The star of the show on Saturday afternoon for the Tribe was starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Just 10 hours after the odd finish to Friday night’s rain-delayed marathon, Jimenez provided an outstanding performance in the 5-0 Cleveland victory.
Overall, Jimenez has been nearly an entirely different pitcher over the last several weeks. Let’s go inside the numbers to see when the change occurred and the notable changes:
First 46 starts with Indians — 13-23, 5.63 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 59.1% strikes, .269 AVG
Last 7 starts since 4/29/13 — 4-1, 2.74 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 63.4% strikes, .212 AVG
In that 46-start stretch, Jimenez was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. His strikeout numbers were decent, but he was walking far too many batters and giving up way too many hits. In these last seven outings dating back to April 29th at Kansas City, he’s been a much more dominant pitcher, pounding the strike zone, racking up the strikeouts and limiting the big innings.
The 1.65 K/BB ratio he had in those 46 starts would rank 147th out of the 160 total pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched since the start of the 2011 season. The 2.81 K/BB ratio he has in his latest seven starts would rank T-57th. This shows the night-and-day turnaround for Jimenez and the drastic importance of this very simple ratio. He’s jumped from one of the worst to clearly above average.
Now, as sorted by Bill James’ Game Score algorithm, here’s a quick chart of the eight best starts in the 29-year-old Jimenez’s Cleveland career:
So officially, according to James’ algorithm, Saturday’s outing was by far the best for Jimenez in an Indians uniform. The outing was his first 8-plus inning shutout in exactly two years, dating back to June 1st, 2011 with the Colorado Rockies.
Three of Jimenez’s eight best outings with the team have occurred in this recent seven-start stretch that began on April 29th. However, it still doesn’t really stand as anything all that impressive: According to my research, 11% of AL starts in 2012 finished with a game score of 72+; 5% with 77+.
So while Jimenez set a new Cleveland record and we should be cautiously excited about what’s next, yesterday’s performance wasn’t all that magnificent. Eleven percent means once out of every 9 starts; five percent means one out of every 20 starts. So on average, it should happen easily once for any average-ish pitcher in a given season.