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.

Comments (15)

  1. Great post Drew. Bang on. Ricky’s very good and can be great every once and a while. He throws too many pitches and walks too many batters to be an Ace. Who do we consider ‘True Aces’? Doc, Lee, CC, Verlander…who else?

  2. Hamels, Kershaw, Weaver, Lincecum….

  3. Outside of Roy Halladay, there may be no pitcher as good as CC Sabathia in this league..

  4. Yes, Ricky is not. Shouldn’t even be an AllStar. Anyone else sick of seeing little Ricky giggling in the dugout between starts? Did anyone ever even see Doc smile once? Nope. Ricky needs to get serious to get to the next level. He’s yet to earn my Respect 2.0. It’s all hustle & heart & hardeeharhar for him. Also, Ricky is not a man’s name. Small nephews are named Ricky. Dude needs a new name and a new attitude.

  5. I heard there`s some guy named Felix Hernandez who plays in Seattle…

  6. I don’t agree with Linz at all. Tim Lincecum is all about the good times, doesn’t hurt his True Ace status.

    For me, the aces are as such: CC, Roy, Cliff Lee, Hamels, Lester, Kershaw, Lincecum, Felix, Verlander, and maybe Dan Haren.

    That’s pretty much it.

  7. Linz1: You are an idiot.

  8. @linz Felix had a bobblehead night for his alter-ego.. how is that “serious”? He clearly doesn’t need to be 100% serious Roy Halladay status to be great.

  9. I have the same list as Drew, without Dan Haren and Clayton Kershaw (not yet, anyways, I love Kershaw and I’m sure he’ll be there soon) and maybe Jon Lester, and with Jered Weaver and Josh Johnson.

  10. Nobody is anything like Roy Halladay. He’s not been compared to a cyborg over his career for no reason, so why try to measure Romero (or any pitcher) up to that standard?

    As for aces, I’ve always thought Jon Lester was very underrated. What he’s done in the AL East is very impressive. I would also say that Adam Wainwright, when healthy, is right on this list.

  11. Hamels and Kershaw may be pitching like aces (like Ubaldo was last year), but for me they are not aces because neither provides the innings necessary for the label yet.

    My ace list, in no order :

    Roy Halladay
    Cliff Lee
    CC Sabathia
    Justin Verlander
    Felix Hernandez
    Tim Lincecum
    Adam Wainwright
    Jon Lester

  12. “Hamels and Kershaw may be pitching like aces (like Ubaldo was last year), but for me they are not aces because neither provides the innings necessary for the label yet.”

    So what are the necessary innings? 200+ a year? How many seasons of achieving that feat before you’re considered an ace? Not sure about this reasoning …

    Personally, I would call Kershaw an ace and I think he’ll be undisputed as one in the next year or two. Hamels had the ’09 blip on his resume but everything else (including the innings) says ace.

  13. I would give half an ace to Haren (the 1st half) and Lester a 2nd half ace tag. I imagine both will nudge into full blown ace teriitory though.

    Re: those graphs, what the eff was going on in 07′ with CC and that huge spike in K/BB. Its not quite an outlier as 06′ and 08′ were approaching that – but man it looks weird now that he is back to a “normal” K/BB.

  14. The Romero for Ace argument was a lot easier to make before July started (The 96/36 K/BB put him pretty squarely in CC territory). It remains to be seen if the past couple starts have been a momentary blip on the new Romero, or if they’re just Romero going back to the very solid mid-rotation guy he’s been since he arrived.

  15. KEevin Goldstein had this discussion on his podcast the other day… I think that an ace has to deliver a really good start, every time he takes the mound. It should be a no-brainer that he’ll at least go 7, strike out a bunch of guys, and keep his pitch count relatively low. Here are my ‘Aces’ for what it’s worth:


    Guys like Haren, Hamels don’t make my cut because they either A) Have gotten a little lucky this year and B) Haven’t carried over success for three or four seasons. Guys who are going to be aces really soon for me are:


    Yeah… Does anyone else realize that Doug fucking Fister has a WAR of 2.8?

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