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Entries in Ubaldo Jimenez (9)

Monday
Feb242014

Cruz to the O's: More Comp Pick Hijinx, or Sign of a Rational Market?

Nelson Cruz reportedly entered the offseason seeking a four-year, $75 million contract. Over the weekend, he settled for a one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Cruz's agent might take a page out of Scott Boras' playbook and label this a "pillow" contract designed to re-establish the 33-year-old, Biogenesis-linked slugger's value. If so, it's gotta be the world's lumpiest, hard-as-concrete pillow.

Some will point to Cruz's new deal as further proof that Major League Baseball's free agent draft pick compensation system is broken. In broad strokes, there's plenty to complain about. Free agents who receive and turn down a qualifying offer essentially have a tax levied on their next contract, with interested teams needing to consider not just the monetary value of the player's on-field production, but also the value of the pick they'd lose to sign him (Baltimore had less to lose than most, having already surrendered its first-rounder to ink Ubaldo Jimenez and its Competitive Balance Lottery pick to acquire Bud Norris; they'll lose the 55th overall selection to get Cruz). It's not fair, really.

And yet, you can make a pretty sound argument that in this particular case, Cruz is being paid what he's worth. He launches majestic homers with the best of them, but there's not much else to his game at this point. Consider:

  • Cruz's .319 on-base percentage over the past three seasons is a dead ringer for the overall MLB average, and south of the standards set by corner outfielders (.328) and designated hitters (.323). Once you adjust for park and league factors, his three-year OPS is 12 percent better than the MLB average -- good, but hardly the stuff of fat free agent deals.
  • He has a history of hamstring/quadriceps injuries, which have made him a plodding base runner and fielder. Cruz has taken an extra base between 22% and 30% of the time over the past three years, compared to the 40% big league average. He has been several runs worse than an average major leaguer on the bases each season, according to Fangraphs, and has cost his club about five runs per year in the field as judged by advanced metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Cruz may DH in Baltimore, but he's been DH-worthy for a while now.
  • Players with Cruz's profile -- lots of power, little defensive or base running value, frequently banged up -- tend to age poorly. His Baseball-Reference player comps include Henry Rodriguez (done as a productive major leaguer by age 32), Brad Hawpe (cooked at 31) and Jay Gibbons (last effective at 29). His number one comp according to Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system is Juan Gonzalez. These guys had lots of injury issues (I pulled a hammy just writing this paragraph), but that's kind of the point. Cruz hasn't been a beacon of durability, either. He's not the sort of player you want to sign to a long-term deal, much less the four or five-year pact Cruz initially wanted.

Let's be clear: There's nothing wrong with the O's signing Cruz at this price. It's a short-term commitment, and he's a definite upgrade over the likes of Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia. But put it all together, and Cruz projects to be about 1-2 wins better in 2014 than the sort of talent you can pull from Triple-A or the waiver wire. If the cost of a win is around $6 million, it's hard to say that he really got jobbed by the pick attached to his name. The qualifying offer system may well be broken, but Cruz's deal seems to be more a case of sanity prevailing in the C-suite.

Wednesday
Sep252013

The New Ubaldo May Be Better Than the Old Ubaldo

In 2010, pitching for the Colorado Rockies, Ubaldo Jimenez finished third in the Cy Young voting after a season in which he had an ERA of 2.88 and a WHIP of 1.155. On May 31 of that season, Ubaldo had an 11-1 record and a microscopic 0.78 ERA. Three starts later, he was 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA.

Then something happened.

From June 23, 2010 to June 29, 2013, Jimenez, now a Cleveland Indian, was not a Cy Young pitcher, he was not an All-Star pitcher, in fact, he was barely a major league pitcher.
The not so good Ubaldo
GIPERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHRHR/9K/9BB/9IP/G
Ubaldo 6/23/10-6/29/1398569.04.821.452.253.412.341610.968.454.325.81

Then something happened.

It took until July of this season.
The so much better Ubaldo
GIPERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHRHR/9K/9BB/9IP/G
Ubaldo 6/23/10-6/29/1398569.04.821.452.253.412.341610.968.454.325.81
Ubaldo 7/1 - 9/25/2013 1592.02.241.245.233.337.30240.399.363.416.16

Let's compare September to September

There is something magical going on with Terry Francona's Tribe and with Justin Masterson recovering from the dreaded oblique, the team has need someone to step up on the mound and since Jason Giambi can't pitch (but he sure can pinch-hit), the fulfilled responsibility fell on Ubaldo.

Last September, Jimenez was not a good pitcher. This September, he is.
A Tale of Two Septembers
GSIPIP/GERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHR/9K/9BB/9WL
9/2012 Jimenez422.15.673.971.456.244.411.3300.794.764.3703
9/2013 Jimenez534.16.931.041.038.236.276.2670.009.871.5630

It's not how hard you throw

After Terry Francona was hired as the new manager, Mickey Callaway, the Indians' minor-league pitching coordinator, was named pitching coach. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Paul Hoynes, Callaway was primarily hired because of his plan to salvage Jimenez's career.

Callaway could see that Jimenez was having difficulty making the transition from a thrower to a pitcher. He was trying to figure out how to pitch without a 98 mph fastball.

"I thought if we could just get Ubaldo in the strike zone and attacking hitters with the stuff he already had, that he would be good to go," Callaway told Hoynes. "Watching his video during the off-season, I was saying, 'Man, his stuff is so good, all he has to do is get it over the plate.' "

Look at the difference:
2012-13 September Pitch Selection
PFast%Chge%Curv%Slid%Splt%Strk%Swng%Miss%Chas%
Jimenez 9/201238052.7%26.6%4.3%13.8%2.7%58.7%44.2%16.7%23.8%
Jimenez 9/201349056.0%1.6%4.5%27.6%9.8%65.3%43.1%20.9%26.6%

The difference is palpable

There is something magical going on these days in Cleveland and if the Tribe makes the postseason and Masterson returns and is healthy, he and Ubaldo make a powerful 1-2 punch.

Now if I were the Indians, I put Mickey Callaway in charge of attendance and promotion.
Thursday
Jul142011

Ubaldo at Home

Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies owns an ERA of 6.24 at home this season.  That's nearly double his home ERA of the three previous seasons, 3.28.  One reason for that change comes from the number of home runs he allowed.  Have gave up a combined 19 at home in the three previous seasons, and seven so far this year.  Most of Ubaldo's home runs come off the fastball and the righty is having problems getting the pitch down at Coors this season:

Ubaldo Jimenez, pitch frequency on fastballs, 2008-2011.During his time, 13 of his fastballs resulted in home runs of 3104 pitches, or a home run every 238 fastballs. In terms of levels, 1251 (40.3%) of these pitches were high, 1009 (32.5%) in the middle, and 844 (27.2%) low.  Ten of the 13 homers on his fastball came on pitches in the middle.

Ubaldo Jimenez, pitch frequency on fastballs, 2011.Four of his home runs came on 403 fastballs his season, one every 100 pitches.  Ubaldo threw 179 (44.4%) up, 132 (32.8%) in the middle, and  92 (22.8%) down.  Batters can concentrate on the upper two-third of the plate, and that's where the home runs come against Jimenez.