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Putting Ubaldo Jimenez's start in perspective

Jun 1, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for ubaldo jimenez throwing.jpgAs Aaron noted this morning, Ubaldo Jimenez has been nothing short of amazing to begin the season, going 10-1 with a 0.78 ERA so far. He has now put in 11 straight starts in which he has allowed two earned runs or fewer. Astounding, yes. But unprecedented?

Alas, no.  At least not in terms of the low earned-runs streak. As Raphy at the excellent Baseball-Reference Blog noted after yesterday’s game, one guy actually started his season with 12 straight games in which he allowed two runs or fewer.  The man: Edinson Volquez in 2008.  Wasn’t expecting him.

The others on that list are an interesting lot.  Juan Marichal’s 1966 actually makes Jimenez’s 2010 look rather pedestrian, as Marichal had an ERA of 0.59 through ten starts and a 60/8 K/BB ratio.  No one was touching the Dominican Dandy in the early going that year.

But I guess the most striking thing on the list is what’s not there: truly historic seasons. Yes, there’s a Cy Young award in there — Greinke’s 2009 year — but no seasons that people remember forever like Bob Gibson’s 1968 or any of Sandy Koufax’s big years.  As Raphy notes, just about all of those guys fell back to Earth a bit after their fast starts, some of them in a pretty major way (see, Moore, Barry; 1969). Really, Marichal’s was the only big time season there, and even then he was bested by Koufax in the long haul that year.

This isn’t to rain on Jimenez’s parade. What he’s doing is fantastic and, at the moment, he’s got to be considered the favorite for the Cy Young award (sorry, Roy).  But it is premature to call his season historic for the simple reason that such streaks aren’t generally sustainable and there’s a lot of baseball yet to be played.

  1. BC - Jun 1, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Other than Greinke last year, this is the last guy I remmeber getting off to a start like this:
    http://articles.latimes.com/1990-05-13/sports/sp-355_1_frank-viola
    Started 7-0, 0.87… Finished 20-12, 2.67 for a very average offensive and defensive team.
    But what Jimenez is doing is other-worldly.

  2. Ben - Jun 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Jimenez has an xFIp of 3.51, good for 13th in the majors. That’s not all that fantastic.

  3. joe - Jun 1, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    I love Ubaldo Jimenez

  4. TMW - Jun 1, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Doc’s FIP and xFIP are better than Ubaldo’s. I’m just saying….

  5. Howard - Jun 1, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    This is one of those situations where you can cherry-pick statistics to make your case. For example, the MLB Network took the same start to Jimenez’s season and made it seem far less commonplace. They showed that the only three pitchers to win 10 games and have an ERA under 1.00 by the end of May are Walter Johnson, Juan Marchial, and Jimenez. Of course, Johnson and Marchial pitched before the advent of the five-man rotation, so they had more opportunities for wins.
    I recognize that wins are a product of luck, offense, and bullpens. That’s not my point. My point is that you can look at some statistics about Jimenez’s start and call the pedestrian, or you can look at other aspects and call them unprecedented. It all a matter of what stats you chose to make your point.

  6. RickyB - Jun 1, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Since I played against and with Barry Moore in an adult baseball league in Charlotte in the late ’90s (swear he was a Tommy John clone), I looked up his stats from his “great” start. Yes, he did have 11 starts at the beginning of the season in which he gave up two or fewer earned runs. However, in one start he lasted five batters walking four, but was lucky to give up just one run. In another he gave up two runs in two innings. And in a third one he lasted just 3.2 innings. Not exactly close to Jimenez territory … but he was a great guy who simply loved the game.

  7. john pileggi - Jun 1, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968 is the greatest baseball record ever. More so than DiMaggio’s hitting streak or Ripken’s Iron Man streak.

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