by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
June 17, 2010
It's easy to get in trouble projecting a player's June stat line to a full
season total. Juan Gonzalez had 101 RBI in the first half of the 1998
season, and although he actually hit much better in the second half (.353 vs
.293), he collected only 56 RBI after the break. Ten years later, Chipper
Jones had a .400 batting average on June 18, but hit "only" .320 the rest of the
way to finish at .364.
Still, projecting June stat lines can be a lot of fun, and there's no stat
line in baseball more fun to look at right now than that of Ubaldo Jimenez.
After 14 starts, the Rockies' ace is 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA. It's time to
consider whether Jimenez could possibly be heading towards one of the greatest
pitching seasons of all time.
Assuming Jimenez makes 33 starts this season (matching his total from last
year) and goes the whole year without
taking a no-decision, his current .929 winning percentage projects to a 31-2
record. Denny McLain became the only pitcher to win 30 or more games after
World War II when he went 31-6 for the 1968 Tigers. While the odds against Ubaldo matching those 31 wind are astronomical, it's worth noting that McLain is
also the only pitcher to win more than 28 games after World War II and the only
pitcher to win more than 27 games since Robin Roberts went 28-7 for the 1952
Phillies. There have been only 24 instances of a pitcher winning 25 or
more games in a single season since 1946 and only one in the past 30 years (Bob
Welch, 1990). The only pitcher in baseball history to win 25 games while
pitching fewer than 35 games was Bill Donovan, who went 25-4 for the 1907
So if Ubaldo Jimenez can just win 12 of his next 20 starts, he will finish
the season with 25 victories and join a very select group of players. Of
course, Bill Donovan, Bob Welch, and Denny McLain aren't exactly Hall of Fame
pitchers. Fortunately, Ubaldo J has more to hang his hat upon than gaudy
win totals. His 1.15 ERA, for instance.
Who are the only three starting pitchers to post a sub-2.00 ERA in a DH league?|
(Scroll down for answer)
That number instantly conjures comparisons with Bob Gibson's 1968 season, in
which the Hall of Fame pitcher managed a 1.12 ERA for the Redbirds. There
have, in fact, been only 22 instances of a pitcher finishing the season with a
sub-2.00 ERA while qualifying for the ERA title in the past 90 years.
The number of pitchers with a sub-2.00 ERA through June 17 is quite a bit
higher, of course (Dan Haren had a sub-2.00 ERA on July 18 of last year, but
finished with an ERA over 3.00). In fact, we have three pitchers
doing just that this season, with Jaime Garcia (1.59) and Josh Johnson (1.86)
joining Mr. Jimenez. But this article isn't only about Jimenez because Ubaldo is a much cooler name than Jaime or Josh is. Ubaldo is superior in
that he has not allowed an unearned run all season (Johnson has two and Garcia
has four). Plus, there is the little matter of Jimenez having made five of
his 14 starts in the best ballpark for hitters since Baker Bowl.
Granted, Coors Field does not favor hitters as much as it did before the
Rockies amped up their humidor usage in 2006. But Denver's ballpark was
still the best one in the majors for hitters between 2006 and 2009 and currently ranks second
behind Yankee Stadium Mark III for 2010. Baseball-Reference.com puts
Ubaldo's league and park adjusted ERA (ERA+) at 393. For comparison's
sake, Josh Johnson has an ERA+ at 225 and Jamie Garcia comes in at 256.
Gibson's ERA+ in 1968 was 258. No one has ever qualified for an ERA title
and managed an ERA+ over 300 that season.
Now the matter of Jimenez having only made 36% of his starts this season at
home does need to be addressed; obviously, we would expect that number to be
50%. Ubaldo detractors (you know who you are) will mention that Jimenez'
strikeout, walk, and groundball rates are nearly identical to the ones he posted
last season, but that fewer hits are falling in (or in the case of this extreme
groundball pitcher, rolling in). It could well be that once Jimenez starts
evening out his home/road starts, the hit rate will be closer to the 7.6 per
nine innings he averaged last year than the 5.8 he has averaged this season.
Over the course of his career, however, Jimenez' hits per nine have been
nearly identical at Coors as it has on the road. His ERA at home has
actually been better and his winning percentage at home has been drastically
better (.657 to .553) due to all of the extra run support he gets from his
teammates. Because Jimenez gets so many of his outs on the ground, the
thin air and spacious dimensions of Coors Field don't harm Jimenez the way they
do the average pitcher. If Jimenez plays more games at home than on the
road the rest of the way, it probably won't hurt his ERA, and it will almost
certainly help his quest to become the first pitcher in 30 years to win 25
The scarcity of homers that Jimenez has allowed at Coors is staggering.
Last year, there was a home run hit every 32 at-bats at Coors Field, but Jimenez
allowed one once every 54 at-bats there. This year, he's allowed two
homers in 120 at-bats at Coors, or one out of every 60. Those homers were
surrendered to Adam Dunn, who is one shy of the National League home run lead
and who has averaged 41 dingers per season from 2004-2009, and Aaron Hill, who led
all of baseball's second baseman with 36 homers last year and who has hit another
nine so far this season. Usually, anyone can hit a fluke homer in Coors
Field. Against Ubaldo, you need to be one of the best power hitters in the
Ron Guidry (1978), Roger Clemens (1990), and Pedro Martinez
Ubaldo Jimenez is no fluke. He battled back from control problems last
April to go 14-8 with a 3.05 ERA through the final 28 starts of 2009. At
26-years old, it is safe to say that Jimenez is still improving. No, he's
not going to finish the season with 31 wins, a 1.15 ERA, and a 393 ERA+, but
even if he finishes with 25 wins, a 1.50 ERA, and a 300 ERA+, this would still rank
as one of the top pitching seasons of all-time, and arguably the very best ever.
Keep watching Ubaldo Jimenez this season, because we may be witnessing
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.