Ubaldo Jimenez – An Outlier Impostor?

If you had told this Colorado Rockies fan ten years ago that our team would have a pitcher who could possibly start the All-Star Game and then possibly win a Cy Young, then this fan would either say you were crazy from lack of oxygen or that the Rockies had moved to another city.  I don’t pretend that our team is the center of the baseball world; rather I know the Colorado Rockies are stuck in no man’s land.  We are neither East Coast nor West Coast.  Our team is rarely seen and our players simply don’t get the respect they deserve due to the Nintendo Ball that was played here in the 90s.  Why do I bother with such an introduction?

Well I think this explains the case of Ubaldo Jimenez.  On April 17, Jimenez became the first player in franchise history to throw a no-hitter.   Jimenez’s story was a feel good moment for the Colorado Rockies.  Jimenez is a nice kid, with a fast ball like no other, pitching for a team where pitchers go to die.  The media gave him his due and moved on to Braden’s perfect game.  But this was only the beginning and Jimenez has since then rattled off ten more wins.  At 13-1, he has done something only two other pitchers can claim to have done in MLB history.

Sometimes though I don’t think unknown early season player performances fit well with the baseball media establishment.  This was supposed to be the year Roy Halladay was going to sweep into the NL and blow batter’s away.  So then what tends to happen to these player performances?  Articles start to sprout up trying to tear down what they have done up to this point.  These articles claim that Jimenez is simply lucky, that it is all a smokescreen, and that eventually the stats will catch up and he will be revealed as an imposter.  That is the funny thing about stats, when the outlier shows up, the men behind the numbers rationalize away the beauty of baseball, and either discount the player or the situation.  The all telling models have become so complex that these outliers just shouldn’t exist.

It should be noted that this article is in no way a complaint about the new generation of stats.  I love them.  I love that the history of baseball is the statistical record.  What I don’t like is when stats are used to manipulate the reader into dismissing great performances.  What Jimenez has done to start 2010 has been simply amazing.  For comparison’s stake let’s look at how Jimenez’s stack up compared to 1968 Gibson’s season and 1986 Clemens’ season.

IP H H / 9 R BB SO K / BB HR BF AB 2B 3B GDP BABIP
2010 Jimenez 101 65 5.8 13 36 88 2.4 3 385 344 18 2 14 0.245
1968 Gibson 124 77 5.6 23 28 92 3.3 5 473 434 9 0 7 0.213
1986 Clemens 115 75 5.9 30 29 114 3.9 11 450 420 15 0 3 0.217

Jimenez stats are pretty comparable to some great pitching performances.  In addition to above, batters are hitting 0.189 against Jimenez (Gibson at 0.177 and Clemens at 0.175).  Of the 385 batters Jimenez has faced only 56 have gotten to a full count.  He has faced 75 batters with runners in scoring position and they are batting 0.147.

The telling stat for the home team is that he has won 13 of the 36 Rockies victories and ten of wins have come after Rockies losses.  Regardless of any stat a pitcher’s job is to put his team in the position to win.  How the pitcher gets there is some crafty pitching, some luck, and timely hitting by your side.  Baseball is a long season and time will tell whether these numbers will hold up.  I think Jimenez will probably hit a rough patch in July and August.  The team behind him is in disarray.  Scoring runs has been the Rockies Achilles heel not to mention an on and off again bullpen.  His innings pitched has raised a few eyebrows for a player with less than 100 major league starts (compared to Gibson’s 300 starts in 1968 but only 50 starts for Clemens in 1986).  And finally tracking the running average through his 14 starts of batting average on balls in play (BABIP) suggest that, through ten games Jimenez was walking with Gods, he has since then started to regress to his mean.

BABIP

Heralding a particular player at this point in the season as the greatest is a bit premature.  Although as a Rockies fan I am rooting for the franchise’s first 20-game winner!  Additionally if at this point in the season I needed one win, then Jimenez would be on the rubber.  His season so far stacks up pretty well with two of greats – Gibson and Clemens.



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jaybow
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jaybow

So then what tends to happen to these player performances? The numbers start to pull themselves back to the middle, such as tonight.

Though he is still a gem to watch pitch.

PL
Guest
PL

Who is this “Clemons”?

Paul
Guest
Paul

Wow, I never realized how lucky Bob Gibson was.

