What qualifies to be an ace? How to profile SPs? I'd like to give you my take.
As was previously stated in part 1, a SP is a pitcher who can regularly give you at least 5 quality innings & sustain that, otherwise is better off in long relief. I'd like to categorize them as 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd & top SP, ace and workhorse. I will rate them accordingly by stuff & arm strength. Stuff= quality of pitch, # of quality pitches in his repertroire, command & location. Arm strength that's affected by genetics, conditioning, injury & building off previous year. Stuff & arm strength will dictate how many innings that pitcher is able to pitch and that is how I profile them thus.
A 5th starter that can pitch the minimum 5 quality innings on the avg. When his stuff is on & he's very economical with his pitches he can go 6 innings. when he's off he has trouble going 5. A 4th starter will pitch into the 6th inning with more regularity. A 3rd starter avg. around 6 quality innings, when he's on he can go 7 innings, a 2nd starter pitches more regularly into the 7th inning, a top starter avg. 7 quality innings and when he's on he'll go 8 innings. An ace is a SP who regularly goes 8 innings, can at times complete a game or pitch a no-hitter. A work horse is a pitcher who has the arm strength that can regularly pitch 7+ innings, his stuff may vary depending how prolific his offense is that supports him.
This season, because of shortened spring training & short vamp up time, I'd have started Ryan, Gray, Bundy & Smeltzer at a 5th starter level. As the season progressed I'd graduate Ryan & Gray to 4th starter, later 3rd starter. I'd have kept Bundy at 5th starter through out the season, Because Smeltzer was the most vamped up SP is why I started him in the rotation as the season progressed, I'd stick him in long relief as long as he remains effective. I agree how they handled Archer as an "opener", later 5th starter. Ober, Winder & Paddack as long relief & spot starter (or in Paddack case "opener")
During the season, IMO a pitcher should pitch inside his profile, then his arm bounces back & he's able to give you quality innings. If he's extended for any period of time, his arm doesn't bounce back & he becomes less effective or becomes injured. This is what has happened for as long as I can remember to the Twins, even if the Twins limp across the finish line into the post season, our pitching is shot which explains our 18 straight PS losses. But if your rotation is weak (weak not as in bad but not giving you the desired quality innings) and poor BP, how do you cover the innings? The answer is long relief, long relief is our strongest pitching profile that should be exploited not ignored.
In 2020, Cash led TB to the World Series. In game 6, Snell was pitching into the 6th inning, leading 1-0 with 1 out and a runner at 1B with Betts coming to bat. Tough situation what do you do? Cash did what he normally does, he yanked Snell. Was it the right decision? It had worked through out the season, but still was it the right decision? The decision didn't work out but was staying w/ Snell would be better? It'd be easy in hind sight say yes but would the out come be different? Snell is no ace but he was on & pysched, it was Snell last game, he could reach back & give that little extra, the BP is coming into the game cold. There is no way we can know for sure. But under these circumstances, you have to go with your gut not analytics.