Daily Linking – 10/22/08

by billfer on October 22, 2008 · 53 comments

in Links

Links of note, or stuff I find interesting, or stuff I think you might find interesting

 
 

{ 53 comments }

Jeff Molby October 23, 2008 at 3:07 pm

How good is a #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 starting pitcher? – Royals Review – Putting some numbers to the spots in the rotation.

I like the idea, but disagree with the execution. When you talk about pitching slots, it’s always implicitly in the context of “good” teams. You can’t just dub the top 20% as #1s because the bottom 20% shouldn’t even be in the league. The Yankees don’t have 3 #1s just because the Royals have 4 #5s.

Proper methodology:
-Filter out any player on the bottom 1/3 of the teams.
-Rank each player on his team
-Aggregate the stats for each rank

Smoking Loon October 23, 2008 at 5:28 pm

“When you talk about pitching slots, it’s always implicitly in the context of “good” teams.”

How so? Even bad teams have pitching rotations with pitchers commonly referred to by a certain “slot” number. Bad teams can also have good pitchers. I think part of the aim of the article was to overlook the team and the fact that every team has someone they call their ace (or #5 starter or whatever), and rate the pitcher in a league context.

“You can’t just dub the top 20% as #1s”

Sure you can, if you’re looking at 70 pitchers and dividing them into 5 team-independent categories. Tossing out the bottom 14… what would it accomplish but arbitrarily raising the bar, skewing things out of a truer league-wide context?

“the bottom 20% shouldn’t even be in the league.”

Should (say) Ervin Santana have retired after 2007? Is it all over for Nate Robertson? Why the bottom 20%? Why not the bottom 13% or the bottom 27%

“Filter out any player on the bottom 1/3 of the teams.”

Wouldn’t this filter out Galarraga, to name but one guy who was unquestionably good in 2008? Why filter out anyone who met the qualifications for inclusion, and why 1/3 in particular?

“Rank each player on his team. Aggregate the stats for each rank.”

I’m not sure how that would improve the type of result the article was after.

Just asking.

Mark in Chicago October 23, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Agree with the Loon on this one (I had your wine the other night – it was delish). If you rank anything into quintiles, there will always be somebody in the bottom quintile.

Perhaps I misunderstand your point, Jeff, but I don’t see logic in throwing out any pitcher on the bottom third of teams. For example, was Steve Carlton not an ace in 1972 when he won 27 games and his TEAM only won 59? (I grant you wins are a poor way to measure the value/effectiveness of a pitcher, but I think you get my point). I think the blog does a pretty reasonable job of treating pitchers independently of their teams and looking at their actual effectiveness on the mound. Taking 70 starting pitchers that made 20+ starts and dividing them into quintiles seems a perfectly reasonable way to ascertain who is an “ace” relative to the rest of the league, and who is a #2, #3, etc.

Further, it’s entirely possible for teams to have multiple #1 starters, relative to what other teams run out there. The Cubs, for example, had Zambrano and Dempster both making a case that they would be a #1 on many teams (this year, anyway). Add Harden to that mix, and maybe you’ve got 3 aces. D-backs are similar with Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, both could logically be considered an ace on most teams. So just because Webb is the #1, it doesn’t make Haren a #2 relative to the rest of the league, since he would be the ace on most teams, as his numbers imply. To your example, the Yankees do in fact, have 3 #1s in part because the Royals have 5 #4s.

I think it’s entirely fair to argue about the stats he used, or the weightings, etc., but overall I think the execution on this was pretty good.

Chris in Dallas October 23, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Mark: I think in the Carlton scenario, wins are actually an accurate measure of how he pitched. My rationale being that he threw 30 complete games in 41 starts that year. His bullpen wasn’t exactly bailing him out. Generally, pitcher wins during that era were more telling, simply because guys were going the distance more often.

EDIT: The 1.97 ERA helped, too.

Mark in Chicago October 23, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Good point, Chris, I didn’t look that closely at Carlton’s stats but you’re right. I think any way you slice it, the guy was pretty good and an ace in anybody’s book.

