Is Ubaldo Jimenez for Real?


MLB Director’s Note:  While I search for a lead writer for this site, Nathaniel Stoltz has agreed to stop by and publish some Rockies content for us.  If you are wondering who Nathaniel is, he is the lead writer of our San Diego Padres site, Chicken Friars and is also on the staff of our general MLB site Call to the Pen.

Yesterday, Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez threw seven scoreless innings (Granted, it was against Houston).

He now has a 0.99 ERA this season.

Is this for real?

Well, let’s look at this on two levels.

First, the more literal: Is Jimenez likely to post a 0.99 ERA all year?

Of course not.

Jimenez’s FIP is 2.72 and his xFIP is 3.51. He’s stranding 90.8% of runners and has just a .225 BABIP. Both marks should normalize.

It’s worth noting, though, that Jimenez has consistently amassed low liner rates in his career, which means his BABIP is due to regress only to the .250-.270 range rather than way up to .300 or so. That makes his tERA (based on batted ball types) lower than the 2.72 FIP.

Jimenez will most likely see a bump in his 2.2% HR/FB ratio, which is why his xFIP is so high.

So, in this sense, no. Ubaldo Jimenez: 0.99 ERA pitcher–not for real.

The second sense to look at the lanky righthander in is a bit more contextual. Okay, he’s probably a 2.5-3.0 ERA pitcher, but what does that mean for him?

Well, Jimenez has seen his velocity slide up to a career high 96.8 mph average on his fastball, which means it’s clearly the best fastball from a starter in the majors. He also has a ridiculously good changeup and two good breaking pitches as well.

And, yeah, his current numbers make him look better than he is, sure, but there’s no doubt that Jimenez is an ace-level pitcher right now. After all, most SPs with sub-3.00 ERAs are just guys who deserve 3.50 ERAs and get lucky for a year. Jimenez is a guy deserving a high-2s ERA getting lucky. He’s certainly an ace.

So there’s no denying that Jimenez has ace stuff and ace numbers overall, so I think it’s time we look at him as one of the premier aces in baseball, right there with Lincecum, Halladay, Sabathia, Verlander, and whoever else people bring up in “best pitcher” discussions.

He may not be as good as he looks, but I’m not sure there’s any better pitcher in baseball right now, regardless of luck.