A DC Wonk
Guest
A DC Wonk

On my ESPN iPhone app, the following factoid appeared this morning:

Jimenez has has many road wins (8) as the Orioles.

Phil
Guest
Phil

when he faces the big boy league he gets rocked by the likes of independent league player Daniel Nava and AAA veteran Darnell McDonald.

philosofool
Member
Member

Nice article. Good read, even if I disagree on some points. (BTW, you probably don’t want to comp Jimenez to guys with 3+ K/BB ratios.)

Resolution
Guest
Resolution

This is definitely fudging the numbers a bit, and you can do this with any pitcher to make them look great – buuuuuuuuut if you take out that rainy start where Jimenez walked 5, and his no-hitter where he walked 6, his k/bb ratio becomes 3.28.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

This is definitely fudging the numbers a bit, and you can do this with any pitcher to make them look great – buuuuuuuuut if you take out that rainy start where Jimenez walked 5, and his no-hitter where he walked 6, his k/bb ratio becomes 3.28.

Wouldn’t removing his 2 worst starts (in terms of walks) out of 15, be a huge “fudging of the numbers”?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Sorry, I misread what you were saying.

PurpleRox
Guest
PurpleRox

Thanks for the comments. Oops my wife’s nephew last name is clemons ; ). After U-Balls performance on Wednesday, he is really trending back to his mean. Based on philosofool’s comments I really think that Jimenez inability to maintain his level of performance is his strike out ratio. Having the ability to strike out anyone at anytime is really a difference maker and probably why Gibson and Clemens had the ability to maintain outlier seasons!

Resolution
Guest
Resolution

You know, my homerism aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ubaldo’s strikeout rate improves as the season wears on. I feel like its not too uncommon for strikeout pitchers to post better k/9’s as the season progresses. Additionally, 1. Ubaldo has sported an improved k/9 rate during the second half of the season the past two years running and 2. goddamn he really has nasty, nasty stuff.

Also, the reason I brought up the comment earlier where I took out his two worst starts in terms of walks was not to cherry pick (although that’s ultimately what it was I suppose) but rather to bring up the notion that Ubaldo’s made some serious improvements in control and it will be interesting to see at the end of the season if those two starts are outliers and if they are, by how much. If it turns out they are outliers, then we can expect a pretty low bb rate from here on out (with those two starts removed, his bb/9 is 2.44!)

So while I agree that his current pace is unsustainable and his BABIP and HR rate will eventually rise, I don’t think it would be too crazy if his walks decrease and his strikeouts increase, thus offsetting some of the regression occurring elsewhere…

Ed Nelson
Guest
Ed Nelson

This is just another one of those cases where we are finding that the new advanced stats are still in their infancy. Maybe Gibson, Clemens, and Jimenez are lucky, or maybe we just haven’t found a way to measure how and why they are doing what they do (did). PECOTA was always very proud of their measurements and predictive analysis, but this year they unveil SIERRA and now it’s all about how poorly they were predicting, and how much better the new system is. Until they come up with something new…

Will
Guest
Will

One thing that’s missing is gb data. My guess is players like Gibson and Clemens also posted some great gb numbers, making them a little less lucky. I know jmenez is great at inducing gb, which shows that hr rate might not regress as some would think

redsock
Guest

I’m curious why Clemens’s 1986 season was included. It was good, but his ERA+ of 169 is no great shakes all-time season wise (tied for 172nd place). Plus, he had seven other seasons that topped 169.

(Gibson’s 1968 ERA+ is #7.)

PurpleRox
Guest
PurpleRox

Clemens was included because he had been the last pitcher to win 13 games through 14 played. Believe only Lefty Grove had done a similar feat so decided to go with a more current comparison. Gibson was chosen because of his low season ERA that year. These two pitchers were the most referenced in most articles describing Jimenez fantastic start, both in games won and low ERA (at least through 14 games!).

Amadayuice
Guest
Amadayuice

So, how’s it going?

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

This is still the year of Halladay. Last time I checked, he leadsd the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games, second in ERA and third in WHIP. Or Wainwright… Jimenez isn’t the Cy-Young, cause he

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

This is still the year of Halladay. Last time I checked, he leadsd the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games, second in ERA and third in WHIP. Or Wainwright… Jimenez isn’t the Cy-Young, cause he’s not even pitching for a playoff contender.

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