Monday, December 7, 2009

The Ace List

Roger Clemens. Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling. Jarrod Washburn. Josh Beckett. Schilling again. Mark Buehrle. Chris Carpenter. Beckett again. Cole Hamels. C.C. Sabathia.

The ace list.

The ace list of number one starters from each World Series champion of the ‘oughts.’

Aside from Washburn, who pitched very well for the Angles but is a guy few would consider an “ace,” the list is impressive.

Yes. The ace list.

Who will be added to that list next year? It is sure to be a top notch starter; the type of pitcher who can lead a staff, and stop a losing streak.

Tim Lincecum, perhaps?

Sabathia again?

Maybe King Felix?

The answer, of course, is unknown. What can be said with relative certainty, however, is that Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey are not the type of pitcher you associate with the ace list.

Sure, they are somewhere between solid and good candidates when filling out the two-thru-five spots in the rotation, but there is nary an ace among them.

And therein lies the problem with re-signing Carl Pavano.

While Pavano could certainly ace the large nose, squinty eyed all stars; he certainly cannot ace a major league starting rotation. I think all Twins fans can agree on this, and would assume the Twins front office would as well.

I’m not claiming the Twins are signing Carl Pavano to be their ace. However, I think at this point we all fully expect them to enter the whatever-we-decide-to-call-next-decades with a rotation (in no particular order) of Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Pavano, and the revolvo-de-garbage.

This is a fact with which I take umbrage. In fact, all our umbs should be fully raged. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Most statistical analyses I have seen show Pavano’s peripheral numbers were much better than his 5.10 ERA would suggest, a fact made obvious from watching his 12 starts for the Twins. He was a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy. Better than a 5.10 ERA, but certainly not a top-tier pitcher.

Pavano’s overall stats were skewed greatly by his atrocious April – featuring a one inning, 9 ER shit show, and an ERA of 9.50 for the month. It’s hard to deflate your numbers after getting blown up like that. (Just ask John Smoltz who, aside from one epically bad game in early April, was a dominant closer in 2002. Smoltz got rocked for 8 runs in 2/3 innings on April 6th, and it took until mid-July just to get his ERA below 4.00.)

I fully accept Pavano for what he is, as long as the Twins don’t ask him to be what he is not.

Assuming the Twins will not make another starting pitching move, signing Pavano was a poor decision. If the choices come down to Pavano or a Harden/Sheets/Bedard-type instead of Pavano and Harden/Sheets/Bedard-type – as seems the case – Pavano was the wrong choice.

Signing Pavano is just another deal that epitomizes the Twins franchise-wide creed of “good enough to contend,” and, by likely no fault of Pavano, the move will prove to be a bust.

Before re-signing Pavano the Twins rotation needed an ace. After re-signing Pavano, the rotation needs more of the same.

Would Sheets, Harden or Bedard be the missing ace? Maybe.

There are no guarantees they would stay healthy, but they certainly have ace ability. Sometimes, that potential ability is worth taking a chance on a player’s health.

The difference between just making the playoffs, and contending for a World Series title, is taking a flier on high risk/high reward players. Sometimes, you have to unhook the training wheels, close your eyes, and let your bike fly. Sometimes you crash. And sometimes, you make it all the way to the finish, flying past all obstacles.

Taking that leap of faith is the difference between being good, or merely being good enough.

The Twins still have time to prove whether the Pavano signing is more than just good enough. If signing Pavano is the first step to solidifying a rotation that also needs an ace, the move was good. If re-signing Pavano leads to nothing but Pavano, the move was merely good enough.

The final grade of the Pavano deal stands at incomplete. What Bill Smith does between now and the regular season, will decide the deal’s final marks.

If Pavano leads to acquiring Bedard, Sheets, Harden, or someone else with ace ability, the grade will certainly increase. If not, it will look more like my college calculus grade.

Hopefully, the Twins will understand this fact, and move on someone with the ability to become the 2011 inductee of the ace list. Because, while I cannot guarantee another pitcher would find his way onto the ace list, I can certainly guarantee you Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, or Slowey will not.


  1. Absoulutely correct...I'll take it one step further though...Twins need a #1 AND a #2 to compete for a WS Title. Trade Baker and whoever else Toronto wants for Roy Halladay or else make a deal with Atlanta for Derek Lowe AND sign John Lackey. Now you have a rotation of Halladay
    (Lowe), Lackey, Slowey, Pavano and Blackburn. WS title? Maybe..but anything else is a No Chance and that just isn't good enough anymore in Minnesota.

  2. I could be a delusional Twins fan, but I think Pavano has what it takes to be the type of Ace that the Yankees at one point thought he would be. He is finally recovering from his injuries and I could see him taking a big step forward next year, under the care of Andy. Don't get me wrong he is no Santana, but to say he is no Sabathia, Hamels, Washburn, or Beckett seems a bit premature to me. I would rather have Pavano than Harden or Washburn at this point! I won't complain if the Twins go out and get another pitcher with 'ace stuff', but I am just not ready to admit this was a 'just good enough' signing.

  3. I think the Twins could compete with the current rotation if they added an ace. Plus, I don't think Lackey will be worth the cost.

    Trade Baker in a Halladay deal and you have:

    Halladay, Pavano, Slowey, Blackburn, Whoever wins 5th spot.

    I think that rotation could compete for a World Series.

  4. I think that Duensing showed last year that he has the potential to a solid/reliable #5. He is a lefty with a low to mid 90s fastball and when he uses all his pitches he can create a lot of problems for opposing hitters.

  5. I agree on Duensing, and would guess he has the inside track for the 5 spot. He pitched the best last year out of all the possible options, and he is left handed. I'm sure the Twins want at least one lefty in the rotation.

  6. I love Lackey and what he brings to a pitching staff..but if they just got Halladay as you say and got rid of that stiff Baker, it would be at least a place to start. Better something than nothing..but to say that that rotation could compete for a WS with what the Yankees, Bo Sox, Angels (and maybe even the Mariners the way they're working the room in Indy) bring to the field, I believe it is a bit of a stretch. Now had they signed Figgins, O Dawg as well as getting just Halladay, that may have turned some heads, including mine..and maybe Joe Mauer's.

  7. I would argue a rotation of Halladay, Pavano, Blackburn, Slowey would certainly be better than Angels, and on the same level of the Red Sox and Yankees.

    Plus, we shouldn't overlook the fact that the core of the Twins offense is one of the best in the league (Mauer, Morneau, Span, Kubel, Cuddyer). I know it's a strange thought for Twins fans, and hard to believe. But it's true.