Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Early Case For Ubaldo Jimenez Winning the Cy Young

It's early. There is no denying that. However, with an eighth of the season already complete, it's not too early to speculate on who will win the postseason awards.

My early vote for National League Cy Young is more cut and dry than most. It's easy. Ubaldo Jimenez. While there is a case for both Tim Lincecum and Colorado's own Roy Halladay, the fact is, none have been as good as Jimenez.

There is no doubt about it, the three pitchers in question are in a league of their own. Looking at the statistics does not give definitive reasons why any of the three should be ahead in the race.

Tim Lincecum- 4-0, 1.86 ERA, 64 K's, 10 BB, 0.91 WHIP
Roy Halladay- 6-1, 1.45 ERA, 48 K's, 7 BB, 0.946 WHIP
Ubaldo Jimenez- 6-1, 0.93 ERA, 49 K's, 20 BB, 0.993 WHIP

Side by side the numbers look very similar, however, the numbers do not tell the whole story.

The obvious point that puts Jimenez on top of the other two candidates is his April 17th no hitter in Atlanta. The Dominican not only threw a no-hitter, he dominated a team that most would consider one of the top lineups in the National League. He did it in their home park.

While some have said that the no-hitter was ugly, or that it was cheap, there is also a saying that says "a cheap no hitter is like an ugly supermodel, they don't exist." Jimenez's no hitter was nothing close to cheap. He may have walked six Braves on the night, but that was more of a product of Jimenez's fastball moving so much that it was hard to consistently know exactly where it was going. His 99 MPH fastball literally was moving eight inches that night.

The fact is, it can be in the pitchers favor when he can blow 100 MPH smoke by the other team consistently and be missing his spots every now and then. There is not a person in the world who is taking a comfortable at bat know that the guy 60 feet, six inches away from him is able to throw a ball hard enough to kill him, and isn't quite sure where it is going.

While the no hitter is a strong argument for Jimenez taking home top honors for a pitcher, there is one more important reason that he is the clear cut, early favorite.

For years people have been discounting hitters numbers at Coors Field. They have said that the ball flies out of the park. They have said that the outfield is so big balls fall in more than they would anywhere else. They have said that pitches don't break as much in the high altitude, causing more hanging pitches ready to be smacked. There have been hundreds of reasons to argue why a hitter who plays 81 games at Coors Field should not have their numbers taken seriously.

If that is true, than shouldn't it be just the opposite for a pitcher who makes his home at Coors Field? No one ever talks about the fact that Jimenez must pitch half of the time in what has been dubbed the greatest hitting venue in the history of the world.

Jimenez has to deal with the ball carrying further. He has to deal with a huge outfield that allows balls to fall in. He has to deal with his breaking pitches not breaking as much. He also has to deal with the fact that half the time he takes the mound he is pitching in Mile High thin air that is harder to breathe, taking a toll on stamina more than anything.

So if a hitter like Todd Helton has always had to have his numbers adjusted because of Coors Field, it should stand to reason that a pitcher should benefit from the same theory in the other direction.

Lincecum pitches in one of the better pitchers parks in baseball. At night it is nearly impossible to hit the ball out of the park in San Francisco. He benefits from that.

Halladay does not pitch in a pitcher's heaven, but Citizen's Bank Park has never been mentioned as more of a hitter's park than Coors Field.

Consider for a minute how huge it is that Jimenez pitches at Coors Field and still has been able to accomplish what he has accomplished.

While it may be early, Jimenez should be the front runner for the National League Cy Young Award.

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This article is also featured on InDenverTimes.com

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