Seasons like the one Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is currently experiencing don’t happen. In July, the hurler went 20 days without making an appearance after allowing five runs in 1.1 innings of work against the Blue Jays, but stayed on the big league roster. On Monday, he tossed the first complete game by a Baltimore pitcher in nearly two years and did so while throwing eight consecutive no-hit innings to finish the game. That makes no sense.
Box of chocolates
According to Brooks Baseball, Jimenez has used his four-seam fastball as much as 55.24 percent of the time (May 12 vs. Detroit) and as little as two percent of the time (May 28 vs. Cleveland). As you can imagine, that means the usage of his other pitches oscillates a lot as well. Some days he goes with the sinker first. On others, the slider gets a lot of attention. The truth is, you never know what you are going to get with Jimenez.
In April, Jimenez put together four starts and a 3.91 ERA. August was decent too, five appearances (two starts) and a 3.92 ERA. But the middle of the season? Yikes. May: six starts, 8.28 ERA; June: seven appearances (six starts), 7.23 ERA; July: three starts, 10.13 ERA. Most guys don’t survive those haggard dog days of summer.
When he’s good
There have been five starts where Jimenez has walked one or zero batters. In those games, he is 3-2 with a 3.56 ERA. That includes his worst start of the season where he allowed five runs in one-third of an inning. You take that game out and the ERA drops to 2.10. Clearly, when he forces the hitters to earn their way on, he tends to succeed.
The more rest, the better for Jimenez. When he is a part of a normal five-man rotation and pitches on the regular four days rest, the 32-year-old struggles mightily to the tune of a 9.82 ERA. When he gets at least five days in between starts, that ERA deflates to 3.33. Heading into Monday, he had five days after his previous start.
The Orioles are competing for a playoff spot. Right now, they are tied for the second wild card spot with the Tigers. But let’s just say they make it to October and get through to the Division Series. Would Jimenez be the number three starter?
Few would argue that a healthy Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman would be the first two choices. Youngin’ Dylan Bundy has been fantastic as a starter, but he is already at 90.2 innings this year after tossing only 63.1 over the last three years combined. How long is his leash?
Then you have Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley. Boy, oh boy. What options! To be fair, Gallardo has only had one really bad start in the last month and is a safe pick. Need five innings of three-run ball? Gallardo will give it to ya. Miley, on the other hand, has been atrocious (1-4, 7.15 ERA) in seven games with the Birds. Ubaldo surely has to be ahead of him in the pecking order. The fact that there is even a chance Jimenez could make a postseason roster is pretty incredible given his midsummer performance.
One final time
It has been a long and drawn out odyssey with Jimenez since he signed with the Orioles on February 19, 2014. He hasn’t been a good pitcher and was left off the team’s playoff roster two years ago.
This year, he has gone from the rotation to the bullpen a few times. The fans were sick of him months ago. Manager Buck Showalter even hinted that Jimenez’s time may be up back in June. But somehow, someway Jimenez has made it. And with his $13.5 million salary next season, he will be back in Sarasota at Spring Training come February too. But after that, nothing is really guaranteed for him.
So, enjoy Ubaldo’s little run of form now. It probably won’t last, but given the O’s recent record of signing free agent starters, it’s looking unlikely that they drop major dough on another one any time soon. Maybe that’s a good thing after all.