August 16, 2014

Ubaldo Jimenez and Anger Management

Ubaldo Jimenez, I argue, is the most frustrating starting pitcher in Major League Baseball to have on your team. Notice I didn’t say he’s the worst starter or the most ineffective. Jimenez has a lot of pitches with good movement and at one time, he was undoubtedly an ace. That, however, is not the case anymore. Instead, he’s effectively the Indians’ fifth starter, and he’s failing to keep his team in the game and taxing the bullpen. That was exactly the case in last night’s 7-5 defeat as the Red Sox repeatedly put him up against the ropes in tiny Fenway and eventually sent him to the canvas.

There are certain things that you just can’t do if you want to be an effective starter at the major league level. You can’t fall behind in the count, walk more people than you strike out, give up crooked numbers in more than one inning, and run up your pitch count to 100 before the fifth inning. Ubaldo does all of these things, repeatedly. He did them all last night too (except the pitches – 99 in less than five innings). Falling behind in counts and his walks make the hits he does relinquish lethal. Whereas guys like Derek Lowe can gut themselves through a performance where they aren’t sharp, Jimenez is utterly unable to do such a thing. Minimizing damage is not in his vocabulary.

Ubaldo started off with a strikeout of Sweeney where he stayed ahead in the count, and then he was ahead 0-2 on Pedroia. From there, it was a single to Pedroia, an Ortiz walk, a Gonzalez hit by pitch, and a two-run double to Middlebrooks, followed by a Ross walk. In between that, he did manage to strike out the side with Sweeney, Nava, and Saltalamacchia. It was two runs given up and 30 pitches thrown. If that’s the one bad inning and he settles on from there, that’s fine and the Indians stay in the game. But, there were additional big Red Sox innings to come.

The Red Sox started inning two with three straight hits from Punto, Sweeney, and Pedroia (a two-run double). They all hit fastballs and sent them into to the outfield. Jimenez had very little command of that fastball. They were either making solid contact and putting it in play, fouling it off, or it was so far outside of the strike zone, they were laying off of it. When Jimenez is struggling, you could go innings without seeing a swing and miss. As Jon pointed out via ESPN’s David Schoenfield on Twitter the other day, the lack of strikeouts has been a team problem.

The final of the three offending innings for Jimenez was the fifth, which he was unable to finish. A leadoff walk, two more hits, and a fielder’s choice where the Indians got no one (Note: the umpire blew the call, Kipnis was on the bag at first and the throw beat the runner) had chased Ubaldo from the game. Dan Wheeler had let in one of the inherited runners, and the line was closed. Seven runs (all earned). Nine hits. Five walks. Four strikeouts (just one after the first). 99 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. Three crooked number innings for the Red Sox. When you turn it over to your offense in the bottom of the fifth inning down 7-1, you’ve failed as a starting pitcher. The Indians are a late inning team, we’ve seen this repeatedly in the past two seasons. If the starter keeps them in the game, the offense and the bullpen can pull a good chunk of games into the win column.

Clay Buchholz, who has struggled mightily this season, minimized damage like a pro in the first inning, giving up just one run after loading the bases with two down. Actually, he had runners on nearly every single inning, but he didn’t let the Tribe capitalize. The Indians had a threat in the second going, but that was ended by a Kipnis single to left where Daniel Nava threw out Jack Hannahan at the plate with a perfect throw and an outstanding block of the plate by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Hannahan beat the throw, but was unable to touch the plate, and third base coach Steve Smith was tossed for his reaction at the out call. Tribe skipper Manny Acta handled the third base coaching duties for the remainder of the game.

Cleveland did in fact get the bats going in the seventh inning with a RBI walk with the bases loaded walk for Hafner, Santana reaching base on an error, and Brantley adding a two-out RBI single. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep the good inning rolling as Casey Kotchman ended the threat with a groundout to first. The Wahoos got two extra outs in the eighth and still left runners stranded at third and second. In the ninth, they got one run off closer Alfredo Aceves, but they once again left two runners stranded in scoring position to end the game. Fourteen Indian runners were left on base in all. That included seven runners in the final three innings, with six of those in scoring position.

