Key Stats: It isn’t hard to paint a bleak picture of Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2011 season. ERA up by 1.80. WHIP up by 0.25. Wins down 9. Strikeouts down 34. Innings down 33.1. Looking at it through this lens it is depressing. Combine the numbers with the hype element though and it makes Jimenez even worse. He was the guy that started the All-Star game in 2010. He was the headline trade rumor player during the season for a period of about one month, and was eventually moved to Cleveland where he was expected to put the Indians over the top in the central. He failed most in his first four starts after the trade (when everyone is most interested to see his impact) and the Indians watched the Tigers in October.
What all of this has done however is cause Jimenez to be ranked way lower than he really should be. He wasn’t that much different from the pitcher he was in 2010. The ERA might have been up by 1.80, but the xFIP increased by only 0.11. The WHIP rose, but the BB/9 actually dropped. The strikeouts overall were down, but the K/9 hardly moved. Jimenez is not an all-star starter by any means (he was very lucky during that first half by any standard), but he is a safe pick for strikeouts, innings, and several gems per year.
Skeptics Say: One thing that can’t be argued in Jimenez’s favor is the lower win total. Jimenez had the 17th best run support in baseball last year and had the 45th best run support in 2010 when he won 19 games. Let’s also keep in mind that despite having a slightly lower BB/9 last year the WHIP rose for a reason. That reason is of course because he gave up more hits. Jimenez’s fastball velocity which has been tops in the league in years past was down 2.5 MPH last year. That has been his best pitch in the past, but was not last year. It’s worth watching how hard he is throwing in Spring Training when evaluating where to take him.
Peer Comparison: Jimenez was just one of several pitchers to take a major dive from the player he was in 2010. Here is a list of some of the major players that fell by more than 100 spots in the Yahoo player rater who were relevant in 2010:
If you look at this list, players can be put in two major categories. Injuries (Oswalt, Liriano, Johnson, Wainwright, Buchholz, and possbily Carpenter) and unproven beyond one great year (Scherzer, Hughes, Cahill, Garcia, Latos). It’s possible you could put Jimenez in both categories. The dip in fastball velocity is likely correlated with some injury that he was pitching through. I find it highly unlikely that a 27-year-old loses a step. And we also need to consider that Jimenez just had one great year. Not 2010, but the second half of 2009 through the first half of 2010. The stat and luck gods were on his side for a while.
In either case, whether it is injury or potential fluke, none of these players are going to be dismissed in drafts in 2012. The same can be said for Jimenez. Forecasting where they should be taken is next to impossible because for each player the interpretations of their good and bad seasons can be taken apart a different way.
Team Outlook: The Indians signed Grady Sizemore this offseason which doesn’t mean a whole lot given the player he hasn’t been since 2008. Up the middle, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis (small sample size) both had a negative UZR which doesn’t bode well for Jimenez who gets his fair share of groundballs. A healthy Shin-Soo Choo will help the offense which was middle of the road (16th in runs) last season.
Projection: The ERA won’t go down by 1.80 this season, but even if he gets back half of what he lost on that total, the consistent strikeouts make him worth a grab right around the 130th selection.
14 wins 3.63 ERA 1.32 WHIP 194 K in 198 innings