Bay Rays
Sept. 29: Atlanta Braves
Sept. 29: Boston Red Sox
Sept. 27: Los Angeles Angels
Sept. 26: San Francisco Giants
Sept. 25: Cleveland Indians
Sept. 24: Chicago White Sox
Sept. 23: Oakland A's
Sept. 22: Los Angeles Dodgers
Sept. 21: Colorado Rockies
Sept. 20: Toronto Blue Jays
Sept. 19: Cincinnati Reds
Sept. 18: San Diego Padres
Sept. 17: Pittsburgh Pirates
Sept. 16: Kansas City Royals
Sept. 15: Minnesota Twins
Sept. 14: New York Mets
Sept. 13: Washington Nationals
Sept. 12: Seattle Mariners
Sept. 11: Chicago Cubs
Sept. 10: Baltimore Orioles
Sept. 9: Florida Marlins
Sept. 8: Houston Astros
Buster Olney's Blog
Daily insight from around the majors
MLB Rumor Central
Get news and rumblings before anyone
Updated top 50 prospects (7/15)
MLB Draft Blog
The 2012 draft prospect watch is well underway.
Keith Law's Blog
Everything prospects, baseball ruminations
Eric Karabell Blog
Fantasy advice, every day, all season