Consensus among Tribe fans seems to be that starting Ubaldo Jimenez has made some strides since his rough stretch at the start of the season, but he’s still a pretty big question mark whenever he takes the mound. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists (featuring guest contributors Craig Lyndall from WaitingForNextYear and Steve Eby from Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): Has Ubaldo Jimenez turned the corner?
Craig Lyndall (WaitingForNextYear): No. Ubaldo will never “turn the corner” because that would mean that he’s gained some permanent level of consistency. I think Ubaldo could find himself in stretches, maybe even long ones, where he is largely effective or even brilliant. The movement on his pitches will always make that a possibility. It is a large part of the reason I bet Chris Antonetti fell in love with the idea of having Ubaldo on the team. Bottom line is that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust that Ubaldo won’t have equal and opposite stretches where he’s putting guys on base and not giving the team a great chance to win.
Steve Eby (Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): There is good news and bad news involving Ubaldo Jimenez. The good news is that Ubaldo is pitching better at this point than he has at any time with the Indians. He has had multiple quality starts and a few that were dominant. He looks like a legitimate Major League pitcher, which is an improvement from what he looked like in May. From that angle, Ubaldo looks like he is turning the corner.
The bad news, unfortunately, is more truth than the good news. Ubaldo is inconsistent. Nobody knows what to expect when it is his turn to start. Not him. Not the Indians. Not the opposition. Not you, me or my dog. He obviously has a great arm and his ball has excellent movement, but he has absolutely no idea where it is going. A lot has been said about his drop in velocity from 2010, but what concerns me the most is his absolute refusal to use his fastball. It seems to me that whenever a big pitch is needed, a breaking ball follows. Until Ubaldo can control his fastball and gain confidence in it, I’m going to have to say, no, he has not turned the corner.
Lewie Pollis: At the risk of sounding simplistic, perhaps the best way to look at Ubaldo Jimenez is through walks and strikeouts. Jimenez has always made his living by missing bats, and his proclivity for racking up strikeouts helped to overshadow (or perhaps even was helped by) his imperfect control. This year, though—and really since he came to Cleveland—he’s gone from “effectively wild” to just plain wild. So any progress he’s made since the start of the year should be reflected in his K’s and BB’s.
Jimenez has given up at least four walks in five of his last six starts. He’s amassed many free passes as strikeouts in almost half of his outings this year (nine of 19), and he’s had a K:BB ratio of over two in just four starts (only 21 percent). So while Jimenez has looked better of late, as long as he misses the strike zone more than he misses opponents’ bats he’s not going to be able to put together any real stretch of solid pitching.
Brian Heise: Has Ubaldo Jimenez turned the corner? I’m going to say he’s in the actual process of making that turn. Despite his troubles to start the season and the overwhelming amount of public outcry against him, Jimenez has turned into a fairly reliable pitcher. Over the first two months he walked more than he struck out (42 walks to 33 strikeouts), a 5.79 ERA, and three starts in which he failed to make it out of the fifth inning. But after June 1, it’s been a completely different Jimenez
Since then he’s flipped his strikeouts to walks (51 strikeouts to only 25 walks), posted an ERA of 4.66, and has regularly pitched into the seventh inning. If you throw out his July 14 disaster in which he gave up eight earned runs in less than three innings (a hiccup in my opinion), his ERA drops to 3.48. Has he been the 2010 version of Ubaldo Jimenez who blew batters away with 100 MPH heaters? No, and he may not ever be that pitcher again, but, he’s shown flashes here and there. From what we’ve seen as of late, Jimenez looks as if he’s slowly regaining that form that made his such a costly addition a year ago.
Steve Kinsella: Ubaldo Jimenez has turned a corner but we just don’t know what road he is now on. My understanding of Jimenez is that he will never be that first-half stud from 2010 but he isn’t the pitcher seen at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012. He is a very talented player and has an arsenal that is difficult to command. He has made mechanical changes that have helped but he still may be struggling to command all of his pitches. Hopefully, the road he is on will lead the Indians to having leads into the 7th inning in nearly every start from here to the end of the season.
Merritt Rohlfing: Let’s think about this: In his last five starts Ubaldo has pitched 28 2/3 innings, giving up 28 hits and 17 runs with 29 strikeouts and 17 walks. Batters have an .844 OPS against him. When he pitches he just loses control of everything at random times, turning four innings of perfect pitching into a five run deficit just like that. So no, I don’t think he’s turned a corner. He’s had a couple good games and just has those lapses during otherwise good outings. He doesn’t lead the American League in walks anymore, so that’s pretty cool.
He’s certainly the most tantalizing pitcher on the roster, leading you on every time out. I’d rather have consistently great, but this is fun, too.