Game 123, Indians at Mariners
Kevin Millwood vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 7:10pm
Ubaldo Jimenez was once a Cy Young candidate with one of the best fastballs in baseball. His dazzling 2010 season seemed to prove that his control problems were abating, and that he’d become one of the elite pitchers in baseball. He suffered through sub-par results in 2011, and his velocity seemed to be down, but as we’ve seen with Felix Hernandez, that’s not always a kiss of death. His FIP and xFIP were worse than his stellar 2010 season, but not by much, and the Indians paid dearly to get him as they attempted a late charge at the AL Central crown last year.
I think this move could get painted as a decisive victory of old-school scouting over “stats” guys who still bought Jimenez’s solid FIP. It was the new-school GM Chris Antonetti who pulled the trigger, and scouts had been grumbling for a bit about Jimenez’s lower velocities. In point of fact, just about *everyone* panned the trade, as Cleveland seemed to pay for an ace, and even assuming his ERA would drop down to his FIP, he wouldn’t be producing like one. Cleveland gave up what many considered its best prospect, along with a few more not-too-shabby ones, to get Jimenez, and the results have been stunningly bad.
With the Indians, Jimenez has pitched 203 innings, or about one full season. He’s given up 214 hits, 132 runs on 106 walks and 174 strikeouts and he’s served up 28 HRs. His RA over that “season”? 5.85, good for a -1.1 rWAR. Perhaps upset that his results were a bit worse than his peripherals, Jimenez now has ghastly peripherals as well. Since 2010, his average fastball velocity has gone from 96.3 to 93.9 to 92.5, and his swinging strike rate has fallen in lock-step with his velocity.
There are a number of theories about why he’s tanked – from mechanical to overuse. He appeared to be bouncing back earlier this season, with a string of solid outings in June/early July, but that hopeful sign’s gone, as he’s given up 35 runs in his last 7 starts (35 2/3 IP). Jimenez has cratered along with his teammates, who were once 11 games over .500 (they’re now 13 games under). It’s a stunning reversal, and no matter what Drew Pomeranz does in Colorado, this trade will be mentioned as the downside risk any time a big-name pitcher’s on the block; a ghost story for GMs.
Lefties have inflicted quite a bit of damage against Jimenez this year, which means the M’s have their lefty-heavy line-up on display today. Miguel Olivo’s something of an oddball here, though the team may have wanted to give Montero a break, and at least Jaso’s in the game as the DH.
4: Jaso (DH)
This article on Greg Halman’s murder is amazing, and crushingly sad. The Halman brothers evidently felt perceived slights very keenly, and there was pain and anger behind Greg’s wide smile, but I can’t get over how universal this story could be. We love that MLB is the very top, the tiny cap, of the talent pyramid, and we understand at some level that this entails thousands of broken dreams. The lucky ones will have their dreams end in placed like Altoona, Bradenton, Clinton, Springfield, and they’ll start to formulate new dreams, and a new life – perhaps beginning with how to pay off their debts, or how to get out of the lease on their apartment. I don’t want to make too much of this, because most of us think we’d love the chance to fail publicly as long as we could do it in a baseball jersey. But it’s still surprising that the anger engendered by failure, by misunderstandings between players and coaches (“he’s laid-back” versus “he’s lazy and disrespectful”) spills out so infrequently. Ultimately, the anger in Jason Halman may have come out no matter what; if he hadn’t been cut in the Netherlands, he’d probably have been cut in Everett, or Peoria, or Pulaski. This game is humbling, but only for those who allow it to be.
I never really got why Mike Carp and Greg Halman bonded, or why Halman *needed* someone as much as he apparently did. That story really explained a lot. Carp’s t-shirts honoring Halman went on sale to the public this week.
The Rainiers game looks intriguing tonight as Erasmo Ramirez faces off against Reno’s Charles Brewer (who’s a better prospect than his ERA might imply). The Jackson Generals are playing a doubleheader, with James Paxton starting in game 1. Everett and Tacoma are both at home, so if you’re in the Puget Sound region, you’ve got three chances to see a game tonight.