How good is Ubaldo Jimenez?

I will have more in-depth thoughts later on the Orioles pitching situation with the Yoon signing official and Ubaldo Jimenez pending a physical, but I want to quickly address a criticism of the Ubaldo Jimenez agreed upon deal from Matt Snyder at CBS Sports. Snyder’s main point of contention is that Jimenez’s run as a good pitcher has come in “not even one full season” worth of starts during a time period that stretches all the way from 2010 to the end of 2013.

So, essentially, what we’re looking at with Jimenez is a pitcher who was lights out for 14 starts in 2010 and great for 12 starts to finish the 2013 season. Put those together and it’s not even one full season. And otherwise, in the past four years, Jimenez has been anywhere from relatively average to downright dreadful.
— Matt Snyder, CBS Sports

That is a stretch at best and downright inaccurate at the worst.

* In 2009, Jimenez struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings, had a manageable 2.33 SO/BB rate, and ended up with a 3.47 ERA while pitching his home games in Coors Field.  Throw out a rough April (more of that to come) and Ubaldo was very, very good the entire season.  Yes, 2009 was a while ago but Snyder’s stance that Jimenez has only had one full season worth of good starts (combined by two separate stretches in 2010 and 2013, respectively) is blatantly false.  For the record, Ubaldo also put up an ERA+ of 112 and 118 in 2007 and 2008, respectively, which further chips away at the notion that he has only been good for two 15 game stretches during his career.

*More from Snyder: 

Even in that magical 2010 season — in which he started the All-Star Game and finished third in Cy Young voting — Jimenez wasn’t great for the entire season. In his last 19 starts — more than half a season! — Jimenez was 6-7 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.
— Matt Snyder, CBS Sports

Allow me to re-write this.

In that magical 2010 season -- in which he started the All-Star Game and finished third in Cy Young voting -- Jimenez was great for most of the season. Removing a rough stretch for the entire months June and July, in his 23 other starts - - more than two-thirds of a season! - - Jimenez was 13-7 with a 2.02 ERA and 1.061 WHIP.

That paints a different picture of Ubaldo’s 2010 season, doesn’t it?  And mine is the one with the larger sample size to boot.  That was fun, so let me beat this horse dead and try one more rewrite:

In that magical 2010 season -- in which he started the All-Star Game and finished third in Cy Young voting -- Jimenez was great for most of the season. Removing a rough stretch in July, in his other 28 starts - - nearly a full season!- - Jimenez was 17-7 with a 2.43 ERA and 1.128 WHIP.

You get the point.  To act like Jimenez only had a half of a good season in 2010 is just not correct.  Snyder cherry picked two bad starts at the end of June and Ubaldo’s rough July, threw in his good starts in August and September to increase the sample size, and claimed that Jimenez was not good for 19 starts.  The reality is that he was very good he entire 2010 season save for five July outings (two of which he still won).  There is picking out some stats and monthly stats to make a point, then there is bending and twisting the information into a pretzel into a contrived and inaccurate argument. Snyder seems to be doing the later when it comes to Jimenez’s 2010 campaign.

*  Ubaldo had a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts with the Rockies in 2011 before being dealt at the deadline to the Indians.  That was good for a 102 ERA+ making him about a league average starter for 2/3’s of the season.  Was it great?  Of course not.  I would stop short of calling that stretch terrible, however.  Curiously, Ubaldo’s underlying statistics during that time (K/9 IP, BB/9 IP) were almost identical to his 2010 and 2009 stats and the stats he would put up down the stretch in Cleveland.  The ERA was the only thing that changed.  Well, that and ISO – when Jimenez struggles, it is his largely because teams starting hitting him hard for extra bases and the ISO balloons.

 Ubaldo Jimenez is not the picture of consistency, but he has been good far more than he has been bad during his 7+ season Major League career, including a very good 2013 campaign that likely resulted from small mechanical changes made to his delivery.

Ubaldo Jimenez is not the picture of consistency, but he has been good far more than he has been bad during his 7+ season Major League career, including a very good 2013 campaign that likely resulted from small mechanical changes made to his delivery.

* You will get no argument from me that Jimenez was a bad starter for the last 11 starts of 2011 and through 2012.  The walks skyrocketed in 2012 but the problem of opponents hitting for power off of him (.179 ISO compared to career .130 ISO) was also a factor.  I would have to look into it more, but I would hypothesize that his command and control were gone in 2012 (an odd delivery can do that) so he was missing the plate a lot of the times and when he was throwing it over, he wasn’t locating.

*  More from Mr. Snyder: 

Yes, Jimenez was outstanding in his last 12 starts last year . . .
— Matt Snyder, CBS Sports

Whereas with 2010 Snyder broadened his sample size because he knew he could do that and the end result would still looking bad (since July was such a bad month for Ubaldo that year) here he compressed his sample size to try to diminish Ubaldo’s good 2013 season.  Jimenez was great in his final 2012 starts.  He was also very good after a terrible April (7.13 ERA and a 1.46 SO/BB rate).  After April, over 27 starts Ubaldo had a 2.74 ERA with 10.0 K/9 IP and a 2.61 K/BB rate.  This wasn’t just a lucky run either.  According to Keith Law (Insider only), the Indians worked with Jimenez to make adjustments to his motion that caused his velocity to tick up, his command & control to improve, and for the K’s to go up significantly. It really paid off late in the season, but the impact was already apparent in some mid-season starts.

For whatever it is worth, I could have left out Jimenez’s okay month of May last year (4.23 ERA) but didn’t want to distort things too much.  April has been a trouble month for the righty, who has a career 4.98 ERA in 27 April starts.  Perhaps he is just a slow starter.

As you can see, one can look at Ubaldo’s career in a different way and it can come out looking far more positive.  Yes, I still manipulated the statistics like Snyder did in his article, but I used the larger sample sizes in every case which is the more accurate (and non-misleading) thing to do.  What that shows us is that from his debut in 2007 through the 2010 season, Jimenez was a well above average pitcher.  He was an average pitcher with Colorado in 2011 and bad for the Indians at the end of 2011 and in 2012.  He had a rough April in 2013 before churning out well-above average performance the rest of the way.

Whereas Matt Snyder sees a pitcher who was only good for less than a full season’s worth of starts during a 7+ year major league career, I see a pitcher who has been average or (usually) well above for all but a nine month stretch of starts from the second half of 2011 through April 2013. We both choose our own beginning and end points to state our cases and thus the truth is somewhere in between.  Ubaldo is not as bad of a pitcher as Snyder’s data would lead you to believe, nor has he been as good as you would be lead to believe if you left out Jimenez’s August 2011 through April 2013 performance. He is somewhere in between which is the whole reason why we should look at full career stats in the first place.  Jimenez has been a 112 ERA+ pitcher with control issues (4.0 BB/9 IP) and a somewhat inconsistent career on a season by season (or sometimes month by month) basis.  At the end of the day though, he has been better more often than he has been bad, unless of course one completely manipulates his statistics to make the opposite point.

The Orioles should expect to be getting that sort of pitcher at least (some inconsistency but likely an above average major league pitcher by the end of the season) and I got to think they are okay with that, especially given the relatively favorable contract terms.  What they should not be expecting to get is a pitcher who has only had one good full seasons worth of starts.  That pitcher certainly exists, but it is not Ubaldo Jimenez.  Don’t let Matt Snyder or anyone else tell you otherwise.