The Editor’s Desk with Billy Brost: Who Is The Padres’ Real Ace?


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve focused this column on the San Diego Padres’ desire to sign Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas. Well, heading into your weekend, I’m going to give you a reprieve. Today, I want to discuss what I think is a question that more than one Friars’ fan has asked during this past season: Who is the team’s legit #1 starter? You’ve got two choices. In one corner, you have the oft-injured Andrew Cashner, and rising up this season, Tyson Ross.

You can never have too much high-quality starting pitching, unless you have zero offense to support said pitching staff. Andrew Cashner, heading into the 2014 season, was viewed as the team’s clear cut, no doubt in anyone’s mind, #1 starter for the Padres. Why shouldn’t he have been? He finished 2013 at 10-9, with an ERA of 3.09 and 128 Ks. His 111 ERA+ was pretty solid for a team as poorly constructed as the Padres.

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Unfortunately for Cashner, the Padres, and everyone who had such high hopes for Cashner entering this past season, was that he couldn’t stay healthy. He made two extended stops on the disabled list. The first time, was for an elbow issue that was originally believed to need Tommy John surgery. Instead, rest and rehab helped Cashner return, albeit only briefly.

His second stint was viewed as a little more serious. This time, shoulder discomfort shelved the Padres’ ace for most of the second half of the season. When he finally did return, the Padres were out of it, many of their key players had been dealt, and the GM who brought him to San Diego was long gone. Cashner finished his injury-plagued and disappointing 2014 season at 5-7, with an impressive 2.65 ERA, with 93 strikeouts in only 123.1 innings.

During Cashner’s extended absence, many believed that veteran Ian Kennedy would step up and assume the ace status. Instead, a player with 37 career starts emerged, and can now lay legitimate claim as the sure-fire ace of the rebuilding San Diego Padres. That pitcher of course, is Tyson Ross. In 2013, Ross registered a 3-8 record in 16 starts, but had a very nice 3.17 ERA for the Friars. This season, he made the jump from young arm to staff ace.

For an underperforming and anemic Padres’ offense, Ross went 13-14, with an ERA of 2.81, 195 Ks, and an ERA+ of 119. All of this for a guy who had some of the worst run support of any pitcher in baseball. If he had the same run support, as say, a middle of the pack team offensively in the National League in 2014, Ross is a 20-game winner, and is in the conversation for the Cy Young Award with L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw. He was selected for his first All-Star Game this past summer, and should be considered for an Opening Day start for Bud Black next season. He and teammate Ian Kennedy, almost became the first duo in Padres’ history to each record 200 Ks in a season. Late season discomfort shut Ross down for the final week-plus of the season.

Again, it’s never a bad thing to have a legit #1 and of course in this case, a #1-A. It could provide for a friendly competition in which Cashner and Ross battle it out to see who leads this Padres’ starting rotation into next season. If both can remain healthy, and San Diego can get ANY offense at all, they could each win 15-18 games. Throw in Ian Kennedy, Robbie Erlin, Jesse Hahn and a slew of qualified arms, the Padres once again, could have one of the premier starting rotations in all of baseball.