Jeff Molby October 23, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Perhaps I misunderstand your point, Jeff, but I don’t see logic in throwing out any pitcher on the bottom third of teams.

I didn’t explain well enough. Allow me another chance.

“When you talk about pitching slots, it’s always implicitly in the context of “good” teams.”

How so? Even bad teams have pitching rotations with pitchers commonly referred to by a certain “slot” number.

When you say “so and so is (or will be) a #1 starter” you’re not saying “he’s a #1 if he’s on a bad team.” You’re saying saying he’d be a #1 on a legit team.

That’s why I drew a distinction. That’s not to say a good pitcher can’t be on a bad team. Obviously, they can.

So I propose a two step process. First, determine what it means to qualify for a certain slot.

-Filter out any player on the bottom 1/3 of the teams.
-Rank each player on his team
-Aggregate the stats for each rank

Then, take every pitcher in the league and rank them against your five aggregates. You’ll end up with a ranking system that recognizes that some of the pitchers in the league don’t belong there.

billfer October 23, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I don’t think you can just lop off the bottom though because some pitchers don’t deserve to be in the league. Because in fact they do. Now many of those pitchers are interchangable with minor leaguers in terms of performance, but in an age of 5 man rotations though fillers do exist.

And if you lop off the bottom third of pitching teams don’t you have to lop off the top teams too because they likely have more than one ace?

Smoking Loon October 24, 2008 at 9:10 am

I’m just a contrarian who likes to argue. No I’m not.

Jeff:

“You’re saying saying he’d be a #1 on a legit team.”

What the article was saying was leave “team” out (except for ballpark adjustments that affect the stats used as the criteria for quality, and also through only looking at the most frequent starters per team who meet the workload requirement) and look at the individual. That Royals Review approach isn’t the only one possible, but it made sense to me in terms of method.

“You’ll end up with a ranking system that recognizes that some of the pitchers in the league don’t belong there.”

Yes, but that’s not what the guy who wrote the article was after.

I have no quibble with “don’t belong [in the league]” if we’re talking about career numbers with a certain minimum service time. I suspect, though, that guys who don’t belong in the league are usually gone before most fans realize they didn’t belong. There are exceptions, like that Cabrera bum people are so naively high on.

Smoking Loon October 24, 2008 at 9:13 am

Mark in Chicago

“(I had your wine the other night – it was delish)”

Not only has my wine empire made me a very rich man, but I also find that consumption of these fine beverages tends to – somehow – help people agree with me. Have some more. :)

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 10:10 am

I think the “team” aspect is very important. It’s the core of my disagreement w/ the Royals fan.

Think about it for a second. The only context that any of slotting matters is this: Where will pitcher X fit into my [future] contending team?

Any other context is simply wishfully thinking by perennial non-contenders.

In order to be a contender [on average], you need one pitcher capable of performing at A level. Another capable of performing at B level. Another at C level. Another at D level and another at E level.

In that context, you need to factor out the non-contenders because their rotations are insufficient and just water down the slot rankings.

Smoking Loon October 24, 2008 at 10:40 am

The way I see it, Jeff, to be a contender, you need A level performance as often as possible from as much of your rotation as possible. I would guess – I emphasize guess – that the playoff teams this season had few if any regular starters below C level. The players (their performance) make the team what it is, not the other way round.

The idea of needing a guy for each slot… well, I think you call a guy your #5 starter because there just happen to be 4 others you expect to be even better. Obviously, you want good performance from everyone all the time, just as you want and need production from your entire batting order. It’s not as though you seek out .650 OPS guys to fill the bottom.

Slotting is nothing more than ranking. Where the confusion comes in is whether the ranking is done based on expectations or actual performance. Verlander is the Tigers’ A guy who pitched somewhere between C and D (probably “low C”) in 2008. Galarraga is the Tigers’ E guy who pitched like a B. Nonetheless, Verlander will still be the Tigers’ “ace” heading into 2009 unless they pick up Sabathia or someone similar.

