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  1. I don’t really see the labeling of someone as a “#x starter” as something that needs upheaval.

    Comment by Paul — October 5, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  2. Damn, Joe Blanton could be considered a “#2 starter”. Blows my mind.

    Comment by BS — October 5, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  3. Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt.

    all 2010 staff aces.

    Comment by Jamie — October 5, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  4. Any system that refers to Derek Lowe as an ace needs serious reconsideration. That cutoff needs to be below 3.5 or lower, IMO… I don’t believe that there are 28 “aces” in baseball.

    Comment by Dan — October 5, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  5. Hamels has the WORST walk rate in the Phillies rotation at 2.63 BB/9. I find that sort of hilarious.

    I think Blanton may have come back too soon from the oblique injury. He was terrible in the first half, but since the ASB he’s been striking a lot more guys out and he still doesn’t walk many, which is what he’s done most of the time since he came to the NL. He doesn’t keep the ball on the ground so he’s always going to give up some home runs, but he’s nowhere near as bad as he looked the first half of this year.

    Comment by don — October 5, 2010 @ 10:22 am

  6. Ricky Nolasco an ace!??

    Comment by adohaj — October 5, 2010 @ 10:22 am

  7. But by literal definition, there are 30, no? If we have 150 rotation slots, there are 30 No. 1 starters. Like I said in the opening paragraph, surely the word “ace” has non-contextual meaning — and that is something better designed for Carson Cistulli to explore — but I wanted to show what it meant in 2010 at the most literal level.

    Comment by Bryan Smith — October 5, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  8. So the boundaries in each category are determined by finding the top 25% of qualifiers, then the next 25%, and so on? This assumes there are the same number of “aces” as #4 starters in MLB, which I don’t agree with. I’d think the distribution is more normal, with a #3 representing the mean.

    Some people think #1 starter means one of the top-30 starters in MLB, whereas many others think there are significantly less true #1’s than teams in the league. I tend to agree with the latter. I mean, would you really say Wandy Rodriguez or Jaime Garcia could be the ace of a championship caliber team?

    Comment by rickie weeks — October 5, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  9. And I realize that it will never be thrown away. It has its place in baseball, and in scouting reports, and always will. So, rather than continue to moan about it, I decided to add some literal context to it.

    Comment by Bryan Smith — October 5, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  10. Or Derek Lowe…

    Comment by rickie weeks — October 5, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  11. Quick glance at the player pages indicates only three of the starters are a “#1 Starter” in all four categories.

    Felix Hernandez
    Roy Halladay
    Adam Wainwright

    Woof,
    Mad Dog

    Comment by Greg Maddux — October 5, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  12. No, I wouldn’t. Ace is a term with non-contextual meaning, and if you talk to a scout, it means a lot of different things: a guy with 2-3 plus to plus-plus pitches that is capable of eating a lot of innings, commanding the zone, etc. But I do think a No. 1 starter, if we are being literal, implies there are about 30. And I think this piece, in a way, is designed to make you guys think how silly it is that Wandy Rodriguez or Derek Lowe were No. 1 starters this year. It’s working.

    Comment by Bryan Smith — October 5, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  13. This discussion has been had many times, Bryan. You can argue that there are 30 #1 starters by definition while designating only an elite sub-group of them as *aces*. Bronson Arroyo is the Reds #1 starter, but is not an ace by any traditional defintion or your newfangled one.

    Comment by blackout — October 5, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  14. Oops, King Felix actually just misses the #1 BB rate bucket.

    Only Doc and Waino!? Handful of others are very close.

    Comment by Greg Maddux — October 5, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  15. I realize it has, blackout. But I haven’t seen it applied to 2010 numbers anywhere yet (if it has, let me know, and I’ll link to it), so I thought it had value in bringing back up.

    Comment by Bryan Smith — October 5, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  16. Yea, I guess it comes down to figuring out exactly what the reader wants to know. But if the point was to illustrate the difference between a literal #1 (or top-30) starter and an “ace” or “#1″ in the scouting context, then it’s definitely serving its purpose.

    Comment by rickie weeks — October 5, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  17. This makes sense to me. We should all be familiar with the idea that all #1 starters are not equal, but would still be the first guy to the mound in a season if all 30 of them were divided evenly between the teams. It’s like the NBA draft, for example–the guy who goes to the Lakers as the last pick of the first round (assuming they Lakers did not have an earlier pick as well) is still a #1 pick for the team. He just isn’t John Wall.

