There is a misconception that Ubaldo has been awful for the entire first half of the season. In reality, he was only truly awful in April and for part of May. Since the spring officially turned to summer, he’s been fantastic. Some — cough, cough, Travis Lay, cough, cough — have pushed for the Rockies to entertain trade offers on Ubaldo. While I can certainly see the logic behind such a move — try to make a Rangers-Braves Mark Teixeira type deal — I think it would prove to be a mistake. Not only is he the best pitcher in the history of the franchise, he’s locked up for an affordable price through 2014. Not to mention, he has returned to his old dominant self.
On the face of it, it seems like Ubaldo has been floundering, leaving many point to this as a big reason why the Rockies are struggling this year. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, Ubaldo’s worst month (April) was the team’s best. Secondly, the last month and a half has been one of the better stretches of his career. Even with his horrendous start, the numbers that are within his control have been very similar to what he did in 2009 and 2010. Ubaldo is not the Rockies’ problem.
The biggest in difference in the Ubaldo of the last couple of months has been control. He started out the year injured, something most look past. He wasn’t able to put in the necessary work in spring training and then missed nearly three weeks right at the start of the season. It took some time for him to round into form and the last thing that came was his control. In April, his BB/9 was 3.94. In May that number increased to a robust 5.97. Since then he has been below 2.00, a mark that is significantly better than any other month in his career. Also, since he’s had better location, he’s done a much better job of keeping the ball in the park.
To truly evaluate Ubaldo, it’s probably best to focus on the last two and a half years as a whole. In 2009, he was quietly dominant, contributing almost as much WAR as he did in 2010. Last year, obviously he was a Cy Young candidate, but he benefited from a crazy lucky win streak in the first half of the season. This year, he started off very slow, but has slowly rounded into form. Take all three seasons as a group and you have a very good Major League pitcher — one of the best in baseball actually. He isn’t Cy Young, but he’s by far the Rockies best pitcher. However, perception is reality and this year the perception is that he’s terrible.
I’ll leave you with this final point. Ubaldo’s BB/9, K/9, HR/9, FB/HR, FIP, and xFIP are all pretty much identical to 2009. However, his ERA — the worst pitching statistic outside of wins — is a lot higher. Thus, he’s dreadful. It’s enough to drive this “stat-head” insane.
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