In spring training, much was made about getting off to a good start in April. The Rockies accomplished that goal by going 17-8 in the season’s first month. However, there was a problem. They forgot about May. Historically, the Rockies are a very bad team in May. They have posted a winning record for the month just five times in franchise history. Granted, this past May was one of the worst months we’ve ever seen, but they were really just continuing the status quo. Basically, it’s become their duty to royally suck in May. Next year, I have to keep this in mind. It will help me keep the crazy out of my writing.
Last night, with the team finally released from the death grip of May, the Rockies looked like a good baseball team again. More importantly, their ace returned to form and threw a complete game shut-out. It’s funny how one great start by a beleaguered superstar can make an entire fan base forget about twenty-one losses in one calendar month. The team, the fans, and Ubaldo all desperately needed last night’s game.
Ubaldo’s gem was shocking for several reasons. First of all, it came out of nowhere. In his last start, against the Cardinals, he was atrocious. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen occasional flashes of the old Ubaldo, but there was no indication that he was on the verge of what he did last night. Secondly, it might have been the finest start of his career. And, finally, he was a totally different pitcher than we’ve ever seen before.
When Ubaldo threw his no-hitter last year against the Braves, his game score was 88. Last night, he missed that mark by just two points with an 86. That is the second best game score of his career. Interestingly, he scored another 86 almost exactly a year ago last night when he threw a complete game shut-out against the Giants on May 31, 2010.
While his game score was impressive, it doesn’t tell the complete story. In years past, Ubaldo has been successful because he has been able to overwhelm hitters with dominating stuff. Coming into this season, he was the hardest throwing starter in baseball and he has always combined that with movement. He’s been so nasty that he hasn’t had to worry as much with location. For his career, he’s only thrown 61% strikes. The MLB average is 63%.
Obviously, this year, Ubaldo hasn’t had his signature velocity. Last night, he was consistently around 95 MPH, which is more than acceptable, but it’s still a couple of ticks below where he’s been in the past. However, it didn’t matter because he has never had better control. He threw 73 strikes in 106 pitches — roughly 69%. While that ratio is impressive, it would just be noteworthy for most pitchers. But, for Ubaldo, it was the highest strike percentage of his career — 126 starts.
Granted, it was just one start, but Jimenez may have turned a corner — for this season and his career. To be honest, Ubaldo’s previous formula for success probably wasn’t all that sustainable. In the past, he’s been able to overcome poor location with ridiculous heat. As he gets older, his velocity will drop and he must learn to pitch if he’s going to be successful. Last night, he didn’t just overwhelm hitters, he actually pitched a great game.
I have no clue if last night’s control is maintainable. Considering U’s track record, it seemed a little fluky. However, if he is able to pitch like that in the future — 95 MPH heat with pinpoint location — he’ll be better than he was last year and he’ll be able to do it for a lot longer.
The Rockies seemed pretty fired up about the win and they should have been. It was a big W. However, it only matters if they can actually build upon it and string some victories together. This isn’t the first time we thought they were coming out of the funk. If they get swept in San Francisco, nobody is going to remember this. It will be back to doom and gloom. Hopefully, the re-emergence of their ace will light a fire under this team. After all, it’s June and that means it’s time for the Rox to start playing baseball again.
Disagree? As always, comments are welcome.