One of the biggest question marks facing the Indians heading into the 2012 season was Ubaldo Jimenez. The man who cost the Tribe Alex White and Drew Pomeranz was unhittable in 2010 but struggled to the tune of a 5.10 ERA with Cleveland last summer. Would he be an ace? A disaster? Something in between?
So far the returns haven’t been good. Jimenez has looked sharp at times and owns a 3-2 record, but his peripheral numbers are down across the board and with 25 walks he’s tied with Justin Masterson for most free passes allowed in all of baseball.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we wanted to get an idea of how Tribe fans feel about Jimenez. With Ubaldo scheduled to take the mound against the Red Sox at Fenway Park tonight, we asked our panelists: How worried are you about Ubaldo Jimenez? Joining our panel this week are SABRTribe‘s David McGarry and The Cleveland Fan‘s (and former Wahoo’s on First contributor) Ed Carroll . Here’s what we all had to say:
David McGarry: Despite many asserting that Jimenez was already on the decline after a “poor” 2011, I believe that he was one of the more consistent pitchers over 2009-2011. Research has shown that peripherals, namely K%, BB% and GB%, are much better predictors for future ERA than ERA itself and all of Jimenez’s peripherals were nearly identically over the previous three seasons, as shown by his xFIP (3.59, 3.60 and 3.77) and SIERA (3.77, 3.68 and 3.74). Reputable projection systems agreed by foretasting a 2012 ERA within the 3.50-3.80 range.
With that said, Jimenez has defied his 2012 projections; he has not been able to locate his pitches, is not inducing many ground-balls and, most importantly, hitters are not swinging and missing at his pitches. At this point in time Jimenez’s performance is concerning, however a 6 game sample size is not large enough to jump to any substantial conclusions about his long-term future. Many pitchers have gone through awful stretches and abruptly bounced back to form (see: CC Sabathia‘s April of 2008) but I personally suspect that Jimenez is currently suffering from a latent injury that is preventing him from performing as well as he has over the past 3 seasons. I would not be surprised to see Jimenez on the DL in the near future and then return to a ~3.70 ERA pitcher once healthy.
Ed Carroll: Yes, I’m worried about Ubaldo Jimenez. Not because I don’t think he can be fixed, but more due to the consequences if he isn’t fixed. To his credit, Jimenez knows he’s been bad (5.02 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 28.2 IP), and says he is working to fix his mechanics. However the Indians don’t have the luxury of letting him fix this on-the-go at the big league level. And while the Indians gave up two highly regarded prospects in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to get Jimenez, that doesn’t mean the Indians shouldn’t consider shelving Jimenez until he gets this figured out, either by placing him on the DL, or if he accepts an assignment to the minors.
There aren’t any surefire fixes for Ubaldo. Nothing the Indians do is guaranteed to work, although the Indians have had some minor success in getting pitchers straightened out in recent years (the former Fausto Carmona, Roberto Hernandez, springs to mind). But in order for the Indians to continue to contend for the AL Central, the Tribe needs a solid #2 starter who can be slotted behind Justin Masterson. And seeing as the Indians already traded the farm for Jimenez, the candidates are all in-house usual suspects, and all rather uninspiring. Kevin Slowey, Zach McAllister, David Huff and Corey Kluber are all in line for spot starts, but none have the track record, or potential, Jimenez has. For better or for worse, Jimenez is the guy. And if the Indians want this season to be successful, they need to get him right.
Lewie Pollis: Six outings isn’t a very big sample size to go off of, especially since we’ve seen a huge range of different results from his starts so far. That said, some of the we’ve seen from Jimenez’ are really quite troubling, and you don’t need to look at his 5.95 SIERA to see that he’s looked a lot worse than his 3-2 record and 4.04 ERA would suggest.
His velocity is down again (Pitchf/x had him losing almost 2 mph on his fastball last year, and he’s suffered a similar drop in 2012), which is especially unfortunate given his trend towards using his changeup as his primary off-speed pitch. He’s struggling to find the plate and he’s not getting batters to chase pitches out of the zone. Twenty strikeouts in 35.2 innings just doesn’t cut it for a pitcher who’s made his living missing bats, and with 25 walks he’s gone from “effectively wild” to just plain wild.
Again it’s a small sample size and I don’t think anyone doubts that Jimenez has the best raw stuff of anyone in the rotation, but something very plainly isn’t right with Ubaldo. I’m not sure what it would take to “fix” him, but until he and Scott Radinsky figure it out we’re in for a wild ride every fifth day.
Geordy Boveroux: I’m teetering on a line between worried and complacent with Ubaldo Jimenez right now. Just when I’m about to give up, he puts forth a solid outing.
Jimenez still walks way too many batters and his strikeout numbers aren’t nearly high enough to make the walks worth it. But at the same time we all know he has the ability. Reports keep coming out that he knows where the mechanical problem is and he’s working on it, but where are the consistent results? This guy will give me a heart attack every time he gets on the mound and whenever he walks off it. Either from pure rage or pure excitement.
Brian Heise: Am I worried about Ubaldo Jimenez? Yes and no. I am from the stand point that the Indians gave up so much to get him and not getting a return on that investment is a serious problem. On the flip side, it’s been such a roller coaster ride that I almost think I’m beyond the point of caring. I know it’s kind of sad but it’s not as if Jimenez was a stud last season and has fallen apart out of nowhere. He’s been showing signs of decline for a while now. I’ve seriously been beaten down watching him throw 95 pitches through 4 innings. Needless to say, my expectations are so low at this point that for me to worry would be a waste of time.
Katie Hendershot: Ubaldo Jimenez has it in him to be a good pitcher; I have no doubt in my mind. His 2010 season wasn’t a fluke, but he’s lost his way. We see flashes of his former self from time to time, but we need to see a lot more of it in order to have confidence in his abilities when he takes the mound.
His first outing of the season was outstanding, and he turned in a pretty good one last Sunday. His walk total is concerning though. He’s having trouble with the strike zone, which his major league-leading walk total (he’s tied for first at 25 with none other than Justin Masterson) is evidence of. That’s something that needs to be addressed.
We need to see consistency from Jimenez. We need to see him have back-to-back good starts. He needs to become a pitcher that we can count on, and right now, he isn’t. I don’t get excited on days he’s going to pitch like when I know Derek Lowe is coming up in the rotation. I used to get excited for Jimenez, but he hasn’t shown us what he showed Colorado in 2010. That does concern me.