The numbers are stupendous, astounding, mind boggling. Every five games this season Ubaldo Jimenez has taken the hill, and in his wake he’s left broken bats, dejected hitters an amazed fans. Here is the list of major categories that he leads baseball in right now.
Wins – 11
ERA – 0.93
WHIP – 0.93
BAA – .176
Fastball velocity – 96.7 mph
And that’s pretty much the whole kit and caboodle folks. Everything he is throwing up there right now is working – everything. Consider the following data points.
* He has made 12 starts and 10 times he has gone at least seven innings. The other two times he went six innings allowing a total of one earned run. That means he has tossed a quality start in every one of his 12 appearances.
* Jimenez has made 12 starts and 10 times he has walked three or fewer batters (eight times two or fewer). For a pitcher who has a career BB/9 mark of 3.90 that’s pretty darn good (his mark this season is 2.99).
The above factoids describe how good he has been this season, but if we place his performance in historical context we truly begin to understand the magnitude of what is going on here.
* Jimenez is the first pitcher in the history of baseball to have an ERA under 1.00 while at the same time emerging with the “W” 11 times in his first 12 starts. That’s ever folks.
* His 0.93 ERA after 12 starts is the lowest mark for a starter this deep into a season in 65 years. In fact, only two pitchers in baseball history emerged from their first 12 starts with an ERA lower than that – Dutch Leonard at 0.83 in 1914 and Al Benton at 0.89 in 1945. Walter Johnson matched the 0.93 mark in 1918.
* Jimenez has two stretches this season of at least 25-straight scoreless innings. He is the first pitcher to accomplish that since Jack Morris in 1986.
Could Jimenez truly have a shot at the first 30-win season since 1968 (Denny McLain) and a chance to establish the modern day ERA mark that is currently held by Bob Gibson (1.12 in 1968)? Not on your life. The average #1 starter makes about 34 starts with the five man rotation currently used. Back when McLain won 30 teams used four starters, and in his magical ’68 campaign he took the hill 41 times – a total he matched the next season as well when he won a mere 24 games. Simply put, Jimenez will not be given enough starts to reach that hallowed number. As for the ERA, I think this one is even easier to make a call on than the win mark, and as I just stated he has no shot whatsoever of reaching the win plateau. I could throw out all kinds of logic, not the least of which being that what Ubaldo is doing right now strains credulity or the fact that his career ERA mark is 3.38, but the truth is obvious. He has no shot at maintaining his current ERA. The real question is how far will he fall off as we move forward?
Clearly, Jimenez has mastered pitching at Coors Field (1.29 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), hardly surprising given his boring, sinking 97 mph heat. That stuff will play anywhere. However, it should be noted that eight of his 12 starts have come on the road, so it will be interesting to see how his numbers are affected once he starts toeing the rubber in Colorado more frequently though, surprisingly, he owns better ratios at home in (3.20 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP) than on the road (3.55 and 1.29).
Can he continue to hold hitters to a 12.6 percent line drive rate (career 17.5), with a BABIP that is .054 points below his career mark? Can he maintain his current LOB percentage of 92.4 percent which is nearly 20 percentage points better than his career rate (73.7 percent)? Can he keep the ball in the yard with such aplomb moving forward given that his current 2.9 percent HR/F rate is light years below his 7.5 percent career mark?
I wish Jimenez all the luck in the world, and it would be utterly amazing to see him keep up this level of performance over the course of the season. Alas, he has virtually no shot at maintaining the historic pace that he has set so far, but I gotta tell ya, I’ll be watching with an extreme level of interest as he gives it his best shot.
By Ray Flowers