Sep 23, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (31) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
On the first day that the Baltimore Orioles were on the field for spring training, among the pitchers getting a look and a good report is the one who needs it the most: Ubaldo Jimenez.
We all know the 2014 story: big contract, big hopes, big motion, big walks, big bust.
What we need for 2015 is a big comeback story. And if not for 2015, at least a big improvement for two biggest years in the final half of his contract – after several free agents are likely gone from the Birds.
Among Buck Showalter’s remarks after the first day were these about Jimenez …
He was good today … Pretty tight. He’s maintaining what he did (at the end of last year) … Boy, he was in the zone the whole day today. That was pretty good the first time out.
Showalter seldom lacks for optimism, but I’ll take the first report as a good one.
We all know that the issue for Jimenez is to get his motion under control, which gets his strike zone under control as well. Apart from a concentration on this, he looks like a humanoid version of a transformer-like character in an animated science fiction flick.
His actual “stuff” is as unhittable as just about anyone out there. But that is not worth as much as one might think when a pitcher is also the league leader in bases on balls. The phrase “a walk is as good as a hit” was coined long before Ubaldo was born (I know this; I was there when it happened!), but left to his own devices, he gives a quantum meaning to this timeless baseball adage.
Of course, even if Jimenez has a lights-out spring, where can he fit into a rotation with five players clearly ahead of him at this point? I have no idea … at this point. While having all of those five other starters repeat seasons like last year without injury is certainly possible, it is far from probable.
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Speaking of Ubaldo Jimenez, probably most of you reading this (as serious Orioles fans) have probably somewhere read this most unusual 2014 statistic about him. He was 3.40 in night games (16) and 8.82 in day games (9). Opponents hit for a .213 average at night, but exactly 100 points higher at .313 during the day.
What I have never read about this is if it was a one year aberration or if it is a consistent pattern throughout his career. So I looked in up and here are the stats:
In 156 night games, his ERA is 3.80, whereas in 81 days games it is 4.41. So that is still quite a difference. However, the batting average against is almost identical – .239/.241.
Another question is to ponder how unusual this is. Taking a look at night versus day ERAs and BAAs of a few other veteran pitchers, here are a few numbers, beginning with Chris Tillman and Bud Norris. Beyond that, I randomly picked some other pitchers with longer careers: CC Sabathia, Jeremy Guthrie, John Lackey, and Scott Kazmir.
While admittedly not an extensive sample, it is certain that various pitchers are better in day games, while others excel in night contests. Probably quite a number of factors play into these numbers.
But it is rather definitive that pitching Jimenez at night gives a clear advantage. Perhaps his terribly unorthodox movements and delivery are categorically more difficult to see in the evening? In the cycle of a rotation, it is difficult to avoid the day games that would fall upon his turn. But as a sixth man or occasional starter, it would be more workable to feature him in evening rather than day games.
In any event, O’s fans certainly hope for Ubaldo to have a revival. They also hope he has the internal drive to make that happen.