For the last two and a half seasons, some local DFW media and fans have argued whether Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish is an “ace”. Darvish is a pitcher who seems to be appreciated more by a larger majority of baseballs fans outside of his own market, but seems to be thought of as a mediocre starting pitcher who is at fault when the team struggles by many in the DFW market. Arguing whether Darvish should be considered acey is in the author’s opinion a redundant exercise because the term “ace” is largely subjective and the numbers provide evidence Darvish has been one of the more valuable pitchers in baseball.
So, what exactly is an “ace”? Well, that is open to interpretation, but a pitcher is usually considered ace material by many after he has won an important game, or some type of award. Many fans and writers are also advocates of seeing a pitcher display proper body language while dominating the opposition.
Despite Darvish generating excellent production far exceeding what he is currently being paid, we still hear complaints about his stubbornness, #AceStuffButNotAceTough nonsense, his record against Oakland, and today in an article by a baseball writer at The Dallas Morning News, a nascent grumble regarding Darvish that teams with an “ace” do not have stretches in which they go 3-22. I am not here to be critical of the beat writer because the beat writer is more successful at writing than I ever will be, but I found this criticism very odd and unfair. Darvish has not exactly been marvelous during the 3-22 stretch, but he has also not been terrible, posting an xFIP of 2.78 since June 1st (Yay arbitrary endpoints!), right around the time the Rangers began playing poorly. Darvish is the least of the Rangers problems in 2014, and to throw any blame Darvish’s way for this disastrous season is ludicrous. Darvish was one of the reasons the Rangers were able to stay afloat as long as they did.
The beat writer’s usage of selective endpoints to construct a narrative and assertion that teams who go 3-22 during a season do not have any “aces” led me to question this because with all the random fluctuation in baseball, surely plenty of great starting pitchers have been a part of a 3-22 stretch. So, I decided to use the wonderful Play Index over at Baseball-Reference to find out how many “aces” have experienced a miserable stretch like Darvish has in 2014. The following is the list of Hall of Fame (Yes, Hall of Fame) pitchers who have been on a team which has at one point during a season gone 3-22.
As previously mentioned, “ace” is a subjective term, but not just limited to pitchers in the Hall of Fame as plenty of “aces” have been unable to be elected into Cooperstown. Jack Morris is a pitcher who immediately come to mind and then causes debate among many. Sadly, much to the dismay of the analytical crowd, Morris was never on a 3-22 team, so his status as an “ace” is safe. However, these notable “aces” did tote the rubber at one time for a team which went 3-22.
So, we have learned that “aces” can indeed play for teams which go 3-22 during a season. This can be due to a variety of factors including random fluctuation, and the team just simply not being very talented. There are several reasons why the Rangers are struggling in 2014 including injuries, underperformance, and bullpen regression, but Yu Darvish is certainly not one of them. Could he have performed better during this 3-22 stretch? Sure, and he is aware of that. Darvish is not absolved of some responsibility, but he also does not play every day, and his recent performance can certainly not be considered dreadful. So, let’s stop the Darvish is not an “ace” nonsense because the argument is both stupid and subjective. Enjoy Darvish while he is here. He’s awesome. Also, “aces”, top of the rotation pitchers, or workhorses, or whatever the hell the reader wants to call them, have played on 3-22 teams, so let’s stop that narrative as well because it is also false.