Over the past few days, “Ubaldo Jimenez has been lucky” articles have been making the rounds. Matt Swartz penned a great one at Baseball Prospectus. Jack Moore of FanGraphs and Disciples of Uecker called one of Jimenez’s starts “unimpressive”. Joe Sheehan included Jimenez in a list of lucky pitchers in an article for Sports Illustrated.
Yeah, that .239 BABIP doesn’t have staying power, nor does his stranding of over 91 percent of base runners. Neither does the HR/FB rate at 3.8 percent — pitching his home games at Coors Field, no less. If I’m a betting man, I’m with Swartz and Moore and Sheehan — I’m betting on Jimenez regressing to that mean.
Still, Jimenez finds himself in waters charted rarely throughout baseball history. Including Jimenez, only four pitchers since 1980 won 13 games in their teams’ first 66 games according to Baseball Reference.
This is a Phillies blog, so why am I wasting so much time praising Jimenez? In mid-February, I wrote that Roy Halladay has a strong case as a Hall of Famer and that would only be helped by adding some more hardware to his mantle, be it a World Series trophy or MVP award, or a Cy Young award. Halladay, with a 2.36 ERA, has five complete games and three shut-outs including a perfect game to his credit in 2010. He is expected to be a heavy contender for the NL Cy Young award, awarded during the off-season. No other pitcher in baseball has compiled more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) than Halladay. Not even Jimenez.
I don’t write this to say that Jimenez is going to impede Halladay’s progress as a Hall of Famer — that would be ridiculous — but to highlight the one clear and present threat to some end-of-season hardware for Doc. We all want Doc to get his mitts on that hardware, right?
Jimenez currently has a 1.15 ERA and is on pace to accrue 248 and one-third innings by season’s end. That means he is on pace to hurl another 147 and one-third innings. In order for his ERA to cross the 2.00 threshold, Jimenez would have to allow 43 runs over those 147.3 innings (2.63 ERA). To cross the 3.00 threshold, Jimenez would have to allow 70 runs (4.27 ERA).
Halladay currently has a 2.36 ERA and is on pace to accrue 271 innings by season’s end, meaning he is on pace to hurl another 164 innings. Let’s say Jimenez finishes with a 2.00 ERA. Halladay would have to allow 32 runs in his next 164 innings (1.76 ERA) to match Jimenez. If Jimenez finishes at 3.00, Halladay would have to allow 62 runs in 164 innings (3.41 ERA) to match him.
By Sabermetric accounts, Halladay has thus far been the better pitcher. His 3.04 SIERA is vastly superior to Jimenez’s 3.47. Of course, we know that these awards are not dictated by Sabermetric merits but by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America who are tickled pink by won-lost records and earned run average. With Jimenez at 13-1 and Halladay at 8-5, if Doc wants to win the NL Cy Young award, not only is he going to have to pitch lights-out baseball (and that is certainly not an impossible task given his pedigree) but he is going to have to hope Jimenez falls off the proverbial cliff.