    Comment by mattpoin — October 5, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  18. Pretty cool that the Blue Jays have experts in the 3 categories: a strikeout artist in Morrow, a control artist in Marcum and a groundball artist in Romero. I’d have to say strikeout guys are the most fun to watch.

    Comment by woodman — October 5, 2010 @ 11:12 am

  19. Look, that would be fine, except that Lowe is worse than two pitchers on his own team. So I’m back to thinking you need to recalibrate your system.

    Comment by Anon21 — October 5, 2010 @ 11:48 am

  20. James Shields and ace?

    Comment by Sam A — October 5, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  21. I’m not sure I see the value in measuring what I assume you’re referring to as 2010’s *aces* rather than the non-contextual version when the battle over #1 starter vs ace has presumably long been settled. I’d be wary of even seeming to conflate the two.

    Comment by blackout — October 5, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  22. And I should add that I enjoy the exercise for the most part, and don’t want that quibble to overshadow what I think is a worthwhile discussion.

    Comment by blackout — October 5, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  23. FWIW, having seen Wandy Rodriguez pitch a couple of times during his second half resurgence I have a lot less problem with him being listed as a #1, in any sense, than most. Excellent pitcher.

    Comment by blackout — October 5, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

  24. I don’t think it’s true that there’s no such thing as a #5 starter – I can think of a number of teams (all pretty good) that have had a set 1-5 rotation or made only one change in a season (e.g., ’04 Red Sox replaced Kim with Arroyo). The Sox actually had an intended 1-5 this year, and a clear #6; they had 157 starts by these six despite DL time for (I think) four of them.

    I’m on the side of distinguishing ace from #1. Lowe’s the perfect example – no one has ever really thought of him as an ace. On the other hand, Curt Schilling was – although he was not the #1 for much of his career. Beckett was Boston’s opening day starter.

    Comment by Mr Punch — October 5, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  25. Out of your list of “aces”, which name isn’t bolded? Trying to get subliminal with the nonexistent Cy Young voters reading this piece?

    Comment by Omar Fired — October 5, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  26. Ha, good catch. Slipped thru the player linker tool.

    Comment by Bryan Smith — October 5, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  27. It’s CC to you!

    Comment by Toffer Peak — October 5, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  28. I like this article, but all of the metrics seem to be based on stuff while ignoring durability. There is a big difference between 130 IP and 230 IP. The ability to eat up innings is a huge responsibility for a Ace. Is there a way to include this in your next article?

    Comment by Krog — October 5, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  29. Krog, I agree that durability matters, but it’s often not in the hands of the pitcher (so to speak!), especially in the NL. A stat on “number of times being replaced mid-inning” might do the trick. I bet you someone has already invented it.

    Also, Bryan: does the league the pitcher is in matter here? Not that I want to create extra work if it’s statistically insignificant, but I would wager that the typical AL 9th batter hits better than the typical NL pitcher.

    (And yes, the Jays rotation will surprise many over the next few years.)

    Comment by RJodoin — October 5, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  30. I would ascribe better movement for a pitcher in producing the fewest line drives, not ground balls. You just have to pitch low in the strike zone with sink to produce groundballs. It does not capture the important lateral movement which produces easy pop flies. Anyone know which pitchers gave up the fewest line drives as a percentage of hits given up? I bet it is Halladay.

    Comment by Phantom Stranger — October 5, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

  31. So that means line drives go for hits more often against Roy Halladay than they do for other pitchers?

    Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — October 6, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  32. What’s the point of including groundball rate in the analysis? GB% has a very low correlation to success at preventing runs. BB rate and K rate have much higher correlations, to the point that GB rate is trivial in comparison. It really tells you little to nothing about whether a pitcher is good at preventing runs. And since you’re using groundball rate, why not use flyball rate as well, since a higher flyball rate also shows a correlation (although very weak as well) to fewer runs scored?

    Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — October 6, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  33. So has this question been answered? “So the boundaries in each category are determined by finding the top 25% of qualifiers, then the next 25%, and so on?”

    Did you select on your dependent variables, Bryan? Or did you make a determination based on who was #1, #2, etc… for their respective teams?

    I would be more interested in a study that did the latter, although I know that wouldn’t be easy. That said, great work, shared it on my website. I have my own take on it that I’ll be posting when the postseason is done.

    Comment by J-Doug — October 7, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  34. I’m a little late to the discussion, but the article did a good job of measuring what’s measurable. One of the unmeasurables that is a key for an ace is performance in a high pressure must-win game. Both Halliday and Lincecum got their first postseason test, and did rather well. There’s no way to quantify that, you can only seek a consensus of opinion, and how accurate is that?

    Comment by Lorenzo — October 9, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

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