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Monday Rockpile: Troubles in Paradise

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Another week, another disappointing start from Ubaldo Jimenez. It's kind of hard to juggle how to react to his performance so far in 2011. Last season was so exciting, so thrilling. By this point last season, Ubaldo had made 5 starts, thrown a no-hitter, posted a 0.79 ERA (3R, 34.1IP), and truly established himself as an Ace. The Rockies won all 5 of his starts.

So far in 2011, Ubaldo has made 4 starts, posted a 7.20 ERA (17R, 16ER, 20.0 IP), and shaken the fanbase as a whole about the strength of the pitching staff. The Rockies have lost all 4 of Ubaldo's starts.

Purely statistically speaking, things aren't ALL that miserable. Sort of. Ubaldo has struck out 20 batters in his 20 innings of work. He has also walked 11. A bad K/BB isn't really enough to get me worried, especially when it's nearly 2.00 and over the course of 4 starts in one month. Small sample size and all that. What really gets me is the rate Jimenez is allowing home runs (1.35 HR/9). Considering that he hasn't pitched a season of 20+ starts with a HR/9 over 0.55, this is clearly something to keep an eye on. It's not so much a question mark, however, when you consider his average velocity.

Starting in 2008, Ubaldo had an average fastball velocity of 94.9 mph. 2009 and 2010, 96.1 mph. Through 20IP in 2011, 92.3. For a pitcher who had the 2nd most valuable fastball in the majors (if you trust Fangraphs' specious pitch type values), to see his velocity drop off drastically suggests that it's losing a lot of effectiveness. We've seen him touch 96-97 a couple of times over his 20 innings, but when you're used to seeing him sit 96-97 and touch 100, maybe 101 a couple times per start...well, I think you see where I'm going with this.

The consolation prize to this fastball trouble seems to be his breaking stuff. Obviously, Jimenez needs that supersonic fastball to really set up his breaking pitches, but we've seen him make do with what he has left. 5IP/start is hardly what we'd like to see.

The problem with this situation is that there's no cut-and-dry answer to it, and the Rockies are losing games in the meantime.

"If I had the answer, we'd have fixed it, and we'd have fixed it a heck of a lot sooner than May 1st," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "So your guess is as good as mine right now."

"Before I was trying to get my velocity back," Jimenez said. "I have the power back, but I don't have the control. I have to pull those things together. It's probably mental and mechanical. I'm trying to reach back and see my velocity out there, but I'm lacking the control on my fastball."

Both quotes are from Jim Armstrong's piece about Sunday's game.

Whatever it is, we need Ubaldo back to form. He'll miss the Diamondbacks, but he'll be back in line next weekend in San Francisco. 

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