Blueprint for success in 2015 starts with ace—just ask the Red Sox


Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

The Newtonite

by Jacob Gurvis
Now that the Red Sox leadership has finally acknowledged that having an ace-less pitching staff does not work, new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski will work to secure a front-line pitcher this offseason. Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Jordan Zimmerman are all free agents this offseason. There are plenty of options, and it’s time to blow the bank or give up some valuable prospects to get a real ace. Here’s why.
Looking at the 2015 playoff teams, the importance of strong pitching is incredibly evident. The New York Yankees lost to the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card game. It is wild that the Yankees even made the playoffs, but it is no surprise that they did not make it far. Let’s take a look at their pitching, shall we?
The Yankees’ “ace,” Masahiro Tanaka, had a decent season. Not good enough. The Astros, on the other hand, have an ace (maybe even two). Dallas Keuchel, the winner of the Wild Card game, and Collin McHugh. Having two 200-inning guys who can win 20 games is rare. But it is why the Astros have been so good all year, and could make a legitimate title run.
In the National League Wild Card game, two aces squared off, with Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta facing off against Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gerrit Cole. Arrieta, a strong NL Cy-Young candidate, was incredible in 2015, and Cole was very good as well.
The rest of the NL teams are not too shabby, either. The St. Louis Cardinals have Michael Wacha and John Lackey. The Los Angeles Dodgers showcase Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke, and the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw (who struck out 301 batters in 2015.) And finally, the New York Mets. The Mets have an impressive core of young pitchers Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Synergaard. With this three-headed monster, New York’s rotation is scary.
In the American League, the pitching strength continues. The Texas Rangers have Colby Lewis and the stellar Cole Hamels. The Toronto Blue Jays have Cy Young candidate and ace David Price. The Kansas City Royals lack a true ace, but with 13-game winners Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez, and acquiring the talented Johnny Cueto , the pitching is good enough. Maybe not good enough, but time will tell.
So there is a clear trend here. The teams that get far have good pitching. There will always be a few teams that do not really have an ace that make it far anyway. But overall, when the leaves change color, the teams that find true success are the teams with strong pitching. Hopefully the Red Sox learned its lesson this season. In 2015, when the pitching in Major League Baseball is stronger than ever, it is nearly impossible to hoist the Championship trophy without a true ace.