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Ranking All 30 MLB Ace Pitchers

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Ranking All 30 MLB Ace Pitchers

ace
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

An ace is the best starting pitcher on a baseball team and is usually in every case the No. 1 starter in the rotation. An ace is also someone who motivates the rest of the starting rotation with his play. Who is the ace on your favorite baseball team and where does he rank among the other 30 No. 1 starters?

The ace of any team is honored by getting the nod on Opening Day. This is quite the privilege for any starting pitcher, but it rightfully goes to the best starter on the team because they earned the honor with their solid play in spring training and the team wants to start the season on a good note. Typically, an ace is looked to by the manager to get the team out of a slump or simply give the organization a boost of energy.

An ace is also someone who is looked to by the rest of the team to have success in the postseason. The ace will start the first playoff game and could be asked to make another start only a few days later. In today’s game, fans may here baseball analysts and other fans refer to the top notch pitchers in the game as an ace. This will happen when those pitchers may not necessarily be the No. 1 starting pitcher in the rotation, but are still considered elite starters.

The criteria I used to rank each ace on all 30 Major League Baseball teams is accomplishments, win-loss record and overall success over the past couple of years.

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30. Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado Rockies

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies have a terrible pitching staff and it is really hard to distinguish who the ace of the rotation is because no one has stepped up to claim the role. Jeff Francis could be considered the ace last year because he is the only person to pitch over 100 innings. However, the true ace is Jorge De La Rosa if he can just remain healthy. He only made three starts last season and surrendered 11 earned runs in the process, but he is still the player who was meant to take the lead role on this team.

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29. Lucas Harrell, Houston Astros

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The competition for Houston Astros’ ace comes down to Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris. Neither player is really built to be an ace but they are all Houston has on a very inexperienced Astros team. I give the nod to Harrell for 2013 because of his decent performance last season. He went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 32 starts. This was far better than anyone else on the team was.

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28. Vance Worley, Minnesota Twins

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Vance Worley, who was acquired by the Minnesota Twins in the off-season, will be considered the ace of this team even though Scott Diamond pitched well last year. Worley went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 23 starts with the Philadelphia Phillies. It was certainly a down year for him considering what he was able to accomplish in 2011, but the fact that he was able to put up good numbers proves the great potential he has.

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27. Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore Orioles

chen
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Wei-Yin Chen was easily the best starter on another measly pitching staff. No one on the Baltimore Orioles came close to his 12 wins, 4.02 ERA, 154 strikeouts and 192 2/3 innings. Chen is a huge reason why the Orioles made the postseason and his success in the future will determine whether the team can get back to the playoffs.

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26. Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks

kennedy
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wade Miley had the better statistical season but Ian Kennedy is still considered the ace of this pitching staff. Kennedy’s performance in 2011 was off the charts and even though last year was not bad from a numbers stand point, it was nowhere near his 2011 season. Kennedy needs to find more consistency in his game and hopefully he can do that starting with this year.

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25. Johan Santana, New York Mets

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

With R.A. Dickey gone, Johan Santana will once again be the ace for the New York Mets. Santana’s career has been an interesting one with plenty of ups and downs. The 33-year-old began the season brilliantly with a 3-2 record and a 2.38 ERA over his first 11 starts, including the franchise’s first no-hitter. If Santana can manage to get healthy once again, something that has proven to be an issue, he certainly has the stuff to be a top notch starter.

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24. Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians

jimenez
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Ubaldo Jimenez was horrendous last season as he continues to free fall from his incredible 2010 season. Jimenez went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 31 starts for the Cleveland Indians. The only reason he is considered the ace of the team is because of his great potential. Everyone knows what he is capable of it is just a matter of him getting back to that form.

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23. Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres

volquez
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Edinson Volquez has been trying incredibly hard to get back to his 2008 form when he won 17 games and posted a 3.21 ERA with the Cincinnati Reds. Volquez was hoping for a new start with the San Diego Padres in which he began to get things back on track. If anything else, he was a breath of fresh air in a mediocre rotation.

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22. Ricky Nolasco, Miami Marlins

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Nolasco is the ace of the Miami Marlins by default after the team traded away all of their good players. Nolasco went 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 31 starts. However, it is not all bad, as he has shown great potential with his three complete games and two shutouts. Unfortunately, Nolasco is not the typical ace as he has only posted an ERA under four once in the past seven years and has only pitched more than 200 innings twice over that span.

