In the middle of April I spent a decent chunk of one Closing Time documenting why Ubaldo Jimenez was a waste of fantasy space. This didn't sit too well with many of the readers, who openly wondered why it was worth discussing in the first place.
Ultimately, I accepted you were right. We moved the Jimenez file to the storage area and everyone moved on.
And now, shockingly enough, we have to discuss Jimenez again. That's what you get with this enigma. Just when we thought we were out, we get pulled back in.
Jimenez has been terrific over his last four starts, collecting three wins and posting a snappy 1.90 ERA. He's walked just eight batters over 23.2 innings and he's struck out 29. There's been a little batted-ball fortune here (.259), but nothing crazy.
It's been a moderate slate of opponents: two favorable ones (Royals, Mariners) and two difficult ones (Tigers, Athletics). Jimenez outpitched Justin Verlander in the Motown turn. Here's some zesty Jimenez video from the win over Seattle.
Okay, Ubaldo, where's this coming from? We know it's not velocity related; his readouts haven't changed much from April to May. Here's what he said to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Saturday (Hoynes with the Q, Jimenez with the A):
Q: What are you doing this year that you were unable to do last year?
A: I've been repeating my delivery with every pitch. Last year when I threw one pitch, I couldn't do the same thing on the next one. That's why I couldn't throw a strike. I couldn't be around the strike zone. I couldn't execute my pitches.
Q: Is there one thing that you corrected in your delivery that's made the biggest difference?
A: I can't say there's only one thing. I had way too many things to improve. My mechanics were all over the place. I was wide open too much, I was leaning too much to the back, my arm was showing too much. But I got it together.
Q: What's the biggest difference between this year and last year?
A: This year I go to the mound and just think about getting outs. Last year I'd go to the mound and say "where are my mechanics going to be today?" I'm using all my pitches, whatever feels good in the bullpen, I use it in the game. Last year I wasn't in the right position to let the ball go. Right now everything is good.
Maybe Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway is a miracle worker, succeeding where so many others have failed. Callaway is just 38 and doesn't have an extensive record as a coach. It's a tidy thing to believe in, I suppose; Mike and the Mechanics. And it's reassuring to see Jimenez inducing a heavy chunk of ground balls again.
I can understand why Jimenez's ownership has jumped to 30 percent in Yahoo! leagues. That glorious 2010 season in Colorado is still fresh in everyone's mind. When Jimenez was at the peak of his powers, the Coors Field environment didn't trip him up. Alas, when he's been off his game in recent years, no cushy environment seems capable of saving him.
It's a shame the schedule doesn't play nice for the next few weeks. Jimenez has to face Verlander and the Tigers again Wednesday, and after that he's up for this run of hell: at Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, at Detroit, at Texas. All of those opponents are in the Top 7 in runs scored, and obviously the ball jumps at Cincinnati and Arlington.
How are you playing the Jimenez revival, gamers? Is this mixed-league worthy, or fool's gold for someone else to chase? I've added Jimenez to my Friends & Family roster, but I'm stalling for time. I haven't made a full commitment yet, and esteemed opponents are daring me to use him.
Your witness, pitching coach. Your turn to predict the future (or at least shake the 8-ball). Get out the clipboard and share your wisdom in the comments.
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