Describing a year pitched by Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t exactly something you can summarize succinctly. Seemingly every season throughout his career, there’s been a unique storyline that has emerged and placed a stamp of strangeness on that particular year. It’s not exactly the way every Major League pitcher does it, but the Ubaldo way has been simple: it’s never a predictable ride.
Though if there was any year in his career that falls under the predictable category, it might just be 2017. Following a season in 2016 that saw a basic idea emerge — there wasn’t much gas left in the tank — it was easy to call this year one that was set to disappoint. It’s not what we wanted to think, but inevitable it was.
Month-by-month, general overview
Well, the general overview of Ubaldo’s season is quite simple. It didn’t go well.
Over 142.2 innings pitched, mostly as a starter, he allowed 169 hits and was hit around to the tune of a 6.81 ERA. Combine that with a WHIP of 1.59 and you have one of the worst seasons by an Orioles starting pitcher in recent memory. Think about it — that’s 108 earned runs in 142.2 innings. All it takes is one look at the opposition’s .291 average against to tell you just what kind of year it was for Ubaldo.
The month-by-month breakdown doesn’t provide much encouragement either:
April: 23 innings, 7.43 ERA
May: 25.2 innings, 5.96 ERA
June: 25 innings, 6.12 ERA
July: 32 innings, 6.75 ERA
August: 23 innings, 8.22 ERA
September: 14 innings, 6.43 ERA
It’s not as though we see one bad month that drastically raises that end-of-year ERA and perhaps unfairly manipulates that final number. The entire season was a struggle for Jimenez and there’s just no other way to put it. Whether it’s the career-worst 2.1 HR/9 rate, the ERA or the walk totals (3.7 BB/9), there’s not much on the stat sheet other than strikeouts that signifies any positive storylines emerging from the year.
The inconsistencies that have plagued Jimenez throughout his entire career struck mightily over the course of the year, something that can be gleaned by looking at those strikeout totals. He compiled 139 of them over the course of the year — it’s no secret that that’s a difficult task for anyone pitching in Major League Baseball. An 8.8 K/9 rate isn’t just something to ignore.
But when you combine the number with the hefty hit and home run totals, it’s easy to see that it was way too much of a boom-or-bust game taking the mound every fifth day. It’s an issue that has haunted Jimenez throughout his time with the O’s; this year simply showcased it a bit more than most.
He’ll be 34 at the start of next season. Over the past two years, he’s allowed 10.1 hits per nine innings pitched and has accumulated an ERA over that time of 6.13. The question might not be how much time Jimenez has pitching at the big-league level, rather if there’s a chance for him to be impactful at this stage of his career.
Where do the Orioles, Jimenez go from here?
It’s a very interesting question, especially from the angle of the Orioles’ future plans. Jimenez isn’t going to be starting for the Orioles next season barring a very, very unforeseen set of circumstances hitting this team heading into spring of 2018. He’s not a name to watch, but his presence over the past several seasons might spark some debate in terms of the direction of the teams plans in the near future, something highlighted recently by Rich Dubroff of Pressbox.
Here’s a quick chunk of that story, in which Dubroff wonders if the Orioles will be hesitant offering a pitcher a four-year deal after the Jimenez situation:
An argument could be made that Jimenez's signing was the worst, or at the least among the worst, in team history, and it's fair to ask if Jimenez's contract will have a chilling effect as the team contemplates its moves in the free-agent market.
Dubroff makes great points and it’s worth noting that the Jimenez contract could sway management into different directions. Which direction that’ll be is a mystery, but Ubaldo’s performance here didn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence in the idea of going long-term with a pitcher 30 years old and up. It underscores the risk perfectly.
The days of watching Jimenez toss at Camden Yards are likely over. It’ll be fascinating to see the potential ripple effects of his time in Baltimore as this offseason progresses.