Ron Shandler points out Ubaldo's tremendous run in late 2013.
On July 22, Ubaldo lost to the Seattle Mariners (!) 2-1 in a tough game. Afterward, he had an ERA of 4.49 and had looked like the same old Ubaldo Jimenez, just throwing the ball mindlessly albeit with a lot of talent. But ... On July 28, 2013, he blew away the Texas Rangers on a 2-hit shutout.
The actual 8-game streak, in which Jimenez didn't walk anybody, was the last 8 games of the season.
His pitch selection did indeed change: in 2013 he went through two phases:
- Pre-2013 he was a fastball pitcher.
- 1H 2013, he mixed fastballs, sliders, and forkballs.
- 2H 2013, he ditched the forkball and became a fastball-slider pitcher.
That's oversimplifying, but it gives you a feel for it. Check the graphic at the top of the article: The fastball drops and stays down, but in the 2H the purple (splitter) line drops also. Ubaldo settled on the FB-SL as his bread and butter, while he retains the option to use change and forkball as accents.
Q. Does Dr. D approve of this arsenal?
A. It's a David Cone approach. It's dangerously close to a Japanese approach.
For a pitcher to use two pitches, fastball and slider, and just grab the ball and huck it ... that's Jeremy Bonderman and Ian Snell. That is the definition of a "pro at-bat," reduce a pitcher to two pitches: one good one he likes, and one bad one the batter likes. (Figure out for yourself why this doesn't apply to Randy Johnson or Michael Pineda.)
However, if Bonderman used this attack while keeping hitters honest via the change and split, you've got a completely different question. The batter starts cheating, you embarrass him ... now, then, your FB-SL is a different matter.
Q. Is his motion really that bad?
A. Every bit that bad. He flings his glove mindlessly back at his shoulder blades, his eyes look three or four random places, and the limbs all go in weird directions like Charlie Furbush.
The finish is grotesque. I mean in the non-emotional sense of the word. The gargoyle on a Catholic building is comically repulsive and distorted, but you're not making a slur in calling it grotesque; you're describing its essential quality.
He steps kind of short, but gets his CG incredibly low ... and then finishes real short, like in a fetal position as he releases the ball. His toe is pointed at the plate while his knee is pointed at 1B -- stand up and try that. His hip is torqued badly relative to his CG. He lands way off balance and not in the same way each time.
Here are a couple of still shots, but you really have to watch him in action...
The good news is, the batters have 99 kinds of trouble picking up the ball.
Q. Maybe he's got a harmonious sports motion BEFORE the decel?
A. The decel is grotesque BECAUSE --- > he is not in control of his center of gravity.
Q. So how can he maintain that kind of control?
A. He was absolutely "painting" in the last 8 starts. Check out this Sept. 29 game. He sticks the landing on a barrage of 92-94 fastballs ... on the black, on the hands, up at the letters. It's gruesome.
He buries the change and slider superbly, starting at the knees and dropping out of the zone. Yowza. He'd have mangled any team in the majors.
He won't maintain that kind of control. It says here.
Do you remember when Joe Saunders finished 2012 on a white-hot blaze of glory? We still-photo'ed the whole thing for yer, and pointed out that he was just --- > out of his mind, in terms of hitting the catcher's glove.
We gave Saunders a 5-10% chance of having figured out how to do this reliably, and a 90-95% chance of being the Same Old Joe. Have we ever steered yer wrong? :- )
It says here that Ubaldo was just white-hot. 85-90% chance.
Q. Maybe that is why Major League GM's are so skeptical this winter?
A. You read it here first. I'll bet you an NFC Championship cap that ^^^ the above two Q's are precisely the reason that Jimenez is hearing crickets.
Q. What's it like to face him?
A. Well, he's still "effectively wild." He's got five or six strikeout weapons, and his velocity is still dangerous. He sits 92, maybe, but that ball explodes.
- Fastball painted on the black
- Fastball up
- Slider down
- Slider back-door to LH, or "at" RH
- Change/fork on the black to LH
- Change/fork dropping below the knees to either
- Fastball in
Any of those seven pitches, gentlemen, can spin a batter on his heel for the long walk back. And Ubaldo himself sometimes doesn't know where it's going, so ...
Felix Hernandez, on a hot day, with seven Modelos in him. That's what you're getting. Do you want it?
Q. You concur, then, that the "batted ball authority" off Jimenez is a little light? As Blengino says?
Q. What are the "trends?"
A. They've flattened out now. Which is a moment that GM's should be treasuring.
At age 30, and no longer throwing 97 MPH ... Jimenez seems to have his arms around his game. That's how SSI would put it. He's not suddenly Bret Saberhagen, but the inconsistency probably IS in the rear view mirror.
Q. Most-comparable pitchers, to the Ubaldo that we'll see in 2014-16?
A. I'll plump for Yu Darvish.
The current version of Tim Lincecum is also similar ... four pitches, four walks, ten strikeouts, as with Yu. Get you a 13-strikeout nuking of the Yankees, or an early shower once in a while. I'll take it.
Obviously Darvish sits a little higher than Ubaldo on this ladder, but I'd probably have to take Ubaldo over Timmy.
Q. Leaving us where?
A. I like Ubaldo. A lot. As much as it pains me to admit that Spectator was ahead of Dr. D on anything. This was undoubtedly the first and last time .......
Med reports willing, SSI goes 4 years, $17M. Now if only the State of Wisconsin would promote us, as a community, from "bloggers" to "Executive VP of Baseball Operations."
Q. Anything else?
A. Ubaldo used to pitch for the Rockies, you know. If Gordon has something different, go with the NYT Best Selling author.