Ubaldo’s Unimpressive Start

Behind Ubaldo Jimenez‘s eight IP, one run outing, the Colorado Rockies defeated the Minnesota Twins 5-1. As much as an eight inning, one run start can be unimpressive in the major leagues, this was it. Jimenez only struck out four batters while walking two. He allowed eight hits while allowing seven line drives and only inducing two swings and misses.

Not only that, but the Twins lineup today was especially weak by their standards, as Matt Tolbert was in the lineup for Orlando Hudson at second base and Drew Butera was at catcher for Joe Mauer. J.J. Hardy‘s continued absence forced Nick Punto to move over to SS and rookie Danny Valencia to start at third base. The loss of Mauer, in particular, lowers the lineups average projected wOBA from .344 – well above average – to .329, nearly average.

Given the results from Ubaldo’s start – 4 K, 2 BB, 12 GB, 4 OFB (outfield flies), 7 LD, we would have expected the Twins to score 3.75 runs, based on the average run values used from tRA. That would be 4.22 runs per 9 innings, or 3.88 earned runs per 9 innings. That’s not bad – it’s still well above average, but not what we’d expect from the pitcher who has essentially been crowned King of the World.

It’s starts like these that are the reason that we shouldn’t place Jimenez above such pitchers as Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, both pitchers who have performed at a higher level this season than Jimenez. Lee has a well-documented 15 K/BB, which would easily be the best mark in Major League history. Roy Halladay’s 2.38 ERA is supported by a superior 2.67 FIP, making him the most valuable pitcher in baseball so far.

It’s not like this start is just one isolated incident – see 5/26 vs. ARI – only 3 Ks and 1 BB, or 5/20 vs. HOU – there are times that, despite his ace stuff, he doesn’t quite dominate hitters like his ERA suggests he has.

This isn’t to say that Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t a great pitcher – I believe he’s squarely in the top 10 SPs in the league, if not the top 5. However, today’s start simply wasn’t a top-level start, even though he managed to hold the Twins to one run. We cannot crown him as the greatest pitcher in the league quite yet.



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