I’m Sorry Ubaldo

I write this article not only to inform those fans who have not been paying attention (judging by the attendance at Progressive Field, that may be a lot of people), but to apologize, as well.

I’m sorry, Ubaldo Jimenez.

I apologize to Jimenez because earlier this season I wrote him off like most of Cleveland and the baseball world did as well.  I don’t really feel bad about it, however, as Jimenez deserved my criticism.  He deserved the negative press.  He deserved the boos that were raining down on him every five days.  He deserved—at the time—to be taken out of the rotation.

Thank God that Terry Francona saw things differently.

After the lashing that he got from opposing bats and the media earlier in the year, Jimenez now deserves our praise.  The free-agent-to-be has turned his season, and likely his career, completely around and has become one of the more dependable starters on the Indians—if not in the entire American League.

“He’s actually even been better his last four or five starts,” Francona said on 92.3 The Fan’s Bull and the Fox show on Tuesday.  “He’s got a little extra gear on his fastball which leads to a little more deception on his off-speed.  He’s really been handling lefthanders because he’s pitched in(side) so aggressively.”

Over those five starts, Jimenez has a 3-2 record, an outstanding 1.71 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and an opponent’s batting average of just .207.  Dating back to the All-Star break, Jimenez has been one of the best pitchers in the league by posting a 4-5 record with a 1.94 ERA over his nine starts.  The excellent ERA is the best in the American League over that stretch.

The results are light-years better than where Jimenez was at this point last season and even where they were before the break.  Heading into the Midsummer Classic, Jimenez had a 7-4 record, but a 4.56 ERA.  Early in 2013, Jimenez was inconsistent and shaky, while his only decent starts really consisted of only five innings of work…if we were lucky.  His 2012 season was also certainly one to forget for Jimenez, as he led the American League with 17 losses and 16 wild pitches to go along with his career worst 5.40 ERA.  Jimenez credits hard work and mechanical corrections for his transformation.

“It was all about being 100 percent, basically, with my mechanics,” said Jimenez in a Jordan Bastian and Mark Emery article from the Indians official website.  “I’ve been working harder the last two years, trying to get back to who I was before.  I’ve been getting there.  I feel really good.  I feel strong right now.”

Along with his solid statistics comes a fastball that has seemingly been missing over the last two-plus seasons.  Jimenez averaged an astonishing 96 MPH with his heater during his All-Star season of 2010 with the Colorado Rockies, but dropped to a pedestrian 91.4 MPH during the first half of the 2013 season.  Over his hot streak, Jimenez has averaged a 93-plus MPH fastball and has touched the 96-97 range on a few occasions as well.

“His fastball has got life to it,” Francona added.  “He’s throwing in…and that creates the separation in his offspeed.  Man, that’s exciting to see.”

What is even more exciting for Francona and Tribe fans is that the Indians are currently in the middle of a playoff push and the pitcher that they traded for over two years ago is finally paying dividends.  In fact, if Justin Masterson is not 100% healthy, Jimenez may be the popular choice to lead the Tribe into the Wild Card Game and/or the postseason if they should find themselves in that situation.

“That’s exciting because you lose Masty and we’ve had guys go down from time to time like Kluber and McAllister,” Francona said. “Someone (always) seems to pick up the load and get us far enough.”

If the Indians are lucky enough to find themselves in the postseason, Jimenez currently seems like that guy that could take us far.  For that, Jimenez has definitely earned my apology.

Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

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