Is Ubaldo Jimenez worth the gamble?

Those who have been reading this site for the past year probably know by now that I am just not a very big fan of the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez.  I have drawn the comparison to the Orioles Daniel Cabrera, with his constant struggles with his command.  The 2008 season was really no different, walking 103 batters over 198.2 innings (a BB/9 of 4.67).

In fact, that was even worse then his 2007 season at the major leagues, when he walked 37 over 82 innings (4.06 BB/9).  If he had shown better control in the minor leagues, maybe we’d have something to point to for hope, but finding his control has been a constant issue for the flamethrower over the past few seasons.

Here’s a quick look at his numbers:

34 Starts
12 Wins
3.99 ERA
1.43 WHIP
198.2 IP
172 K
103 BB
7.79 K/9
4.67 BB/9
.306 BABIP

Despite my own opinions of him, I really wanted to point to a great September as reason for optimism in 2009.  He did go 3-0 with a 2.90 ERA while striking out 35 batters in 31 innings.  He posted a WHIP of 1.16, thanks to allowing just 20 base hits (opponents hit just .186, fourth best in the league in September).  The problem?  He still walked 16, a BB/9 of 4.65, right along the lines of his entire season.

When you are going to walk that many batters on a consistent basis, sooner or later you are going to get burned.  You have to like the strikeouts, and the ERA certainly is not bad, but with that type of WHIP he brings plenty of harm with him.

I can’t anticipate batters to hit so poorly against him for an entire season, like they did in September.  For the season, his BABIP was .306, right around the middle of the pack.  His number is very similar to those of some of the best in the sport in ’08, like Cliff Lee (.305) and CC Sabathia (.306), so you would have to think that it is a very sustainable number.

Like with Cabrera, the constant question is if you think he can finally harness his stuff, limiting the number of walks he allows.  In 2008 he had 6 starts with 5 or more walks, and another 6 where he walked 4.  That means in 12 of his 34 starts, he walked at least 4 batters.  In fact, he did not have a start where he didn’t walk a batter.  I know walks are going to happen, but this is just not even close to what you want to see from your starting pitcher.

Surprisingly, his numbers were very good at home in Coors Field.  He went 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 103.1 innings at home vs. 5-8 with a 4.72 ERA in 95.1 innings on the road.  The split was actually similar in 2007, when he went 3-3 with a 3.81 ERA in 49.2 innings at home vs. 1-1 with a 5.01 ERA in 32.1 innings on the road.  That certainly is not the type of split that you would anticipate from a Rockies pitcher.

He’s got a ton of potential, there is no doubt about that, and he enters 2009 with no worries about the number of innings he may throw.  With all this said, exactly what would I expect from him in 2009:

207.0 IP, 13 W, 4.30 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 192 K (8.35 K/9), 97 BB (4.22 BB/9)

As you can see, I’m expecting much of the same from Jimenez next season.  I think he’ll improve on his strikeouts while also reducing his walks, but the margin isn’t going to be enough to make a huge difference.  In all honesty, I could see the numbers being much worse before I can see him pitching significantly better then this.  He just hasn’t shown enough potential improvement in his control, even when pitching well, for me to think he’s going to set the league on fire next season.

Is he worth considering?  Maybe, but not as a fixture in your fantasy rotation.  He’s more a pitcher that I would consider at the tail end of my draft, in hopes of him helping me in strikeouts and hope that he can pitch better then my expectations.

One comment

  1. J says:

    Drafted him as my #5 SP in the 21st round.

    Figured he was a decent source of K to be had that late.

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