Cleveland Indians Need Ubaldo Jimenez To Return To Form

By Gabe Isaacson
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Indians traded for Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, they thought they’d be the beneficiary of more seasons like his 2009 and 2010 seasons, where he totaled over 12 WAR. Instead, they got part of a good-not-great 2011 and a replacement level 2012. Jimenez has shown some confusing and troubling statistical tendencies in the past two seasons.

Though Coors Field is not a conducive atmosphere for pitchers, Jimenez had a 7.8 percent and 5.1 percent HR/FB rate in his magical 2009 and 2010 campaigns. Since he joined the Indians, his HR/FB rate is nearly 10 percent. Pitching in the American League is moderately more difficult, but his new home ballpark is much more conducive to keeping fly balls in the yard.

This is an extremely concerning trend for Jimenez backers. With a flat-plane fastball, he seems to be getting hit like a mediocre middle reliever. Additionally, Jimenez’s strand rate and BABIP have been slightly worse than his career averages. Though calling it “luck” is difficult, as it should have normalized over such a large sample, there is a small likelihood that Jimenez can take some steps forward towards his former career norms.

Jimenez has dealt with a drop in velocity. Prior to 2011 his average fast ball velocity was above 95 mph every season when he was with the Rockies. It has been under 93 mph in this season and changed in the year that he was traded Indians.

This has been attributed to a variety of potential flaws, notably some with Jimenez’s mechanics. If someone in the Indians’ organization could identify and work with Jimenez to return his mechanics and velocity to his career bests, it could aid his recovery towards his All-Star status.

Gabe Isaacson is a writer for Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.

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