Smoking Loon October 24, 2008 at 10:45 am

“It’s the core of my disagreement w/ the Royals fan.”

I take it that your disagreement is that the Royals Review guy was asking the wrong question. The way I see it, you’re each seeking different answers and proposing perfectly reasonable methods to obtain them.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I take it that your disagreement is that the Royals Review guy was asking the wrong question. The way I see it, you’re each seeking different answers and proposing perfectly reasonable methods to obtain them.

I just re-read his post to make sure. I think we’re both looking for the same thing: What does it take to be a #1, #2, #3, #4 or #5?

Now, he did take the time the to filter out the “cup of coffee” guys:

But at the same time, I didn’t want to pollute the population with every pitcher who made any number of starts. Many scrubs made 1-5 starts. Including them in the population would have artificially inflated the rankings of most other pitchers, making some poor starters look good and mediocre starters look good.

My position is simply that he needs to also filter out those teams that are just running warm bodies out there to get through the season. I don’t care that Nate made 28 starts this year; his numbers do not accurately reflect what it takes to be a #5 starter. Any ranking that includes him in setting the benchmark is watered down.

With that in mind, Billfer might right that you also need to filter out the stacked teams too.

Mark in Chicago October 24, 2008 at 1:19 pm

“I don’t care that Nate made 28 starts this year; his numbers do not accurately reflect what it takes to be a #5 starter. Any ranking that includes him in setting the benchmark is watered down. ”

Jeff, I think I understand your argument, per se, but not the logic by which you are going about it. Nate was virtually a full-time member of a rotation in the majors (whether he deserved it or not) and should be part of the sample by which you would compare other pitchers. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to omit guys that made 4 or 5 starts, although I disagree with his assumption that those guys would naturally inflate the rankings of the others. David Price made one start and was very effective, but he shouldn’t be counted because he wasn’t a member of any rotation for a meaningful period. Thus, he’s not a reasonable alternative to make a comparison to.

I just don’t see how the team concept matters. Again to my example, if Dan Haren is a #2 on the D-backs because Webb is #1, does that mean he’s a #2 on every team? The top 20% of performers (relative to a reasonable set of comparable performers) strikes me as an ace, regardless of what team they are on.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I just don’t see how the team concept matters. Again to my example, if Dan Haren is a #2 on the D-backs because Webb is #1, does that mean he’s a #2 on every team?

The first step is to figure out what it means to be a #1, #2, etc. After you’ve set the bar for each rank, you then look at each pitcher individually to see where they place.

So even under my scheme, Haren would rank as a #1 wherever he happened to play, even if he doesn’t happen to be the #1 on his team.

My beef is only with the first step: setting the bars.

Nate was virtually a full-time member of a rotation in the majors (whether he deserved it or not) and should be part of the sample by which you would compare other pitchers.

Why? He didn’t deserve it*. He’s such an outlier that it should be easy to agree on that much. Likewise, there are always a ton of guys on weak teams that are slotted into roles that they would never get on a decent team.

If you’re trying to quantify what it means to be qualified for a certain role, it is irrelevant that there are people who happen to be serving in a capacity for which they are unqualified.

*Performance-wise. Obviously, he did deserve it for loyalty and contract reasons, but those factors should be irrelevant to a conversation about statistics.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 2:07 pm

The top 20% of performers

The problem with his strict 20/20/20/20/20 approach is that it assumes that everything falls nicely and neatly. There may not be 32 aces in the league. It may be that there’s a disproportionate number of 2s, 3s, and 4s. In fact, I think that’s probably the case. That’s why the aces command so much money. Some years there will be more aces and some years there will be less. His methodology doesn’t acknowledged that because he always assumes that the top 32 are aces.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 2:14 pm

The net result of his assumption is that the statistical difference between the various rankings will be smaller than what it would be under my assumptions.

I don’t think that’s appropriate because I think there are big differences between the rankings and that becomes apparent when you look contenders down the stretch run.

