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Aces are Vital to Any Baseball Team's Success

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With the start of the World Series this week, it got me to thinking what the most important part of a championship caliber team is. There are many different ways to cook an egg so to speak when it comes to building a contender, but one commonality rings true for the top teams. Looking at the last four teams to survive this season despite their vast differences in play style and strengths, each team is led by a dominant ace at the top of their rotation. The Yankees have CC Sabathia, the Phillies have Roy Halladay, the Giants have Tim Lincecum, and the Rangers have Cliff Lee.

What strikes me even more than simply each of these teams having great number one starters is that two of those four started their career in Cleveland and a third, Lincecum, was draft and unsigned by the Indians the year before he went in the first round to the Giants. I certainly don’t begrudge the Indians necessarily for trading Lee and Sabathia and certainly not for failing to sign Lincecum, but there comes a point when a commitment needs to be made to locking up dominant pitchers at almost any cost.

Even if the Indians did get completely fair value for Lee and Sabathia, and that is a story for another article, without the inclusion of another ace type pitching talent the team is in worse shape. While players like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley may end up being productive starters for the Indians longterm the team is worse off by dealing for less scarce talents in terms of corner outfielders relative to an ace starter. The same can be said for the Lee deal although at least the headliner of the trade was an advanced starter in Carlos Carrasco. The problem here though is the profile of Carrasco is as more of a middle rotation pitcher than a true top end guy.

Obviously there is nothing that Cleveland can do about these decisions now and of course hindsight is 20-20. However, it will be interesting to see if the team is able to learn from their “mistakes” with the changing of the guard underway in the front office this off-season. The key to the team’s evolution will be pushing for more continuity. More specifically by working to lock up their top pitchers, instead of much less scarce talents like Travis Hafner, whose contract I would complain about even if he was continuing to hit at his supposed baseline levels.

The other side to the story with the current Indians style of team building is that despite the lack of recent success the team isn’t far from turning the corner. Because the team is constantly in a state of flux/rebuilding there is always the chance that this set of guys is the one that works and that the key pieces that are needed to mesh it all together are available and added to the roster. In a generally weak division, the Indians will have plenty of opportunities to turn things around in future years, but only if they can find another strong ace and this time hold onto him tightly.

With the start of the World Series this week, it got me to thinking what the most important part of a championship caliber team is. There are many different ways to cook an egg so to speak when it comes to building a contender, but one commonality rings true for the top teams. Looking at the last four teams to survive this season despite their vast differences in play style and strengths, each team is led by a dominant ace at the top of their rotation. The Yankees have CC Sabathia, the Phillies have Roy Halladay, the Giants have Tim Lincecum, and the Rangers have Cliff Lee.

What strikes me even more than simply each of these teams having great number one starters is that two of those four started their career in Cleveland and a third, Lincecum, was draft and unsigned by the Indians the year before he went in the first round to the Giants. I certainly don’t begrudge the Indians necessarily for trading Lee and Sabathia and certainly not for failing to sign Lincecum, but there comes a point when a commitment needs to be made to locking up dominant pitchers at almost any cost.

Even if the Indians did get completely fair value for Lee and Sabathia, and that is a story for another article, without the inclusion of another ace type pitching talent the team is in worse shape. While players like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley may end up being productive starters for the Indians longterm the team is worse off by dealing for less scarce talents in terms of corner outfielders relative to an ace starter. The same can be said for the Lee deal although at least the headliner of the trade was an advanced starter in Carlos Carrasco. The problem here though is the profile of Carrasco is as more of a middle rotation pitcher than a true top end guy.

Obviously there is nothing that Cleveland can do about these decisions now and of course hindsight is 20-20. However, it will be interesting to see if the team is able to learn from their “mistakes” with the changing of the guard underway in the front office this off-season. The key to the team’s evolution will be pushing for more continuity. More specifically by working to lock up their top pitchers, instead of much less scarce talents like Travis Hafner, whose contract I would complain about even if he was continuing to hit at his supposed baseline levels.

The other side to the story with the current Indians style of team building is that despite the lack of recent success the team isn’t far from turning the corner. Because the team is constantly in a state of flux/rebuilding there is always the chance that this set of guys is the one that works and that the key pieces that are needed to mesh it all together are available and added to the roster. In a generally weak division, the Indians will have plenty of opportunities to turn things around in future years, but only if they can find another strong ace and this time hold onto him tightly.

This article originally appeared on LandLoyalty.com