The Coors Effect

May 4, 2010 12:28 PM

Ubaldo Jimenez makes this "pitching" stuff look easy

Six wins (first in the National League.)  0.87 ERA (tied for first.)  44 strikeouts (first.)  1.02 WHIP (tenth.)  .182 batting average allowed (sixth.)  41.1 innings pitched (second.)

By just about any measure, Ubaldo Jimenez has been the best starting pitcher in the National League this season, and the NL Cy Young Award is quickly moving toward being a three-man race between Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, and Roy Halladay, though a handful of other guys like Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Josh Johnson, and Yovani Gallardo could make a case for themselves by the end of the season.  But right now, it's Ubaldo's world, and we're just living in it.

Last night was, well, a typical Ubaldo performance this season: seven innings, four hits, two walks, one earned run, thirteen strikeouts.  Watch a young pitcher just called up from AAA (well, except for Jhoulys Chacin) struggle to get outs against major league hitters, and you'll realize that pitching in the major leagues is really, really hard.  Not anybody can do it.  Of course, if you watch Ubaldo Jimenez pitch, you might come away thinking pitching is easy.  And yes, pitching is easy when you can throw 100 mph bullets for a few innings, mixing in a devastating curve and a pretty good changeup.  If that's your arsenal, pitching is easy.  Easy as Ubaldo makes it look.

Now, one thing I am concerned about is Ubaldo's workload early this season.  It's not so much that he's going deep into games -- he's averaging just under seven innings per start, not criminal overuse or anything -- as it is that he's throwing a lot of pitches to get there.  Last night was the third time in his last four starts that Ubaldo has eclipsed 120 pitches.  So far, it hasn't affected him, but we'll see if the heavy workload in April and May wears him down later in the season.  For comparison, Roy Halladay has yet to throw 120 pitches in a single game (and that's with three complete games in there, mind you), while Tim Lincecum has thrown exactly 120 pitches just once.

It's not Ubaldo's fault that aside from himself and Jorge de la Rosa (and, now, Jhoulys Chacin), the rest of the starting rotation has been pretty bad this season.  The Rockies are a combined 10-1 in games started by just those two spots in the rotation, while they've gone 3-12 in the Cook, Smith, and Hammel/Rogers starts.  The Rockies are better than their 13-13 record shows right now, but it's going to take the team getting some strong pitching efforts from the other three spots in the rotation before they can realize their potential.  Luckily, help is on the way with Jeff Francis on his way back, and hopefully a return to health by Hammel will help him overcome his early-season woes.

Rockies Top Three

1.  Ubaldo Jimenez: Again: it's Ubaldo's world, and we're just living in it.  Ubaldo even did it on offense, hitting an RBI single in the 7th.

2.  Clint Barmes: Barmes's two-run double in the second gave Ubaldo the runs he needed.

3.  Carlos Gonzalez: 1-for-3 with a two-run single in the eighth.  Demerits, though, for getting caught stealing for the third time this season.

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