Now that the 2013 season is complete, it’s time to take a look back at the team and how each player performed on the field. We’ve already looked at the 2013 performance of the Tribe’s ace, Justin Masterson, so today we will focus on their other ace, Ubaldo Jimenez.
Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2013 Projection:
Fans weren’t expecting much out of Ubaldo Jimenez in 2013. Coming off of a disastrous 2012 season in which he posted a Major League worst record of 9-17, 5.40 ERA, 1.613 WHIP, and abysmal 4.8 BB/9, everyone was hoping he could at least pull himself back up to at least league average. After watching what we watched in 2012, the bar couldn’t have been set any lower for Jimenez.
Aug 17, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) pitches the ball against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The one thing working in Jimenez’s favor was a new coaching staff that could help reign in his wild delivery and hopefully find the pitcher that had long since vanished. Mickey Callaway and Terry Francona aimed at trying to get quality out of Jimenez early in the season rather than quantity. If that meant Jimenez would be pulled after three or four innings, then so be it. The goal was to ultimately rebuild his confidence through a series of successes and small victories. With each subsequent positive outing the hope would be to stretch Jimenez out a little more each and every subsequent outing.
From a statistical standpoint, most projections had Jimenez rising back up to league average. That meant a record somewhere around .500 and an ERA somewhere in the range of 4.00 to 4.50. In order to do that, Jimenez was going to have to find a way to get his walks under control and regain at least some of the velocity he had lost on his fastball. If he could do that, there was hope that Jimenez could maybe become a competent big league pitcher once again. However, no one expected Jimenez to regain any of the form he displayed during his time with the Rockies.
So What Happened?
Calloway and Francona’s plan for Ubaldo Jimenez worked to perfection. In fact, things couldn’t have worked out any better for either Jimenez or the Indians.
After a respectable first half in which he went 7-4 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, Jimenez went absolutely crazy in the second half. The form that many thought had been lost forever magically returned almost overnight. During the second half of the season Jimenez was almost unhittable. Over his final 13 starts, he posted a 6-5 record with a 1.82 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. His SO/9 increased from 8.6 to 10.7 and and SO/BB ratio jumped from 1.77 to 3.70.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Jimenez’s season was how he performed down the home stretch with Justin Masterson on the disabled list. Without their ace, the Indians needed Jimenez to step up in a huge way and he did just that. During September, Jimenez went 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 41.1 innings of work. In the simplest of terms, it was amazing. The Indians had acquired Jimenez during 2011 hoping he would help push them into the playoffs. Turns out they would have to wait until 2013 for that to happen.
Where Do We Go From Here?
This one is easy. Ubaldo Jimenez will not be a member of the Cleveland Indians in 2014.
Thanks to Ubaldo Jimenez’s spectacular turnaround, he gave himself enough leverage to enter free agency this winter and reap the rewards with a massive payday. The Indians exercised their 2014 option on Jimenez and, as expected, he voided the contract. The Indians then made him a $14.1-million qualifying offer which he also declined. As a result, Jimenez will enter free agency as one of the more desirable starting pitching options.
Because teams are so starved for pitching, it stands to reason that a team will overpay for Jimenez services. WE aren’t just talking about dollar figures either. Any team that signs Jimenez will likely do so for more dollars and more years than the Indians would be comfortable with. A team such as the Yankees or even the Orioles, both of which have slightly deeper pockets than the Indians, could afford to take on that type of contract. Meanwhile, the Indians are in no position to be guaranteeing the type of money or amount of years it would take to keep Jimenez in Cleveland.
There is also a question as to whether or not Jimenez can keep performing to the level that he did during the final months of the season. Was it a return to form or did Jimenez simply get hot for a handful of starts down the stretch. As a pitcher who had been on a noticeable decline over the past three season, it’s hard to imagine it not being the latter. That also makes it hard to see the Indians committing long-term to Ubaldo Jimenez. There’s just no telling what you’re going to get out of him over the life of that contract.
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched 8.1 innings and struck out eight White Sox on September 14. Little did we know at the time, but we were watching Jimenez transform into the Ubaldo Jimenez of old over the final three weeks of the season. This start was the best of the bunch, by far.