If you fill your team with guys that perfectly match his description of the 1-5 rankings, you’ll end up with a mediocre team. That’s not very meaningful because then you’re saying, “Ok, we have a 1, but he’s a low-1, so we need to compensate everywhere else.”

Forget that. Set the bar high enough so when you reach each one, you’ll have a contender.

Matt in Toledo October 24, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I have to confess I haven’t even read the Royals Review article, but I feel safe in assuming I’ve gleaned enough from the discussion here to figure out the argument. Also, a similar exercise has been done elsewhere (probably either at Hardball Times or Baseball Prospectus).

Like I said, I don’t know about this article but part of the point of the article on this topic I did read was to adjust our expectations for the different slots in the rotation. Fans tend to see a guy with a league average ERA and think, “I’d be okay with him being our fourth or fifth starter.”

Well, you should be because that means you have a damn good rotation. (If three or four of your starters are above average)

You (Jeff) say there might not be 30 aces and I suspect that’s part of the point…to adjust our understanding of what an ace is. Most people think of it as a staff’s best pitcher and with 30 teams that would be 30 aces by definition. If you see number 30 and think he’s not an ace, maybe your view of the title is askew.

As for cutting out 20% of the starters or some other number, I suppose you could decide who didn’t “deserve” their starting slot around the league, but you’d have to replace them with some agreed upon replacement value. Otherwise you’re getting back to the problem of inflated expectations for each of the slots in the rotation.

Finally, you seem to be assigning a lot of value to pitching. Teams contend with mediocre pitching all the time.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Well, you should be because that means you have a damn good rotation. (If three or four of your starters are above average)

Yes, you’d have a team that can contend. Any lesser metric is only useful to the William Clay Fords of the world.

You (Jeff) say there might not be 30 aces and I suspect that’s part of the point…to adjust our understanding of what an ace is. Most people think of it as a staff’s best pitcher and with 30 teams that would be 30 aces by definition.

I guess I just disagree with that definition. I think there’s a big difference between calling someone an “ace” and saying someone is the “ace of that particular staff”. The former is much more meaningful.

It doesn’t matter to me that Galarraga was our best pitcher this year, because he had no meaningful competition for that title. Put him on any of the serious contenders and he might not even start a single playoff game.

Intuitively, if you’re not confident about starting a game 7 with a guy, he’s not an “ace”. The same logic applies to every other role on the team.

This should be an attempt to quantify that, instead of simply measuring mediocrity.

Finally, you seem to be assigning a lot of value to pitching. Teams contend with mediocre pitching all the time.

Indeed. The same process can and should be applied to every spot on the roster.

You can’t stock your team with hall of famers, but you should be able to define 25 roles knowing that if you manage to fill them all, you’ll be a contender. If you define them so that filling them only makes you average, they’re not very meaningful.

Matt in Toledo October 24, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I didn’t explain my definition of an ace very well. A team’s ace is their best starter. Just because you’re a team’s ace doesn’t mean you are considered an ace league-wide, though. At the same time, just because you aren’t a team’s best starter it doesn’t mean you’re not looked at as an ace league-wide.

However, with thirty teams in the league if you think there are less than thirty aces, you probably are setting the bar too high. I think that’s the purpose of this exercise

I’m also a little perplexed as to why you don’t like the goal of this exercise. It’s just establishing what to expect from each spot in the rotation based on recent results. There is a lot of value in establishing an average because it’s a good first step to eventually assess the team as you seem to want his methodology to – figuring out what makes a contender.

In fact, I’d argue you can’t efficiently assess whether a team can be a contender without setting this kind of baseline. There are many aspects to a team and if you’re exceptional in some you can get away with being average in others. If you set a baseline where you are set up to be at what you consider a “contender” level in each aspect, you may be and probably are wasting resources.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 5:01 pm

There is a lot of value in establishing an average because it’s a good first step to eventually assess the team as you seem to want his methodology to – figuring out what makes a contender.

