From the worst of the best—to the cream of the crop, the following is a power ranking of the NL West division's aces.
Pitcher: Edinson Volquez (R)
Team: San Diego Padres
Just as the Friars might appear in the bottom third of league-wide team rankings, No. 1 starter Volquez likewise is low on the ace power ranking.
After pitching to an 11-11 record in 2012, surrendering a career-high 105 walks with a 4.14 ERA, Volquez may be the best that the perennially sub-.500 Padres have to offer.
His career ERA+ of 90 (88 in 2012) simply is no match for the rest of the division.
Pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin (R)
Team: Colorado Rockies
After finding his way to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation early in 2012 after encountering biceps tendinitis during the spring, Chacin started just 14 of the average 30-32 games routinely started by an ace of the staff.
When Chacin did return to work, it was rocky at best, going 3-5, though to be fair, Chacin surrendered just eight runs over 26.1 innings (ERA of 3.04) in those losses—and that's considering that he pitches primarily at offensive powerhouse Coors Field.
With an offseason of recuperation under his belt and a career ERA+ of 127, Chacin is finally set to return to prominence in Denver.
Pitcher: Ian Kennedy (R)
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
After pitching himself to a career-high 21 wins in 2011, Kennedy settled down with a respectable 15-12, 4.02 ERA season in 2012.
Keeping his walks at a consistent 55 each during both seasons and holding his opponents to a WHIP of just 1.190 while with Arizona, compared to 1.676 while he was with New York from 2007 through 2009.
Similarly, Kennedy's ERA+ with Arizona has hovered around 115, up from just 75 while he was in the Bronx.
Kennedy will be chasing the golden nugget of his 2011 season for years to come.
Although he might not fully return to his league-leading performance in wins, win-loss percentage and even fielding percentage as a pitcher, Kennedy is on the rebound and thus finishes at the halfway mark of our power ranking—in a very competitive division.
Pitcher: Matt Cain (R)
Team: San Francisco Giants
After years of dutiful San Franciscan service, Matt Cain received an Opening Day nod, pitching six shutout innings and earning a heartbreaker of a no-decision.
Cain's credentials are inspiring: a three-time All-Star, owner of the ever-rare perfect game and a career ERA+ of.
Cain struck out a career-high 193 batters in 2012, while likewise posting a career-low ERA at 2.79.
Never pitching less than 200 innings since his first year of full-time rotation work in 2006, Cain is a proven workhorse whose 1.40 and 1.84 ERAs during the Giants' two recent Championship Series and World Series appearances, respectively, is uncanny and unheard of.
When it comes to the NL West's top billing, Cain can only be second to one star hurler.
Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (L)
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
The only southpaw amongst the NL West aces, Dodgers flamethrower Clayton Kershaw is that pitcher–the only one who can displace Cain.
Battling Cain on Opening Day 2013, Kershaw one-upped his fiercest competitor simply by pitching a complete-game shutout and slugging his first career home run.
Notwithstanding that one game marvel, Kershaw's 2011 and 2012 WHIPs of 0.977 and 1.023, respectively, were the lowest of any NL pitcher during those two seasons and as a fielder, Kershaw has not made a single error since 2010.
A two-time All-Star, 2011 Cy Young and Gold Glove Award winner.
Kershaw has additionally led the National League in ERA with a 2.28-mark in 2011 followed by a 2.53 performance in 2012; his career ERA+ is 140, though Kershaw has pitched to a 150+ ERA+ ever since he began his first Cy Young campaign.
Not only is Kershaw presently the NL West's best starting pitcher, if he plays his cards right in 2013, he might find himself back in the Cy Young race.