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21. Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs

garza
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Garza posted the worst statistical season in three years in 2012, but overall he has stayed rather consistent. The Chicago Cubs would like to see him improve on his 5-7 record and 3.91 ERA. Granted, his numbers dipped due to multiple injuries that forced him to end his season after only making 18 starts. Garza is the ace of the Cubs for now but I would not be surprised if the team tried to trade him before the start of the season.

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20. Brett Anderson, Oakland Athletics

anderson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Anderson may be ranked too high on this list considering he only made six starts last season, but I believe the future is very bright for the 24-year-old. Anderson was 4-2 in those six starts and posted a 2.57 ERA with a 3.57 strikeout to walk ratio. What was even more impressive was when he pitched six shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers in the postseason.

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19. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Many people believe Derek Holland will be the ace for the Texas Rangers in 2013 but I think there is still a good chance this role could go to Yu Darvish. The 26-year-old Darvish may have only spent one season in the majors but he transitioned well with a 16-9 record, 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 29 starts. If anything else, he will be one of the top No. 2 starters in all of baseball.

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18. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Peavy is the ace of the Chicago White Sox in many people’s book, but Chris Sale made quite the move in the organization from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Sale excelled as a starter and even finished sixth in the AL Cy Young race for his outstanding performance. He got off to a red hot start (10-2, 2.19 ERA) and was selected for the All-Star Game. However, his numbers dropped drastically in the second half mostly because he pitched 121 more innings than he ever has before in a single season. Sale should be considered the ace of this staff in 2013.

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17. A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates

burnett
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Burnett might be a little high on this list considering his multiple disappointing seasons with the New York Yankees. However, he got things turned around quickly with thePittsburgh Pirates as he started the year 10-2. His record began to drop in the second half as he finished the season 16-10, but overall his numbers improved.

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16. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester posted the first losing record of his career (9-14) and the worst ERA in a given season (4.82). This appears to be nothing more than a hiccup as the Boston Red Sox 2012 season is one that can certainly be erased from the history books. Lester is still one of the top pitchers in the game as his 85-48 career record and 3.76 ERA proves.

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15. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Yovani Gallardo has the potential to be higher on this list but will need to find more consistency in his starts throughout the year. Gallardo posted his fourth consecutive season with at least 13 wins, 200 strikeouts and 185 innings pitched. The Milwaukee Brewers believe his 3.63 career ERA could be better and they would like to see his home run total come down (53 over the past two years), although that is asking a lot for a pitcher who makes a majority of his starts at Miller Park.

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14. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Carpenter has been the St. Louis Cardinals ace for years but Adam Wainwright has taken over that role. Wainwright could have become the ace sooner after his dominant 2009 and 2010 seasons, but an injury forced him to miss the entire 2011 season with Tommy John Surgery. Wainwright bounced back with a decent 2012 campaign in which he went 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 32 starts. However, I fully expect those numbers to be much better this year.

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13. Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves

hudson
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Hudson still amazes after 13 seasons in the big leagues, as his numbers still remain consistent. Hudson’s ERA (3.62) and strikeouts (102) dropped off a bit in 2012 from the usual pace but that is expected at this point considering the veteran right-hander is 37 years old. Over the past three seasons, Hudson is 49-27 with an average of 32 starts, a 3.22 ERA, 133 strikeouts, 207 innings pitched and 3.2 wins above replacement. These are not bad numbers for someone who had to recover from Tommy John Surgery.

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12. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds

cueto
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Cueto was outstanding for the second straight year as he went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA and a career-high 170 strikeouts in 33 starts. Cueto has gradually gotten better as the years have gone on and the Reds have to be excited for what lies ahead. The 26-year-old finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting and was a huge reason why Cincinnati clinched a postseason berth.

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11. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

strasburg
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg is definitely the ace of the Washington Nationals, even though Gio Gonzalez posted a franchise-record 21 wins last season. Strasburg’s season was cut short after the team decided to lessen his work load after undergoing Tommy John Surgery the previous year. With that being said, the 24-year-old still went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 28 starts. There is no question Strasburg is destined to be an elite pitcher for a very long time in the majors.

