We need to stop referring to Jon Lester as an “ace”

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Updated: June 17, 2013
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There is a common misconception among baseball fans that if a pitcher is at the top of a team’s rotation, that he is the “ace” of that staff, and I do not believe that to be true.

Jon Lester sits atop the Red Sox rotation. He was the Opening Day starter in 2013, and has been in the past. However, I believe that the term “ace” is thrown around all too freely among baseball fan circles.

Pedro Martinez was an ace. Clayton Kershaw is an ace. Not every team has an ace, nor does every team have a No. 1 starter. Just because you go first in the rotation, does not make you a No. 1 starter.

In Lester’s case, getting the nod on Opening Day had nothing to do with being an “ace”, or even past performance. To me, it was obvious that it had everything to do with seniority, which is most commonly the deciding factor when determining an Opening Day starter. With a record of 9-14 and an ERA of 4.82, Lester was coming off the worst season of his career. Now, I’d be a hypocrite to list Lester’s win-loss record and infer that it actually means something.

Wins and losses for a pitcher mean hardly anything to me at all. Despite that fact, I think that it’s more than fair to look at the team’s overall record in games started by that particular pitcher, to which the Red Sox were 13-20 last year, and are 9-6 this year. While 9-6 isn’t horrible, it’s certainly not ace-worthy. In my opinion, you would bestow the term “ace” upon a pitcher who is as close to a guaranteed win as you’re gonna get. That is, and has never been Lester through his first 15 starts.

In fact, here’s a really weird stat. The Red Sox are 9-6 through Lester’s first 15 starts this year. They were also 9-6 through Lester’s first 15 starts in 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008. Lester only made 12 starts in 2007. But in 2006, he made exactly 15 starts, to which the Red Sox were 9-6. While that is incredibly consistent, he has never been ace-worthy in the first half of any season.

As we all know, Lester is not having one of his best seasons as a follow-up to his worst ever. As it stands now, out of 45 qualifying starting pitchers in the American League, Lester sits at No. 32 in ERA, and 26th in WHIP. While he’s shown flashes of greatness this season, including a complete-game, one-hit shutout of a potent Toronto Blue Jays lineup back on May 10, Lester hasn’t won a game since May 15, after starting out the season 6-0.

Over his last six winless starts, Lester is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA, with opponents teeing off to a mark of .324, and an OPS of .965.

To put it simply, the Red Sox don’t even have an “ace”. Clay Buchholz has emerged as the clear top-of-the-rotation guy, but he hasn’t proven that he can put together a masterful season without getting injured, so it wouldn’t even be fair to refer to Buchholz as an ace just yet.

But the silver lining here is that the Red Sox go into today, tied for the most wins in the American League. So, who needs an ace, anyway?

  • Sean Williams

    Nice article. Im curious to see what happens with Lester, since they had opportunities to trade him, held onto him, so whats next?