Ricky Romero is a very good Major League pitcher. He seems to take his job very seriously and endeavors to improve each and every time out. For what it is worth, Romero made the American League All Star team for the first time this season. Ricky Romero is a very good pitcher — the Opening Day starter — for a decent American League.

Romero took the hill on Saturday against the vaunted Yankees lineup. He battled for five innings, striking out seven, walking three; eventually surrendering three runs on six hits. He pitched pretty well, all things being equal. The Yankees, of course, won Saturday’s game behind eight dominant innings from CC Sabathia.

It was only one start but it laid one thing bare, for me at least: Romero is a good pitcher, Sabathia is an ace.

When dilettantes (such as myself) wade into the weird world of minor league or amateur scouting, we hear a lot about the rotation slot of potential starters. “This guy is a number 2, this guy is a number 1″ and so on. When it comes to big league clubs, I tend to dismiss this as a silly designation. Who care about the order the manager deigns to send out the starters? Playing matchups, ensuring rest and keeping the opposition off-balance is more important that labelling each pitcher The Ace, The Number Two, The Number Three and so on.

Then you have to displayed so clearly, right before your eyes. There are aces, there are number ones, and there is everybody else.

This isn’t to detract from Romero, not in the least. Nor is it to suggest Romero won’t reach similar heights to CC Sabathia as he develops. He just isn’t there yet. CC Sabathia throws harder, misses more bats, throws more strikes and gives up fewer home runs than Ricky Romero. He pitches more innings and, oddly, doesn’t have the misfortune of facing the New York Yankees.

It doesn’t seem fair to compare Sabathia to Romero but a pitcher like Sabathia is what scouts have in mind when they describe an “ace”, a true number one. There aren’t too many to go around, certainly not one per team (though one team somehow wound up with three.) The value of an ace is obvious, they’re very good at their job. You can keep all the “stops losing streaks” and “rallies the troops” crap, an ace gives his team a chance to win every time he pitches because he’s a very good pitcher. No more, no less.

Ricky Romero is young enough that elevating his game to another level is not unheard of at his age. I can think of one sure way for Ricky to move from being a “good” starter to being a “great” one.

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Courtesy of Fangraphs

It isn’t about who pitched better on Saturday or who who plays for the reviled Yankees. One start just happened to showcase the gulf in talent between the big-spending Yankees and the (for now) also-ran Blue Jays. Perhaps numbers 2-5 favour the Jays but the difference at the top is significant.