It’s an unnecessary step and it’s actually two steps. First you have to find average and then you have to figure out the distance between average and “contention”.

Consider taking my approach to an extreme:

Instead of basing the rankings on the top 70% of this year’s teams as I originally proposed, base it on all of the teams that were in contention as of September 1 of each of the past 10 years.

Those are the true contenders, right? As long as you don’t cross eras*, that should be a large enough sample to include many permutations of pitching strength and batting strength.

If your team can’t match up favorably against that baseline, how could you possibly justify calling yourselves contenders?

Forget about “average”. Set a real goal and focus on what level of performance is necessary to achieve it.

*Admittedly, the past ten years are a bad sample because they cross into the steroid era

Chris in Dallas October 24, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Wow, it’s gotten heady in here since I last checked the board. Where are the fart jokes? Geez. Seriously, though – good posts all. I enjoyed reading them. I think there are about 10 ‘aces’ in the game right now for what it’s worth: (Johan) Santana, Lincecum, Halladay, Sabathia, Webb, Hamels, King Felix, Zambrano, Oswalt and Lackey are the guys. My reasoning being an ‘ace’ is a truly elite pitcher – a guy that you have zero second thoughts about starting in Game 7 of the World Series. I think you’re watering down the meaning of the word if you classify too many guys (i.e. top 20%) as #1 starters. BTW I wanted to include Cliff Lee on there, but I think his ’08 was a fluke. He’s good, but not that good.

billfer October 24, 2008 at 8:31 pm

But the measure wasn’t done to judge contention. It was done, as Matt said, to provide some prospective into the typical slot. Whether or not guys deserved to be there is irrelevant because the guys were there. Ideally your rotation is better than a typical 5 man rotation, but this simply provides context to what a #4 guy is.

Maybe you know you don’t have a true number 1, but you have 2 2′s, 2 3′s, and a 5. They still get slotted somehow on your team, but you see where you match-up with regard to the rest of the league.

Jeff Molby October 24, 2008 at 8:54 pm

But the measure wasn’t done to judge contention. It was done, as Matt said, to provide some prospective into the typical slot.

I guess I’m the only one, but I never think about slotting in terms of anything other than contention. When I think about Bonderman, Verlander and Porcello, I’m thinking about how they fit into a contending team, not how they happen to compare to the Washington Rangers of Baltimore.

Smoking Loon October 24, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Interesting discussion. Kudos to Jeff for instigating it. It’s easier for me to see where you’re coming from now, Jeff.

An aside on Galarraga: There’s no reason to believe that if a Willis-Bonderman type situation had befallen even the Angels or the Red Sox (and remember – the Tigers were also thought to be contenders, originally), that a guy like Armando couldn’t have gotten a chance and performed well above expectations. I don’t see how the Tigers ultimately stinking takes away from AG’s definitive statement (in action) that he does belong in the league. A lot of guys break in that way, on contenders and losers alike.

Back to the main discussion.

You can’t make the relative more objective by introducing arbitrary elements. And there is no truly objective measure of what makes an ace pitcher (or any number of other designations for players – what’s a “slugger,” for instance, objectively speaking?). If you ask me, “ace” is as good a term as any for describing a starting pitcher who’s in the top 20% statistically, using a relative system that minimizes the arbitrary (it’s hard to eliminate altogether).

*truism alert*

You can’t build a sure contender with any amount of slotting by statistics. Witness the 2006 Tigers versus the 2008 Tigers. It wasn’t luck or chemistry (let’s not even go there, eh?) that made the St. Louis Cardinals the best team in baseball in 2006. They did the right thing at the right time often enough (maybe just often enough) to come out on top in the end. The 2008 Detroit Tigers did the wrong thing at the wrong time often enough to… well, to do whatever it is you call that. Statistics are much better at measuring than predicting, at least in baseball. I love stats and love to play with them, but the 2 that ultimately matter most are W-L. Team, that is.

