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Is Ubaldo Jimenez Having the Greatest Pitcher Season of All Time? Not So Fast

Asher ChanceySenior Analyst IMay 27, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 13:  Zack Greinke #23 of the Kansas City Royals prepares to pitch during the game against the Cleveland Indians on May 13, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Ubaldo Jimenez appears to be set on a record-breaking course this season. Through 10 games he is 9-1 with a 0.88 ERA and has allowed only 42 hits in 71.1 innings pitched.

Let’s not get too excited.

Since 1920, 10 pitchers have started a major league season with a streak of 10 or more games allowing two or fewer earned runs.  Surprisingly, four of those seasons have been in the last six years (somewhere Bill James is saying, "expansion dilutes hitting and pitching equally").

Ubaldo we know about. In 2008, Edinson Volquez—whose name even I have already started to forget—started the season on a torrid 12-game stretch in which he allowed 11 earned runs. At the 12-game point, he had allowed 48 hits and struck out 89 batters in 73.1 innings pitched.

In 2004, Jake Peavy started out the season with 59 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched on his way to a 5-2 record and a 1.98 ERA.

So that’s three. Who are we missing?

Well, if you’ve been following me at all this season , you know that I’ve saved the best for last: In 2009, the Royals' Zack Greinke started the season on an 8-1 tear through 10 games. He had a 0.84 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 12 walks in 75.0 innings.

That’s right: There have only been 10 pitchers to start a season on a streak of 10 or more games with two or fewer earned runs, and Miguel Olivo was the catcher for two of them.

Greinke was actually on a hotter streak than Ubaldo is, and he was doing it in the American League (i.e. against the designated hitter) while playing for a terrible team.

Here’s some Greinke vs. Ubaldo head-to-head:

Wins

Advantage Ubaldo: 9-1 vs. 8-1

ERA

Advantage Greinke: 0.84 vs. 0.88

Strikeouts

Advantage Greinke: 81 vs. 61

Bases on Balls

Advantage Greinke: 12 vs. 24

Hits

Advantage Ubaldo: 42 in 71.1 innings vs. 54 in 75.0 innings

Opponents’ RSL

Advantage Ubaldo: .176/.260/.239/.500 vs. .203/.239/.267/.506

Of course, Ubaldo’s rate stat advantage is unadjusted—when adjusting for the difference between American League hitters and National League hitters, Greinke probably comes out on top again.

So what’s the point of all this?

First, it is entirely possible that Ubaldo (to whom we are now referring to by first name only) is on his way to the most dominant pitching season in baseball history, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. At this point, he isn’t even having the most dominating pitching season of the last two years.

Second, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: If you have a Cy Young Award pitcher and he has a singularly great pitching season, you simply must hold on to his catcher.

Miguel Olivo is making that point crystal clear.

 

Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com .

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