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Since 1999, there has been an annual tradition among a group of my friends whereby I name a preseason list of “Unquestioned Aces” and then everyone questions my list.  This year being the 10th anniversary of this tradition, I thought I would share the list with UmpBump as well.Red Sox Yankees Spring Baseball

My personal definition of an “unquestioned ace” differs from the typical usage of calling the best pitcher on each team that team’s “ace” by default, even if they are not that good. “Unquestioned aces” are true number-one starters: pitchers a manager would gladly start against anyone, anytime. In any given year there are only a small handful of such pitchers in all of baseball.

Being named an “unquestioned ace” is about more than just numbers. A pitcher has to have a certain extra something that strikes fear into the hearts of batters.  However, an unquestioned ace is generally a pitcher who can be relied upon to pitch at least 200 innings, win at least 16 games, and post an ERA of at least 3.75 or better.

The “unquestioned” part is the most important criterion, however.  There must be absolutely no question in anyone’s mind that the said pitcher is a true ace.  Even a rumor of injury or loss of velocity in spring training is enough to bump someone from the list, as long as there are any questions about their ability to dominate in the upcoming season. It generally also means that a pitcher has pitched at least two superlative seasons in a row,  as otherwise there will almost surely be questions as to whether the previous season was a just fluke or not.

This years unquestioned aces are:

Roy Halladay
Tim Lincecum
Roy Oswalt
CC Sabathia
Johan Santana
Brandon Webb

So what do you think? Did I leave anyone out? Did I include someone undeserving?

Aces from previous years after the jump…

2008
Roy Halladay
Roy Oswalt
Jake Peavy
Johan Santana
Brandon Webb
Carlos Zambrano

2007
Chris Carpenter
Roy Halladay
Roy Oswalt
Johan Santana
John Smoltz
Brandon Webb
Carlos Zambrano

2006
Mark Buehrle
John Smoltz
Roy Oswalt
Johan Santana

2005
Roger Clemens
Tim Hudson
Randy Johnson
Roy Oswalt
Johan Santana

2004
Roy Halladay
Tim Hudson
Mike Mussina
Barry Zito

2003
Tom Glavine
Tim Hudson
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Wade Miller
Matt Morris
Mark Mulder
Mike Mussina
Roy Oswalt
Curt Schilling
Barry Zito

2002
Tom Glavine
Tim Hudson
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Barry Zito

2001
Kevin Brown
Tom Glavine
Tim Hudson
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Mike Mussina

2000
Kevin Brown
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Kevin Millwood
Mike Mussina

1999
Kevin Brown
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
John Smoltz

13 Responses to “Nick’s Unquestioned Aces, 2009 edition”

  1. C’mon now, you left out Cole Hamels, you should know that one….

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Cole Hamels is not an unquestioned ace by any means. I personally have many questions.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    I don’t know if I would have included Lincecum myself…am I the only one worried that one day his arm will just come flying off?

  4. C.C. and Lincecum just scare the crap out of me.
    Sabathia’s a veteran who has thrown a ton of innings, and Lincecum is a Francisco Liriano waiting to happen.
    The thing is, if they both avoid injury, they’ll be deserving of their ranking on this list.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    I have questions about Hamels’ elbow. I also have questions about his durability in general.

    Plus I think his stats were better than his peripherals last year.

    If he can do it all again this year, he’ll be in, but we’ll see.

  6. SomEone says:

    Adam Wainright?!?!?!

  7. Nick Kapur says:

    Wainwright pitched well last year, when healthy, but he only went 132 innings due to injury. It is doubtful he could sustain quite as good rates over a full season.
    Great pitcher, but can’t yet call him an unquestioned ace.

  8. Sarah Green says:

    I am curious, Nick, as to why Josh Beckett has never appeared on your list. I would have thought you would have put him on in 2008?

  9. Nick Kapur says:

    Beckett has been good in the post season, but he has almost never been ace-like over a whole season. He is always battling either injury or inconsistency.

    I had no doubt in my mind that he would fall back down to earth in 2008, and sure enough, he did.

  10. Sarah Green says:

    Props to you, Nick. Props. I am keeping my fingers crossed for another awesome year from Lester…and hoping that he can be an unquestioned ace next year. :)

  11. Paul Moro says:

    I don’t have any problems with your current list. Your previous lists, however… I mean, Wade Miller? Dude had one good, healthy season.

  12. Nick Kapur says:

    Haha, yeah, Wade Miller was the one who surprised me too when I was posting the old lists, and I did feel a moment of shame. But for some reason at that time, in April of 2004, he must have seemed pretty awesome and dominant…

  13. I question Sabathia’s aceness. I think he ate it somewhere back in 2007.

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