Jeff Molby October 25, 2008 at 11:46 am

There’s no reason to believe that if a Willis-Bonderman type situation had befallen even the Angels or the Red Sox (and remember – the Tigers were also thought to be contenders, originally), that a guy like Armando couldn’t have gotten a chance and performed well above expectations. I don’t see how the Tigers ultimately stinking takes away from AG’s definitive statement (in action) that he does belong in the league. A lot of guys break in that way, on contenders and losers alike.

Absolutely. Under RR’s system Galarraga’s ’08 campaign ranks him as a very high #2. Mine’s a little tougher, so he’d be a low #2, maybe a high #3. It was a great season for a rookie by any measure. I only suggest ignoring him when determining where the bar should be, not from the final statistic.

If you ask me, “ace” is as good a term as any for describing a starting pitcher who’s in the top 20% statistically,

But we’re not trying to affix a label to the top 20%. We’re trying to take a concept that we understand intuitively and give it a measurable definition. Granted, it will always be an inexact measurement, but if we’re not going to push for as much precision as possible, why even bother? Labels such as “top 10″, “top 20″, “above average”, etc already cover that ground.

You can’t build a sure contender with any amount of slotting by statistics.

Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, but past performance is still critical. If you’re not using some combination of past performance and PECOTA-like projections, you’re just guessing.

David October 26, 2008 at 2:03 am

Tonight World Series game – Game 3 late was a great example of small ball at work and manufacturing runs by both teams

Bunting, putting pressure on the opposition, speed raw speed

Beautiful =P plus a little power and some nice pitching and defense for quality measure

Rick G October 26, 2008 at 3:07 pm

It was also a great example of why they shouldn’t have night World Series games in northern cities at the end of October.

The most important games of the year shouldn’t be played in conditions where the fielders are challenged to make semi-routine plays and difficult plays are next to impossible. That just magnifies the effectiveness of small ball tactics, which I would be all for if it wasn’t just sloppy play.

These games also shouldn’t be played at a time of day when nearly all of the eastern time zone has gone to bed, and decided at a time when most kids even on the west coast are asleep.

Okay, I’ll quit whining now.

David October 26, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Sounds like you’re a Rays fan

Still I agree

Games outdoors and on the weekends (Sat. and Sunday) if the weather is bad and the stadium cannot close should start during the best weather possible and at a reasonable time

But ratings (which are higher at night) control everything as evidenced by them not even saying the reserves and coaches names prior to the games.

Rick G October 26, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I actually hate the Rays (the franchise, not the players), and wish they weren’t even in the league.

My sister in law lives near Philly and was at the game last night with her husband and 3 year old son – they had to leave in the fourth inning due to the hour and miserable weather.

I understand why they do it, but I think they’re hurting themselves and the game in the long run. That’s pretty much every organization’s M.O., though, right? Worry about the short term and let the guys who follow take care of themselves?

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 9:31 am

Coleman

Missed your post a while back, but here’s that acronym for you (it’s 4 characters – best I could do):

R3<2.

More wieldy? I have to admit, I’m quite gruntled with it.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 9:33 am

Jeff

“We’re trying to take a concept that we understand intuitively and give it a measurable definition.”

I can get behind that concept, sure. I don’t have an answer, but I like the question.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 9:39 am

I’m not going to take any credit for “calling’ anything, but I really did have this feeling from the outset that the Phillies were going to take the WS in 5. Let’s see if the Rays can get a miracle comeback going now and spoil another one of my hunches revealed after the fact.

Did I ever mention my hunch that the Tigers were destined to finish 74-88? Just kidding. I was actually calling for a great September and an 85-77 finish. Oh well. At least I got the lousy August right.