Back to Jimenez for a moment. The most irritating aspect of it all is that when Ubaldo does have control, he is nearly unhittable. We’ve seen the glimpses, including his first start against Toronto and last start against Texas. He can be brilliant at times, but those instances are not enough when they are as frequent as the beatings sustained tonight and in Chicago on the first of May. I’m done thinking Ubaldo Jimenez is a number one starter. Heck, I’m done thinking that he’ll ever consistently be what he was. At this point, I’d settle for him not being a sore thumb on a team that’s got a lot of good going on right about now. To win this division, the Indians are likely going to need Ubaldo to stop pitching like a number five and at least carry himself like an average third or fourth starter. Is that too much to ask from a guy for whom we gave up our two best pitching prospects? I certainly don’t think so.

The Tribe and Red Sox meet for the third time tonight at 7:05 with Josh Tomlin facing lefty Felix Doubront. With three bullpen mafia members having thrown 37+ pitches in the last 48 hours (Pestano Thursday plus Wheeler and Sipp last night), the team really needs a good one from Tomlin.

(Photo: Charles Krupa/AP)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So much for that joy of the series opening victory.  Jimenez appears to be another starting pitcher with a head case or at least horrendus control.  It’s a head shaker to say the least.

  • TNB

    Lets be honest, the Ubaldo Jiminez dislike/hate-train really is overpowering the discussion here. Quite frankly, its a little unwarranted.
     
    Dont get me wrong, is Ubaldo pitching like the Ace he should be? No, absolutely not, but its really honestly like nobody wants to actually see the guy pitch well, like we know he can and has done, if sporadicly, but it really seems that the expectations for Ubaldo are monsterous. Like if he doesnt have a sub 2 ERA and doesnt throw 8 innings a game he’s a ‘bust’. We’ve had other pitchers, like Masterson even, struggle this season, yet theres no active campagin against them, its more often than not the opposite. ‘Oh, it was the bad weather.’ ‘It was just one of those games.’ Theres no comments like that when Ubaldo is on the mound.

    Ubaldo was one of the leagues better pitchers, and to do so in such a hitter friendly park like Coors is a credit to his name. Yet, from the get go, people were instantly sour on him because we gave up two ‘prospects’. Lets not forget that people like Aaron Laffey and David Huff. Aaron Laffey was once considered a ‘top 10′ prospect for the indians. Huff was also similarly ranked.Those are not pitchers that we’re all shouting to the heavens to have right now

     If I’m in the war room and I have that trade on the table, with this team and this division as it is, I’ll make that trade in a heartbeat every time. Does this team need Ubaldo to be better than he has been? Yes. Don’t confuse this for me trying to argue for a free pass for the man, but the cynicism of Cleveland fans continues to beat proudly in their chests. Ubaldo is a dominant pitcher, and perhaps the calling of the game when he is on the mound needs to change, or something, but we know what he’s capable of because hes shown it.

  • TwelveInchFinch

    I dont understand why people are so confused as to why he sucks when the evidence clearly shows that he just sucks.  He was decent, then hot for the first half of ’10 but has sucked since.  I said he was going to be garbage when they traded for him, it wasnt really hard to predict

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t think I’d go as far as hate. well for the rationale sports people here, but Jimenez is definitely an unknown right now.  You never know which guy is going to show up to pitch.  His inconsistency is very troubling.  The Indians are built around their pitching and need Jimenez to provide something.

    All that aside I wasn’t against the trade that brought him here.  I’m one of those people who would rather have a proactive FO that makes moves and takes chances as opposed to one that just sits there waiting which leads to a strategy of reacting (cough Cleveland hack Browns).  I’m still not sold on Pomeranz and White being anything more then ordinary it’s just unfortunate that Jimenez hasn’t performed better thus far. 

  • ClemJax

    The first inning last night put him solidly in the “head case” category for me. He came out, looked like he was dealing,  made a perfect strike 3 pitch to Pedroia that he basically threw the bat at to get the hit. When Cabrera just missed getting Pedroia at first, Ubaldo’s body language just scream “aw, CRAP” and it was over.

    When he’s on, and when the guys in the field are making the plays and bailing him out, he’s in great shape. But he’s getting to the point that it’s too easy for one goofy play to get into his head, and he just shuts down. Don’t care what Acta said after the game, you never know when “Head-Case Jimenez” is going to put in an appearance.

