What Does an Ace Mean in Baseball?

what does an ace mean in baseball

A baseball ace represents the best pitcher on a baseball team. Both major league and minor league teams generally have an ace pitcher, and that pitcher usually starts on opening day each season. Outside of starting opening day for your team, an ace is the pitching staff leader during the regular season. They frequently have MLB experience and can help younger pitchers on the team progress in their careers.


The baseball ace is similar to an ace in a card deck. For example, a blackjack and or Poker game has the ace as the highest and most valuable card. Since there are many cards in a card deck, you want to distinguish one from another. Having an ace in your pitching staff represents that value to your team and opponent as well.


Has the Term “Ace” Changed in Recent Years?

In the ’90s, baseball teams had their ace as the best starting pitcher on their team. However, organizations in 2021 don’t necessarily refer to their ace as a starting pitcher. With franchises opting for a baseball opener at times, an ace is more of the elite pitcher on your team regardless if they are a reliever or starting pitcher. That makes giving the ace title to a bullpen pitcher is perfectly acceptable in 2021 and beyond.


What are the Responsibilities of a Baseball Ace?

A baseball ace typically starts the season via an opening day start. The team’s ace might not lead the team with the most strikeouts or wins, but is expected to rally the team with quality pitching performances every time they take the mound. A baseball ace should be challenging the opposing top hitters on the team to send a message. Finally, a baseball ace should be starting playoff and world series games for their team.


What’s a Good Stat to Measure a Baseball Pitcher?

There are many stats a baseball team can look at to measure an ace in Major League Baseball. Counting a pitcher’s strikeouts, wins, and losses illustrates their value to their team. One stat that helps separate potential CY Young candidates from each other is WHIP.


WHIP stands for walks and hits per inning pitched. Having a WHIP under 1 represents dominance in the league, so most CY Young and MVP candidates have a state line below 1. Another good indicator of a strong WHIP has a number that decreases year over year, showing dominance in the league.


Finally, Major League and Minor League teams look at FIP to measure a pitcher’s worth in the league. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, which looks at a few factors. Some factors include the number of strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and innings pitched.


Does Every Team Need a True Ace?

With the baseball opener becoming more relevant in baseball, teams don’t need a true ace. However, every Major League team would like to have an ace, if possible, to lead their team and pitching staff with thy physical and mental side of the game. A young team, for example, could benefit from an experienced pitcher to lead the younger pitchers on the team.


Who Were Some Ace Pitchers in Baseball?

The history of baseball has seen many elite pitchers own the ace title. Here are some of the best pitchers in the past to own the ace role on their team.


  • Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners
  • Rogers Clemons of the New York Yankees
  • David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays
  • CC Sabathia of Cleveland Indians
  • Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds


Who are More Modern Aces in Baseball?

  •  Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Bay Rays
  • Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets
  • Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees
  • Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros
  • Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros
  • Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox
  • Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals
  • Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals


Popular Ace vs. Hitter Moments

Having your best pitcher on the mound pumping fastballs against a hitter with a proven home run power makes the game exciting. While there have been plenty of great pitcher and hitter moments to choose from, Roger Clemons vs. Mike Piazza comes to mind for fans. These two players hated each other, and things went to a new level during the 2000 World Series against both New York teams.


Conclusion of the Baseball Ace

Major League Baseball in 2021 looks different from baseball in 2001. Like the San Diego Padres, many teams effectively have more than one good pitcher on their team that could be an ace. Players like Yu Darvish and Blake Snell were both aces on their previous teams last year but now share the same rotation in 2021. By sharing the rotation and ditching the ace title, teams like the San Diego Padres are focusing on top talent instead of titles in 2021.


Other teams like the Miami Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays opt for more baseball openers to set the game’s tone each season. Regardless of the definition of an ace has changed, an ace is still valuable. Having someone take the mound to lead your team to a win can set the tone for a winning season.


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