Dr Dre in Chicago October 27, 2008 at 11:00 am

Chris in Dallas:

Zambrano might be an ace…but he would need a giant asterisk next to his name if you define ace as “a guy that you have zero second thoughts about starting in Game 7 of the World Series.” i would not have nones of second thoughts about starting him. its safe to say i would have thoughts into or even above thirdsies. big Z is a horse, and most of the time fits right into the now wide and nebulous definition of “ace” we’ve compiled. the problem with him is that every once in a while, he’ll totally, absolutely and completely melt down before your eyes. the biggest problem is that its hard to tell when he’s about to self destruct…cause you know, most of the time when he’s visibly talking to himself on the mound, its a good thing.

i thought the Cubs made a mistake by having Dempster pitch game 1. now, there was a really good argument for him, as he was their most reliable pitcher that season. but i didn’t like the idea of “snubbing” big Z (poor fella), or the extra weight that possibly being down 1-0 in a best-of-five would but on Z’s ehem…volatile psyche.

so the only way i would but Z in game 7 of the WS would be if i had a talk with him (through an interpreter…i have a wicked US accent in english), and he PROMISED me that he really wouldn’t totally blow it, i’m talkin pinky swear. if he did that, i would hand him the ball.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 11:39 am

How about this for a definition of ace pitcher: A top 20% pitcher who outpitches other top 20% pitchers more often than not in head-to-head matchups. That would narrow the number of AL/NL “#1s” from 14 to somewhere around 7 (per league), give or take. Having no such matchups or earning no better than a split decision in them would disqualify you from being an ace.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 11:46 am

Actually, the above could be a definition for “elite pitcher.” Nothing’s going to change the predominant meaning of ace, which just means the best starter on any team’s staff, or the guy who’s expected to be the best, or – often – just the highest-paid. Or the guy you want to and plan to start in Game 7 of the World Series, with or without doubts, if you’re a sane manager.

Chris in Dallas October 27, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Dre: I kind of threw out that list haphazardly without too much thought, with the idea in mind that you shouldn’t have to ‘think’ about who’s an ‘ace’ – you should just know. I might have a second thought about starting Big Z in Game 7. I gave him dap for the fact that (in my mind, anyway) he could throw a no-hitter on any given day and I wouldn’t be surprised. And he’s a pretty safe bet to take the ball every fifth day. I excluded guys like Beckett and Harden for that reason.

Dr Dre in Chicago October 27, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Chris,

sorry, hope it didn’t come across as being critical of the list. having seen more of the best and worst of Zambrano the last couple years than i have of Tigers pitching, i just had to have some fun and get my .02$ in. i would consider Z an ace, with the strange caveat of not starting him in game 7, unless nobody else is available (game 1 for sure). i can’t put it into percentages, but you roll the dice with Zambrano and his “intensity”… most of the time it works for you, but every once in a while, he just spazzes out, and loses the game for no reason.

for those of you who’ve never seen a big Z freak out, its really funny (assuming you’re not interested in a Cubs win). it starts with him giving up something that most pitchers will take in stride (early, non-devastating hits or solo HRs). he escalates it himself, on the mound, talking to only himself (or possibly God)…very visibly and animatedly. he ends up getting so worked up about one thing that the rest of his game falls apart and at that point its 50/50/50 on whether or not the helmet locker, gatorade jug or starting catcher is going to feel his wrath.

other than that, he’s gotta be one of the best pitchers in the league, especially the NL: he’s an ace, and hits for power.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 1:57 pm

I was looking at Zambrano’s 2008 game logs to see how he did against any of Chris’s aces. As far as I could see, he didn’t go up against any in 2008.

A casual persual of Zambrano’s numbers and Roy Oswalt’s numbers makes me wonder: How is Carlos Zambrano even in the same class as Roy Oswalt? It must be all intuitive, because the stats don’t bear out such a comparison.

Mark in Chicago October 27, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Dre,

As a frequent viewer of a Big Z meltdown, I can say that you pretty much nailed the description with one glaring omission (in my mind, anyway). What tends to put him over the edge is something he can’t control: an error, a bloop hit, a double play not turned, a passed ball, etc. To watch him burn a hole into Ryan Theriot’s head or Soriano’s chest with his glare is truly amusing. Followed by the requisite yelling at the offending player, and then a bases-clearing double up the gap.

I’ve seen that movie before, and it’s a laugh riot.

