Ubaldo Jimenez started his second game of Spring Training on Sunday. After his disastrous first start, I decided to sit down — with a frosty beverage — and track his pitch selection to see if I could note any changes compared to the 2014 season.
These records are my own and were not done with any technology often employed during the regular season, including PITCHf/x or Brooks Baseball. In addition, the game did not include a speed on the Twins Broadcast.
The selection of pitches seemed similar to that of the 2014 season. However, it did seem that he was using more of his fastballs (four-seam and sinker) during Sunday’s game. It mirrors a statement made during his first start:
[quote_box_center]”What I was looking for was to command the fastball. I know I walked two guys, but all of the pitches were really close, all of them were close. The only thing I can tell you is I did what I wanted to do and that was commanding the fastball. I threw a lot of fastballs.”[/quote_box_center]
Jimenez continued this streak of heavy fastball usage yesterday, especially early on in the first. In addition, he relied heavily on the pitch in the second inning to some success as well.
Jimenez also continues to rely heavily on his slider due to his reduced velocity over the past few seasons. Reports from the pressbox indicated that his velocity was similar to that of last year:
Jimenez velocity at 88-90 mph #orioles
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) March 8, 2015
It’s interesting to note when Jimenez throws the slider as he has often been very meticulous with backwards pitch sequencing. He often has shown the desire to throw the slider as a first pitch against right handed hitters. This is often done due to it being able to generate a foul better than most sliders in MLB (Z-score analysis). It allows him to get ahead in the count against RHH and potentially get a first pitch strike. Looking at the slider usage, three of the 12 pitches were on first pitches to right handers generating two fouls and a ball.
However, the slider command is still not there, just like in 2014. The pitch was called a ball seven out of twelve times when thrown. In addition, the pitch was used seven out of twelve times as a pitch when ahead or even in the count. His slider last year was below average in terms of generating whiff and when contact was made it often resulted in being hit hard (.452 SLG).
Jimenez often relied on the sinker when behind in the count hoping that it generated balls put in play and groundballs allowing for the defense to save him. Unfortunately, his lack of command with his four-seam fastball and sinker yielded called balls on 18 out of 39 pitches. Jimenez will have to improve on this command of his fastball if he is going to succeed. His use of the fastball throughout the zone was on show though for the second inning when he succeeded. Jimenez’s ability to move through the strike zone allows him to succeed with the reduced velocity. However if Jimenez is trying to target this approach with his pitches, he is likely to struggle as he has never shown to be a great command pitcher based on his walk rate.
As for the splitter, it showed some promise and appeared to have good movement. Jimenez should consider moving away from the slider further when even and ahead of the count and continue to work in his splitter. Even if hit as a flyball, it has shown the ability to be much more effective in terms of command and result than his slider.
The promise of a refined Jimenez in terms of mechanics certainly hasn’t yielded improved performance. In terms of first pitch, Jimenez only garnered a first pitch strike to 4 out of the 11 batters. Jimenez needs to continue to work on his fastball command, especially low in the zone, to be an effective pitcher either as a starter or out of the bullpen.
While it’s only Spring Training, the hot seat is looming for him on this team. Roch Kubatko mentioned on his Sunday article, “…that Jimenez needs to dazzle statistically”. While Jimenez posted five strikeouts today in 3.1 IP, the three walks have to stand out as a concern along with the prolonged pitch count over a similarly short outing.