    Hey…Head-Case Jimenez. I kinda like way that rolls of the tongue. I might need to keep that one around a while…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Your welcome!

  • erchoov

    Huff and Laffey were nowhere near the potential grade of Pomeranz and White. I’m not saying they’re going to be amazing because there are no guarentees in baseball, but Pomeranz and White were top 50 prospects in baseball. 

    I’m not really sure how you can call Ubaldo a dominant pitcher either.  There’s no sugar-coating it, he’s been terrible.  He’s like a human train wreck.  Even his good starts look kind of shaky.  It’s not Ubaldo’s fault we gave up so much for him, that’s on the front office.  Somebody didn’t do their homework when evaluating why his velocity was down, why his WHIP was up and if the guy is mentally all there.  When you give up that much, the fans expect an ace.  On paper, we gave up way more for him then what we got for Cliff Lee.

    I have no problem with going “all in” when the opportunity presents itself.  I thought last year was a little too soon and I would have liked to see what Pomeranz was capable of before trading him for a struggling pitcher.  What’s done is done and like everyone else on here, I hope he turns it around and becomes at least servicable. 

  • Wheel

    I live in Denver, so am familiar with the frustrations of watching Jiminez.  Why do you think the Rockies snookered the Indians into this trade?  I’m tired of reading how Jiminez was once one of the better pitchers in the league. Simply untrue. He had an incredible first half 2010, then went back to the pitcher he was before – and the pitcher we see today with the Indians.  Indian front office arrogance let them to believe they could ‘correct’ Jiminez’s mechanics.  It’s time to put him in the bullpen or send him to the minors. It is not going to get better.  I’ll take my chances with McAlister or even Hagadone as starters.  

  • Wheel

    Having a great half of one season does not make you one of the league’s better pitchers.  Take away his stats from the first half of 2010 and you have an average to mediocre pitcher.  Remind me not to have you in the war room.

  • Steve

     This is not true, even when we include the issues he had this year. Take away the first half of 2010 (and I don’t even know why we do that) and he has a 4.07 ERA over about 200 IP/year and a 1.95 k/bb. That’s still good for about a ~115 ERA+ considering he pitched in Coors. People, stop with the ridiculously incorrect assertion that he had half a good season. It’s not true. Thanks TD!

  • Steve

     The pitcher he was before was just your regular staff ace, not Pedro Martinez, and certainly not the pitcher we see today.

  • Wheel

    My point is that when people think of Ubaldo, they think of the dominant pitcher of the first half of 2010, which we all know is an abheration.  This is the pitcher the Indians had hoped they would get.  Unfortunately, they were wrong. 

  • Wheel

    Also, I consider a pitcher with a career 4.07 era an average to mediocre pitcher. 

  • Wheel

    Whose staff ace?  The Rockies???? If they had considered him a staff ace, they would have offered him a long term contract as they did Tulo and Carlos Gonzales.  And if they considered him their ‘ace’, they wouldn’t have traded him.  O’Dowd saw what the Indians are seeing now and was smart enough to trade him while he had some value.

  • Steve

     The first half of 2010 was Pedro/Gibson type stuff. If you hold pitchers to that standard, you are going to wait a long time to see that again. From 2008-2011, including his time with the Indians, he was a 4 WAR pitcher – thats an ace.

    And a 4.07 ERA when the vast majority of your career is in Coors is very good.

  • Steve

    If you can’t see that what he did was ace-stuff, then I want what you’re drinking. And the Indians gave up ace-type prospects to get him, ranked similarly to deals for previous ace pitchers. Colorado saw they needed to rebuild, and made a deal for prospects.

    You can pretend O’Dowd saw this, a guy with more bb’s than k’s, but you’re wrong. When he came over, he was still throwing 93-94 consistently, with 8 k/9

    I get it, the trade hasn’t worked out so far. But we don’t get to rewrite history.

  • Wheel

    I consider Verlander, Halladay, Kershaw, etc, staff aces, not a guy whose winning percentage is barely .500 and era over 4.00 and rising every day.  Do you play fantasy baseball? If so, I’d like to be in your league.