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10. R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays

dickey
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Since R.A. Dickey was traded from the Mets to the Toronto Blue Jays this off-season, it is hard to decide where he belongs in these power rankings considering he will be pitching in the very difficult AL East. However, I am giving Dickey the benefit of the doubt because he is the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. Although, the fact that he is 38 years old and basically came out of nowhere to win the award makes many people question if he is a top 10 ace in baseball. Either way, a 20-6 record, 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts speaks for itself.

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9. James Shields, Kansas City Royals

shields
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

James Shields was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Kansas City Royals this off-season. This is a great acquisition by the Royals as Shields is a top notch starter and a rising star. Shields followed up his record-breaking 2011 season with another solid year in 2012. He went 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 33 starts, including three complete games and two shutouts. Expect to see his numbers get better considering he will be pitching in the AL Central, which is a much easier division than the AL East.

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8. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

halladay
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It was not that long ago that Roy Halladay was considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is still very good and not many starters will be able to go head-to-head with him and win, but he dropped in the power rankings due to his lack of production last year. Halladay posted the worst ERA (4.49) and failed to have a WAR over 1.0 for the first time since 2000. He also did not pitch at least 200 innings for the first time since 2005 and did not strikeout at least 200 batters for the first time in six years.

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7. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees

sabathia
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

C.C. Sabathia has been outstanding for the majority of his career but has been really impressive since 2007. Since joining the Yankees as a free agent in 2009, Sabathia is 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA while averaging 32 starts, 205 strikeouts, 226 innings and 5.2 wins above replacement per season. The 32-year-old’s numbers could drop in production considering the Yankees have overworked him, which does not even include the 253 innings he pitched with the Brewers and Indians in 2008.

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6. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants

cain
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Cain has been fantastic for the San Francisco Giants over the course of his eight-year career with the team. He has been a work horse and is someone the team has been able to count on for years. He is the very definition of what an ace is and the Giants would certainly not have been as successful over the past few years without his outstanding effort. Cain posted career highs in wins (16), ERA (2.79) and strikeouts (193) while pitching at least 200 innings for the sixth consecutive season. To top it all off he also tossed a perfect game against the Astros.

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5. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

weaver
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

With Zack Greinke gone, Jared Weaver is once again the ace of the Los Angeles Angels. Weaver has never posted a record below .500 and has only had an ERA over four once in his career. He dipped down a bit in production this past season from his outstanding 2011 year, but he still managed to record a career-high 20 wins in 30 starts. There is no question Weaver is one of baseball’s top pitchers and he should remain at that level for years to come.

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4. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

hernandez
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Felix Hernandez is another great definition for an ace because of his ability to continue pitching at a high level despite his team consistently finishing at the bottom of the division every year. “King Felix” has been a work horse his entire career and his power numbers are off the charts. He has finished in the top four of the AL Cy Young voting three of the past four years and won the award in 2010 after he pitched in 249 2/3 innings, struck out 232 batters and posted a 2.27 ERA in 34 starts. The 26-year-old has already accomplished so much for someone who has not entered his prime yet, including pitching a perfect game against the Rays in 2012.

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3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

price
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

David Price, who won the 2012 AL Cy Young Award, had the best season of his four-year career. He set franchise records in ERA (2.56), wins (20), win-loss percentage (.800) and wins above replacement (6.4) last year. The fact that Price was able to do this in the competitive AL East makes his accomplishments that much more impressive. The 27-year-old has pitched at least 208 innings the past three seasons and has struck out over 200 batters two straight years.

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2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

kershaw
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be a dangerous team in 2012 with Clayton Kershaw and Greinke in the starting rotation. Kershaw is my favorite to win the 2013 NL Cy Young Award, which would be the second time he accomplished the feat after winning the award in 2011. The 24-year-old has been dominant the last two years and is a huge reason why the Dodgers have been able to turn around their franchise. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for him, as he is nowhere near entering his prime.

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1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

verlander
H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY

There is no question Justin Verlander is the No. 1 ace in all of baseball. He followed up his untouchable 2011 season with a good statistical year in 2012 and is looking to do more damage in 2013. Verlander is one of those pitchers that is virtually unhittable, as he has kept opponent batting averages down to .192 and .217 over the past two years. He has averaged 19.5 wins, a 2.96 ERA, 244 strikeouts, 6.2 wins above replacement and 239 innings pitched over the past four seasons. Verlander is my favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award and I do not think it will be close.

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