December 2, 2010
What Constitutes an Ace?
Labels have always intrigued me, not least of all how they are used in baseball. Some, like “closer” or “run producer,” aren’t always accurate, but they are at least indicative of what the player does. Chad Qualls keeps finishing games despite necessitating the Chad Qualls Support Group (of which both Jay Jaffe and I were members, thanks to fantasy issues) in no small part because he’s a “proven closer.” Plenty of people might dispute the proven part of that designation, but it’s hard to say he’s not a closer. He finished 44 games in 2009 and 29 games in 2010, ergo he is a closer.
While few labels in the game are as malignant as closer, there is one that is inspires more debate.
A few weeks ago, I called Francisco Liriano an ace on Seth Stohs’ Podcast and caught a reasonable amount of flak for it, so I decided to look deeper into the issues surrounding the term. Since, unlike run producer and closer, it isn’t something you do so much as something you are.
As typically happens with these broad queries, the large question broke down into several more specific ones. While a longer piece elucidating the answers is coming, I thought opening up some of those questions as a starter ahead of some more concrete data might lead to an interesting discussion.