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David Brown

How Ubaldo Jimenez could break Bob Gibson's record 1.12 ERA

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After throwing eight more shutout innings for the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) lowered his ERA to a universe-leading 0.88.

Jimenez has allowed just seven earned runs in 10 starts over 71 1/3 innings.

With about two-thirds of the season to go, Jimenez has himself some wriggle room in order to better Bob Gibson's modern record of 1.12, set in 1968 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Gibby's 1.12 is a holy grail of sorts for pitchers. (That and the 30-victory plateau, at least until we figured out that decisions for pitchers are for saps).

The closest anyone has come to Gibson is Dwight Gooden's 1.53 in 1985. The great Greg Maddux(notes) couldn't beat Bob, either. Heck, it's next-to-impossible for anyone to make 30 starts and keep his ERA under 2.00.

So, there's pretty much no way Jimenez can do this. All he needs is one or two blowups — six earned runs here, seven there — and the chase is over. Ah, well. It happens to the best of them.

Unless, of course, it doesn't.

It didn't happen to Gibson in '68, when he allowed a total of 38 earned runs in 34 starts.

Breaking it down, Gibson gave up as many as four earned runs on two — two! — occasions. One was an 11-inning start, which pitchers don't do anymore, and the other was a nine-inning complete game. Gibby actually went beyond nine innings four times, something that's highly unlikely to happen to Jimenez even once.

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Overall, Gibson logged 304 2/3 innings — which Jimenez also won't approach. And, to make up for those nasty 4 ER outings, Gibby threw 13 shutouts. THIRTEEN!

Ubaldo, on pace for 33 starts while averaging 7 1/3 innings, would finish the 2010 season with 242 innings.

He'd have to allow 30 earned runs to finish with a 1.116 ERA, better than Gibson's 1.123.

¡No problema!

As Baseball-Reference's blog pointed out Thursday morning, only one pitcher has ever made as many as 25 starts and allowed fewer than the same amount of earned runs in a season. In 1914, Red Sox righty Dutch Leonard started 25 times and allowed 24 earned runs. Granted, that was when the balls were made of yarn and stuff.

Thus, Jimenez beating Gibson's modern record would be mind-blowing on every possible level.

Putting it into context, any ERA near 1.12 today would be much better than it was in 1968. Back then, pitcher's mounds were higher, the ballparks were bigger and the baseballs weren't wound as tight. Most players still feared lifting weights. And, if you believe in the effect of PEDs...

Yes, the Rockies have the humidor to dampen the effect the light Rocky Mountain air has on the baseballs. But Coors Field is so big, fly balls that don't land over the fence drop in for triples. Singles become doubles. Runs have a way of scoring.

Ubaldo in '10 will have to be much better than Bob Gibson to be even a little better than Bob Gibson in '68.

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