Baseball in Colorado has always been defined by mile high scores from multiple mile deep homeruns.
Fans in the Rocky Mountains fell in love and were spoiled by the long ball for over a decade and a half.
Sure, the humidor was put in place at 20th and Blake back in 2002 and the number of homeruns have dropped a dramatic 60 per year, but balls still fly out of Coors Field at a high rate.
Since their inception in 1993, the Rockies have tried to go out and get big name pitchers, raise their own, or use homegrown Colorado talent on the mound—nothing worked.
That is, until Ubaldo Jimenez came to Denver from the Dominican Republic in 2006.
Despite his dominating stuff, Jimenez’ five year career numbers are somewhat mediocre at 39-29 with a 3.49 ERA, 499 strikeouts and a .228 opponent batting average.
In his first four years, the only thing that stood out was Ubaldo’s high number of Ks and the nasty pitches he could throw when on top of his game. Jimenez has always been able to hit triple digits on the radar gun but command was his downfall at those devastating speeds.
When one looks closer at the young phenom’s numbers though, much more becomes clear.
Since Jimenez became a full time starter midway through the World Series 2007 season, he’s improved each and every year.
Along with strikeouts, Ubaldo’s wins have increased while his ERA, opponent’s batting average, walks, and runs have all decreased.
And while he was slightly and slowly improving as a starting pitcher, Jimenez has completely taken over on the mound this season.
Everyone started taking note after Jimenez’ no-hitter April 17th in Atlanta, the Rockies’ franchise first ever, and they haven’t looked back.
Now Jimenez is fresh off his MLB leading eighth win Thursday night against Houston (7 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K). He was an infield single away from pitching in another no-hitter, when third baseman Ian Stewart tried to bare-hand the hard hit ball and came up with only air.
Along with leading the leagues with eight wins, his miniscule 0.99 ERA is tops as well.
Ubaldo is phenomenal.
To wit, he’s only the fifth MLB pitcher since ERA was first taken in the early 20th century to win eight of his first nine starts and have an ERA under one. The last was Fernando Venezuela nearly three decades ago, in 1981.
Although, even with those spectacular numbers, Jimenez isn’t running away with the Cy Young Trophy—yet.
His two main competitors are the Phillies’ Roy Halladay and the division rival Giants’ Tim Lincecum. Both pitchers have been dominant for many years and both are currently playing stellar baseball. Halladay is 6-3 with a 2.22 ERA and is tops in complete games at four. Lincecum is 5-0 with a 2.35 ERA and his 75 Ks lead NL.
No offense to either of those two magnificent pitchers, but Jimenez is better this year—he deserves the Cy Young.
That is if he can continue this awesome success.
But beyond numbers, Ubaldo is unique, that’s what makes him so great. At 6’4” 205 pounds, Jimenez’ body is more like an NBA shooting guard than your average major league pitcher.
The morning after pitching, when the birds are chirping as Jimenez likely usually smiles with the rising sun, he runs—five miles.
This is no pot-bellied David Wells, the ex-Yankee pitcher that threw a no-hitter while, “half in the bag,” as he said referring to being half drunk.
Jimenez is an extremely hard working pitcher who’s devoted to improving his game.
April’s NL pitcher of the month has done just that.
Jimenez has improved to the point that batters cringe days in advance when they hear his name as the Rockies’ starting pitcher.
While Jimenez is leading the majors in nearly every major pitching statistic, he should have another—most opponents’ knees buckled.
Plainly, Ubaldo Jimenez throws insanely wild and wicked pitches with heat and movement.
He’s untouchable by even the best batters and Colorado knows they have the best chance of winning when Jimenez is on the rubber.
Ubaldo is unique in another way; he’s a pitcher that is exhilarating to watch—something brand new and exciting in this dusty old cow town that grew up on baseball won with the long-ball, not a well executed fastball.
The national media has caught on, so Denver, let’s get out and pack Coors each and every time Ubaldo pitches because he is the biggest professional sports star our city has (playing) right now.
If we’re lucky, Jimenez will lead the Rockies to their third postseason appearance in four years, and bring the biggest individual award to town since Larry Walker brought home the MVP in 1997.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University Alumnus and a freelance sports journalist. Along with being the Denver Nuggets Featured Columnist here on B/R, Kurtzman is the Denver Broncos FC for NFLTouchdown.com , the CSU Rams Examiner on examiner.com and the Colorado/Utah Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com.
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