A key element to a contending team is the presence of an ace. An ace pitcher is generally expected to throw over 200 innings and have over 30 starts a season. He is expected to go deep into games, therefore putting less pressure on the bullpen and the remainder of the rotation for a short time after. Josh Johnson is typically viewed as the Miami Marlins staff ace. In 2009 and 2010 he respectively pitched 209 and 183.2 innings. In 2010 he finished with an era of 2.30 and a whip of 1.11. Johnson was a tremendous part of the Marlins quick start in 2011 going 3 and 1 in 9 starts with an era of 1.64 and a whip of 0.98. However, after pitching 60 innings, Johnson aggravated his shoulder and was later shut down for the season. This coincided with Marlins decline in the standings which was characterized by their June Swoon. Without a stopper, excess pressure was placed on the rest of the team and later overworked the bullpen thus contributing to the Marlins overall decline.
This past year we have seen the impact of having a legitimate ace. Without Josh Johnson being healthy and anchoring the rotation the Marlins are bound to struggle. He must be healthy and in addition go deep into games. If he is healthy and effective, the remainder of the pitching staff will fall into place, not be overworked and will be more efficient as a unit. Without doubt JJ is the Marlins’ primary question mark in this regard going into spring training. The Marlins obviously need him to be healthy and effective to be a legitimate contender. If not they will struggle to contend despite their off season acquisitions. Clearly, the effectiveness and health of an ace is essential to success of a contending team.