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The curious case of Ubaldo Jimenez

The curious case of Ubaldo Jimenez
April 20, 2013
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Remember when the Tribe traded for Ubaldo in the middle of 2011?

The Indians ran out to a roaring start pummeling the opposition into submission; however, their starting pitching became problematic.  The Tribe farm system had no answers, and Chris Antonneti had to seek pitching from outside the organization. Ubaldo Jimenez was the jewel of the mid-season coming off a great year.  He started the All-Star game for the National League, was twice the NL Pitcher of the Month, had thrown a no-hitter, and was third in the NL Cy Young voting.  Perhaps most importantly, he was young, affordable and under team control.

When reports first came indicating the Tribe traded for Ubaldo I couldn’t believe it.  After trading reigning Cy Young award winners in back-to-back years I expected nothing of the sort, isn’t the Tribe’s role to trade players to contenders?

The price was steep, first round picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, the future of the Tribe’s starting rotation.  However, there was no denying the excitement felt in Cleveland.  After two horrible seasons finally our time had come, and we were emerging from the failures following the promising 2007 season.  Unfortunately, as we all know, things didn’t quite work out as planned.

His 2011 season was inconsistent, to say the least.  His first start for Cleveland was in Texas, and Ubaldo surrendered five runs in five innings, a poor start but it was Texas and his first start in the American League so some slack was given.

I got to watch his second start against Detroit in Cleveland, and it was as advertised as Jimenez surrendered only three runs over eight innings striking out six and walking only one.  The game was critical and gave the Tribe momentum in the playoff race against Detroit.  In his next start against the Tigers he was shelled for eight runs in less than four innings.  This is Ubaldo Jimenez in a nut shell: one day he’s lights out, the next he’s Jeremy Sowers. 

Nobody has ever questioned Ubaldo’s talent.  When Ubaldo pitched in Colorado he possessed a blazing fastball, consistently sitting in the high 90s.  He had no-hit stuff, only surrendering 7.6 hits per nine innings while in Colorado, striking out over eight batters per nine innings.  Yes Jimenez walked his fair share of batters, but he also didn’t surrender home runs.

When he showed up in Cleveland, everything fell apart.  Completely, fell apart.  He started surrendering tons of hits, he stopped striking out batters, and his walk and home run rates soared. 

Last year Ubaldo was probably the worst starting pitcher in the American League.  He was very hittable, surrendering over a hit an inning, walked nearly five batters per nine innings and was homer prone.  The electric fastball he wielded in Colorado was nowhere to be seen.  Worse, he was completely unwatchable.  Ubaldo worked slow (reminiscent of Rafael Betancourt), walked a ton of batters and seemed to fall behind every batter he faced.  By the end of the year, most Tribe fans were prepared to pull the plug.

Chris Antonneti did not oblige the fans.

Faced with a shortage of starters, Antonneti exercised Ubaldo’s club option for 2013 and had new pitching coach Mickey Calloway and Terry Francona work with Ubaldo over the winter to hopefully spark him back to his old self.

His past two starts have been vintage Ubaldo as he has pitched a total of six innings, walking eight, surrendering two homers (including a Ruthian shot to center field by Travis Hafner),  given up 14 runs and has only struck out five.  This is the same pitcher we have seen since August 1, 2011.  He has not improved, and if anything he has gotten worse.

It is time to pull the plug.  Send him to the minors, move him to the bullpen, trade him, or make him run around Progressive Field as Slider for all I care.  There comes a time when a team has to accept they made a mistake.  Trading for Jimenez was a mistake, a serious mistake, and giving up on him now will not make it any worse.

User Comments

April 21, 2013 - 1:01 AM EDT
He may resurrect his career with another team, but we can't wait any longer.
Patience is a virtue, but it also be a vice.
Ubaldo, Stubbs, Phelps, a minor-league OF, & Juan Diaz for Gian Carlo Stanton & a minor league starter.
April 20, 2013 - 5:20 PM EDT
Agree totally. Move on. Should have done the same with hafner about 3 yrs ago.
April 20, 2013 - 4:24 PM EDT
There are many more factors to that Ubaldo deal though:

1. What were White and Pomeranz worth then?

2. What could they have brought in in another deal? I wanted them to deal for Fister, who owned us that year for Seattle (if I'm remembering right). What would it have taken? Point is...regardless of what white/Pomeranz have done now.,.then...they were worthy of a major deal.

3. What would have happened to Pomeranz had he stayed with the Indians? He wouldn't have sniffed the Indians until 2012...and September likely. Would it have made a difference? Maybe...maybe not, but Colorado had him startin in 2011...point being...who knows what Pomeranz does with a year of seasoning? We'll never know. White woulda been in the pen with the Indians exclusively...

You could surely call it a lose-lose...but...who was a major lose from the tribe because they dealt for a suspect arm (he was) for two big commodities. U then magnify it by not doing ANYTHING ELSE for a year and a half...
DJ Sebastian
April 20, 2013 - 3:20 PM EDT
That pretty sums it up James. Every start, one wonders who which Ubaldo will show up. There are flashes of brilliance mixed in with the inevitable disappointment.

But what if the Tribe never made that trade? They would be no better off today. Neither Pomeranz nor White would be contributing to the Tribe right now. This trade looks like a bust for both teams.

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