Last season, San Diego Padres pitcher Clayton Richard won 14 games while throwing well over 200. On the surface that looks to be a really good season but if you look deeper, it gets kind of fuzzy. What makes an ace pitcher? Is a pitcher required to get everyone out in style or post a few shutouts per season? Or is it possibly as simple as pitching a ton of innings and finding a way for your team to win games?
The wins and innings pitched are the good parts of Richard’s stat line. Also, you kind of need to look at his ERA of just under four, and his thirty-one homers allowed to know the pitcher you are looking at. Those numbers don’t even come close to putting Richard into the Cy-Young voting, but is he what the Padres need in spite of not getting all the outs every game?
Certainly there is something to be said for a guy that can go out every fifth day and give the bullpen a break. The pitching staff of the Padres gets that with Richard. Sure, he might not throw a shutout, but does that matter if he saves the entire relief staff some innings? It’s not like the team loses every game he pitches. Honestly, they are just as likely to win as they are to lose, as he was a steady 14 and 14 on the season.
In the end I don’t think a healthy pitching staff would call Richard their ace. He needs to get his homers allowed way down and give up fewer runs in order for that label to be bestowed upon him.
You know what, though? So what? Maybe he isn’t the stamped and polished ace of a staff, or Cy-Young candidate. He still eats tons of innings and gives his team a chance to win. If he improves his other numbers, he could be a twenty-game winner easily. If not, he still is worth quite a lot to his team.