Tha Sports Junkies 101

Ubaldo Jimenez Heads Back to the Bullpen – Good or Bad Move?

Ubaldo Jimenez Keith Allison/ via


Ubaldo Jimenez Heads Back To The Bullpen

Orioles Pitching Staff Shuffles

The Baltimore Orioles’ starting pitching struggles continue this season. So far, the Orioles have already used 8 different starting pitchers, allowing a combined 4.60 runs per game. However, the majority of those runs allowed were a direct result of Ubaldo Jimenez. In 2017, Ubaldo holds a 1-2 record with a 6.89 ERA and 1.63 WHIP.

The Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a 4 year/$50 million dollar deal in early 2014. However, Ubaldo was sent to the bullpen, as Alec Asher started in his place on Sunday against the Red Sox. Asher dominated in his start allowing the Red Sox to score 2 runs on 3 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Asher’s performance could potentially force Jimenez to stay in the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

Ubaldo’s Struggles

The Baltimore Orioles hoped Jimenez would solve their starting pitching problems, but as an Oriole, Ubaldo has not been the same pitcher. Looking back, we all remember Ubaldo Jimenez dominating the Braves and throwing a no-hitter for the Rockies in 2010. But since joining the Orioles, Ubaldo’s velocity has significantly dropped from 94-96 MPH on the Rockies to 89-91 MPH in the past four years as an Oriole. His drop in velocity has escalated his struggles as a starter for the Orioles as highlighted by his 4.94 ERA over the past 4 years.

Another startling stat is Jimenez’s home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB). Ubaldo’s HR/FB ratio on the Rockies was below 10%. While on the Orioles, Ubaldo’s HR/FB ratio has never gone below 10%, including a career-high 21.2% in 2017. In his career, Ubaldo has been known as a fly-ball pitcher evident by his low ground ball rate at 47.3%. For a pitcher depending on fly-ball outs, Ubaldo must lower his 21.2% HR/FB ratio to be successful again in the major leagues.

Ubaldo’s terrible start to the season is not due to bad luck, as his BABIP is .291 in 2017. BABIP is batting average on balls put in play, and the league average for 2017 is .295. For Ubaldo, this means opposing players facing him have a worse batting average on balls in play than against other major league pitchers. Although BABIP does not include home runs, Ubaldo’s lower than league average BABIP suggests players’ batting averages against will be on the rise.

Future for Ubaldo

Ubaldo will likely be stashed in the Orioles’ bullpen for the remainder of the season unless injuries force him back into the rotation. Ubaldo’s decrease in velocity and increasing HR/FB ratio are major concerns for the Orioles. With Ubaldo back in the bullpen, his velocity should increase because the number of pitches per outing will likely decrease. Will this velocity increase keep hitters off balance? or Should Ubaldo consider a new pitch with more movement such as a cutter?