Andre 4000 (in Chicago) October 27, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Mark,

i can’t believe i forgot to include that aspect, especially after that 4 error loss to the Dodgers that saw the Cubs give up 4 unearned runs (btw, when a guy that scores the unearned run comes to the dugout, does the manager berate him saying, “you didn’t ‘earn’ it”?).

and yes, that sentence ended with 4 punctuations, keeping up my theme.

Andre 4000 (in Chicago) October 27, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Loon,

maybe we should create a new category that broadcasters can drone on about. i’d like to coin the term “acechilles”; to describe aces that have the “stuff”, but have one glaring weakness that prevents consistent greatness. noted sufferers of “acechilles” include: Zambrano (voice in head), Verlander (“i don’t get it, i had good stuff”), Bonderman (1st inning), CC Sabathia (AL version), Buehrle (away games).

also, i don’t know what happened to Zambrano this year, following in your footsteps i checked out his game log this year, with the exception of the no-hitter (sounds weird to use that as an exception), his Aug and Sep ERA ballooned and were each over seven.

Mark in Chicago October 27, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Dre 4k,

“acechilles”, haha, that’s rich. good stuff.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Yeah, Acechilles is great, Andre. Apt, to say the least.

You’ve started something here, I think. I’m already trying to come up with other mythological examples. Hmmmm.

Atless = Guy who’s supposed to carry the team on his shoulders but doesn’t. (Atless Shrugged?)

Apallo = Highly touted veteran who tanks miserably.

CyclOPS = One-dimensional OPS monster.

I’ll hand this off to Coleman now.

Coleman October 27, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I think Rodney has to be considered as an Acechilles then, even though not a starter, since he has come the closest to slaying hitters achilles-like

Coleman October 27, 2008 at 4:10 pm

OK how about Zooss: The all-powerful GM who puts together an impressive menagerie of various animals, which people pay to come stare at, but tend to not do much more than howl and snort and mope about their cages.

Coleman October 27, 2008 at 4:17 pm

I’ll be pet-antic and point out that Achilleus and Cyclops are Epic and not Mythological characters, because by Zooss these things matter.

(I was going to mention Afrodite, but she retired with Oscar Gamble).

Coleman October 27, 2008 at 4:19 pm

I’m slow today, time for some of that coffee stuff. How did I miss the famous god of Tiger infielders, Erros?

Chris in Dallas October 27, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Cool. I didn’t know the guy from Outkast was a Tigers fan. Welcome Andre. ;)

Chris in Dallas October 27, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I don’t think CyclOPS works, as funny as it is. An OPS monster would by it’s very nature be well rounded. You know – hitting, on base, slugging and whatnot.

Chris in Dallas October 27, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Loon: I think Z and Oswalt are close enough. Oswalt’s better, but not like Earth-shatteringly better. 139 career ERA+ vs. 128. I’m surprised I didn’t get feedback on King Felix. Statistcally there are better guys. And then you watch him pitch. When he’s ‘on’, I don’t know how anyone ever gets a hit off of him. Oh my goodness, I think I just sounded like Murray Chass. I’m going to take my VORP pills now.

Smoking Loon October 27, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Chris, maybe I’m wrong about Z vs. Oswalt. But I thought the difference in career K/BB alone put Oswalt on a higher plane. I think Andre really has something with the Acechilles thing, and that’s what could be said to keep Zambrano second-tier as far as aces go. Also. 11+/- ERA+ over 6-8 year careers is pretty big. Earth-shattering, maybe not, but perhaps the difference between “Really good” and “Wow!”

Coleman, pedantic is good when I learn something, and I did. Also, it took 10 minutes, but I finally got the Afrodite joke.

Smoking Loon October 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm

“I don’t think CyclOPS works, as funny as it is.”

Chris, with CyclOPS I was thinking of guys who become a liability without a bat in their hands. Cabrera (Gil), Dunn, that sort of thing. One-dimensional in terms of potent offense and nothing else.

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