Fantasy Baseball Debate: Ubaldo Jimenez Vs. Clayton Kershaw
Bryan: 15-1. 4-7. Those are Ubaldo Jimenez‘s first- and second-half records last season. He went from unbelievable to unbelievably pedestrian, so which Jimenez is the real Jimenez? Any time you ask that question, the real answer is, “Somewhere in the middle, of course!” and the same holds true here.
Chris: Clayton Kershaw turned in a marvelous pitching performance in 2010. He made 32 starts and compiled a 2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP to go along with 212 Ks. At 23 years old he’s primed to enter fantasy’s elite.
Bryan: Let me clarify something: When I said the real Jimenez is somewhere in the middle, I neglected to mention that means something along the lines of 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 214 Ks...a line he actually amassed last season despite that second half slump...a line better than Kershaw’s in every way.
Chris: I hope you’re not reading too much into Jimenez’s numbers being better than Kershaw in every way. An ERA difference of .03, a WHIP difference of .03 and two extra strikeouts seems more like a wash to me. You mention a tale of two seasons for Jimenez. I’m sure his head-to-head owners appreciated that. I bet they wish they had Kershaw’s consistency all year instead.
Bryan: Hey, Chris. Better is better. I’ll have my roto boys back me up. Don’t be gettin’ all defensive, homes.
Chris: You’re right. Better is better. Kershaw’s BB/9 ratio of 3.57 was better than Jimenez’s 3.74. Also, Kershaw’s K/9 ratio of 9.34 was quite a bit better than Jimenez’s rate of 8.69. And isn’t the point of debating to defend your position? As Marshall Eriksen says, "Lawyered!"
Who would you draft first?
Bryan: Kershaw had the better strikeout and walk rates fo’ sho, but Jimenez wins opponents average (.208 to .217) and the all-important ground ball battle (48.8 percent to 40.1 percent). And you know what else is nice? Jimenez has thrown 218 and 221.2 innings in the last two seasons, respectively.
Chris: You seem to be neglecting the point that Kershaw is trending upward while Jimenez is trending downward. From 2009 to 2010 Kershaw lowered his walk rate from 4.79 to 3.57 and increased his ground-ball rate from 39.4 percent to 40.1 percent. On the other hand, Jimenez’s walk rate rose from 3.51 in ’09 to 3.74 in ’10, and his ground-ball rate declined from 52.5 percent to 48.8 percent.
And don’t forget that Kershaw pitched over 200 innings last year, as the Dodgers have methodically built up his endurance over the past three years.
Bryan: I hardly think you could call Jimenez’s increase in walks and decrease in ground balls a trend. His GB percentage was over 50 percent in the prior two seasons, so 48 percent is still in that same neighborhood, and the 3.74 BB/9 is lower than the 4.06 and 4.67 rates he had in ’07 and ’08. He’s not trending down as much as he’s remaining elite in his ground balls while still maintaining the same control he had during his pre-breakout ’09 season.
Chris: Even if you don’t think it’s a trend, there’s no denying that Kershaw has been improving every year (and by the way, he doesn’t have to pitch half his games at Coors Field). He is one of the best young pitchers in the game who delivers a low ERA and WHIP and strikes out over 200 batters. He was almost a top 10 starting pitcher last year, and with another year of experience, he will hurdle over Jimenez and become a fantasy ace.
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