Do the Red Sox need an ace to succeed?


It was late in last night’s 2-1 win over the Cardinals when Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo sent out this tweet.

It’s an interesting thought from Cherington, especially when Cafardo followed up by referencing the Orioles as an example of a team without an ace that is still having success; they currently sit four games ahead in the AL East.

Cherington’s claim is that an effective pitching staff doesn’t necessarily need an ace. This I can get on board with. Unfortunately though, effective doesn’t necessarily equate to championships. So I wanted to find out more.

Can you win a World Series without an ace?

I decided to dig a little deeper and what I found is that, coincidence or not, World Series champions almost always have that one big name “ace.”

The Red Sox had Jon Lester, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. The two Giants teams had Matt Cain. The Cardinals had Chris Carpenter. The Yankees had C.C. Sabathia. The Phillies had Cole Hamels.

Since the year 2000, only two champions might fall under the category of “effective staff without an ace”: the 2005 White Sox and the 2003 Marlins. The White Sox staff was led by Mark Buehrle, while the Marlins were led by two young starters named Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis. All three were excellent pitchers, but didn’t quite hold that “ace” label (although Beckett eventually would).

So is it possible to win a World Series without an ace? Sure. But your odds appear to increase with one, especially with the new playoff system.

With that one game Wild Card playoff, having an ace is more important than ever. With one game to decide your fate, having that one guy you know you can count on is a huge factor in the outcome.

There’s a reason the A’s went out and acquired Lester. If the Angels jump them in the division and they have to play in that one game playoff, sending Lester to the mound fills you with a lot more confidence than sending Scott Kazmir, no matter how solid of a season Kazmir is having.

Baltimore is now the team to watch, as they appear to be playoff bound without a real number one. But if their season ends in an ALDS exit, it’s going to spark even more debate about the importance of a go-to guy.

Effective might not be good enough. Only time will tell.