Ubaldo Jimenez is halfway to something that hasn’t happened in the major leagues since 1968 when four-man pitching staffs were in vogue.
In today’s game, because of five-man rotations, there are fewer starts, which severely cuts into the likelihood a hurler will reach the magic 30-win circle.
This hasn’t slowed down Jimenez, 15-1 with a 2.20 earned-run average at the All-Star break for the Colorado Rockies.
Jimenez’s amazing first-half is difficult to fathom because he’s been so dominant nearly every time he’s taken the mound.
Sure, everyone is going to have a rough outing now and then, but that’s occurred only once to Jimenez when he faced the Dodgers on the road, and was a 2-0 loser.
Better still, if the season was to conclude this week, Jimenez’s won-loss record would still be impressive.
By contrast, Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants’ ace hurler, was a 15-game winner a season ago, and still took home his second straight Cy Young award.
If Jimenez remains healthy, and in typical form, the 26-year old budding superstar nicknamed “The Chief,’’ should get another 16 starts.
Armed with a fastball that reaches triple digits, and moves about 12 inches, the first-time All-Star has batters fighting to merely make contact.
In 127 innings, Jimenez, coming off a 15-win season, has fanned 113 and walked 46.
Jimenez gave notice to what was ahead in 2007. Even with only 14 starts, a 4-4 mark and 68 strikeouts, Jimenez, who has a high this year with 13 strikeouts, was asked to work in the playoffs.
In one game of the National League Divisional Series against the powerful Philadelphia Phillies, Jimenez posted a 1.42 ERA, while fanning five across six and one-third innings. He showed some jitters, walking four, and didn’t get the decision.
In the NL Championship Series, the right-hand throwing Jimenez faced the Arizona Diamondbacks, and once again rose to the challenge, striking out six, but with four walks. Jimenez again failed to earn a decision.
The Boston Red Sox were too good and on their way to a four-game sweep in the World Series, as Jimenez managed only four and two-third innings, was tagged with the loss after walking five, striking out five, and surrendering three hits.
This type of confidence is usually reserved for seasoned veterans, and not pitchers with so few starts.
When Jimenez, who tossed a no-hitter in his third start in 2010 against the Atlanta Braves was signed by the Rockies as a free agent in 2001, he was projected to make the big club and have an impact, which he’s clearly done.
It took Jimenez five years to make it to the majors, and has been the sought-after savior of a once down-trodden pitching staff.
Jimenez is looked upon by teammates as the leader, something the native of the Dominican Republic relishes, and takes seriously.
When Denny McLain was a 31-game winner for the World Series champion Detroit Tigers, like Jimenez, he was helped by a ferocious hitting lineup that scored runs in bunches.
But that’s only part of the story. In reality, the pitcher still has to be on target and keep his club within striking distance of the opponent.
Jimenez has been doing this ever since his first pitch, and Colorado fans hope it continues for as long as he’s wearing that uniform.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.