What if Ubaldo Jimenez has a better year?

Jimenez hasn’t exactly had a good year since his 2011 season with the Rockies and Indians. I am not counting his 2013 second half because his last 10 starts, where it looks like he “turned the corner”, he face Minnesota (twice), the White Sox (twice), Kansas City, and Houston, all of whom were in the bottom 10 of team OPS that season.

With the amount of money the Orioles are paying him, there is a good-to-fair chance Jimenez ends up on the opening day roster unless the Orioles swap him in a “bad-contract-for-bad-contract” deal. And that means that he has a spot in the rotation because paying 12.25 million for a long reliever is a ludicrous idea. It’s not matter of him making the roster or the rotation, it’s whether he performs or not.

As of right now, the Orioles major league starting pitching looks like this:

Name Throws 2014 ERA
Chris Tillman R 3.34
Wei-Yin Chen L 3.54
Bud Norris R 3.65
Miguel Gonzalez R 3.23
Kevin Gausman R 3.41
Ubaldo Jimenez R 4.81

 

Now barring injury and/or regression, if you take away Jimenez you have a nice crop of pitchers. But Jimenez is there, he is that giant elephant in the room that the team doesn’t want to acknowledge until they have to. So unless Buck Showalter decides to go with a six man rotation, Jimenez is taking a spot. Kevin Gausman and Miguel Gonzalez are the only two players left with options (Norris has two, but has 5+ years of service time). But at the velocity Gausman throws, you would be hindering yourself by not having him on the roster. That leaves two scenarios, Gausman is moved to the bullpen or Gonzalez is sent down, and Jimenez takes their respective spot.

Now, what if Jimenez finally becomes that 45 million dollar pitcher the Orioles signed him to be? I would say nothing. Jimenez having a “better” year would be, to me, having his ERA hover around 3.7-3.6. That’s the kind of production I could see Gonzalez or Gausman giving because Gausman only started 20 games, eight more starts could have made that ERA skyrocket and Gonzalez had a career year, more than likely he regresses closer to that 2013 ERA of 3.78. Jimenez having a good year would give the Orioles a problem at starting pitching (a good problem to have, I know), but it would also make him movable, which is what I think they should do if they can.

One more thing before I wrap this up, what does Jimenez need to do to have a better year? Let’s look at his 2010 All-Star year compared to last year:

Year Line Drive % Ground Ball % Fly Ball % HR/FB
2010 16.2 48.8 35.0 5.1
2014 22.1 41.3 36.7 10.9

 

In short, line drives up, ground balls down, and more fly balls leaving the park. A recipe for a regretful front office that makes. Fly ball pitchers have never been very successful in Camden Yards, a ground ball is what is needed if someone wants that success. If Jimenez gets ground balls, there will be less in the air, and less of them to go out.

I think all Oriole fans want Jimenez to succeed. It always leaves a bad feeling in your stomach when you feel a whole heap of money has been waster by your favorite team. I think he’s going to have a much better year especially since he’s been working on his mechanics and actually trying to be a better pitcher. We’ll find out soon if I should having praying for more potholes instead.