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Living in the moment is hard at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario

Living in the moment is hard at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario
September 4, 2013
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It’s hard to live in the moment here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

To be a Cleveland Indians’ fan often equates to where the team or players have come from, or where the team or players are going. It’s simply the nature of the proverbial ‘lack of championship’ beast. This mentality isn’t unique to the North Coast, but it’s certainly been prevalent over the past 10 years or so, as the Indians have struggled to play playoff baseball.

Let’s put this into perspective a bit.

Think about the one and only Ubaldo Jimenez.

When you mention Jimenez, there are several things that likely pop into your head. The first may or may not be how horrible he has been for the Indians since they traded for him midway through the 2011 season.

The second is more than likely whether or not the Indians are going to offer him a deal of mammoth proportions at the end of the 2013 season, and whether or not he’s deserving of any of the riches that he’ll likely get.

It’s also likely you’ll ponder whether or not he can maintain what he’s doing right now.

The focus is rarely on the right now.

The right now is miraculous and I never in a million years believed it to be possible. Nobody did. Jimenez had lost velocity, and we’re talking 4 MPH. Jimenez couldn’t throw many strikes. Jimenez couldn’t win baseball games.

Jimenez. Was. Done.

Except he wasn’t.

To focus in the now, you can see that Jimenez has won 10 ballgames, and is likely to make a push towards 180 or more innings this year. He’s struck out 147 batters in 147 1/3 innings, and has an outside shot at 200 K’s before the year ends. His K/9 is sitting at 9, and over the past month it’s over 10. His ERA in eight games since the All-Star break is 2.22.

He’s never perfect, and he always has innings that make you want to compare him to the past, but he’s just not that pitcher anymore.

Today, he’s just not that pitcher.

If it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself, it’s because I am.

When I look at Jimenez, I can’t help but think about how the Indians never followed up with their Jimenez acquisition until the firing of Manny Acta at the end of the 2012 season. I can’t help but worry about how the ‘House of Cards’ mentality he showcased in 2011 and 2012 may show up again in 2013, and more than likely, 2014.

When I look at Jimenez, I see a pitcher that has seemingly struggled in every big game. I see a pitcher that throws too many pitches an inning. I see a pitcher that isn’t the ace we were getting. I see a pitcher that can’t stay at 96. I just can’t let go of that stud that dominated the National League for much of 2010.

He’s just not that guy anymore.

If you talk to Ubaldo-apologists, they’ll say things like, “He’s having his best year since...” bringing up comparisons to the past.

He’s just not that guy anymore.

This is a new Jimenez. This is a guy who fights and scrapes and gives his team a chance to win every time he’s on the hill. He’s not a potential Pedro Martinez from the late 90’s and early 2000’s that could blow it by you with a myriad of pitches. Instead, he’s starting to look a bit like Jake Westbrook, but instead of trying to beat a guy into the ground, Jimenez still has the ability and mentality of a strikeout pitcher.

He’s what Jake Westbrook could have been with a bit more velocity.

In other words, looking at Ubaldo Jimenez today can be complicated when you compare him to his old self. That’s what I do. That’s what I shouldn’t do.

He’s not that guy.

Instead, Jimenez has gone from being a dominating thrower, to a battling pitcher. He’s gone from a guy that can throw 15 pitches, to a guy that will throw whatever it takes to get a guy out.

He’s gone from a white collar bottle of talent, to a blue collar mainstay.

In a bubble, Ubaldo Jimenez is exactly the type of pitcher that Cleveland Indians fans could love. He’s no ace, and he never will be.

He has managed to turn himself into a guy that will have bad days, just like us, but can dust himself off, and show up five days later and do it all over again….and 9.5 times out of ten, will win.

Can he do it over the next two or three years? Probably not, but maybe he can. Did he do it in his first year-and-a-half? No.

But today, Ubaldo Jimenez just might be the most consistent pitcher on the staff when you look at his starts from top-to-bottom. He certainly isn’t the guy you want for one start, like his old self. He certainly isn’t the guy that’s going to blow it by a guy by climbing the ladder with 98 MPH fastballs. He certainly will have 40-pitch innings, and walk the bases loaded, and give up three-run bombs.

But somehow…Ubaldo Jimenez seems to keep this team battling for a playoff spot in baseball games…and that’s good enough for me…

…today.

I know that I just preached about staying in moment with regards to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Cleveland Indians, but I need to hop back into normal mode with regards to this team for a moment. IT was reported by several sources in the past 24 hours that both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir will give the Indians a chance to bring them back for 2014 and beyond.

Jimenez has reportedly said that he would listen to an offer, and it feels like home. Kazmir has also said that he has enjoyed his time in Cleveland, and would like to continue here In the Forest City.

I’m not even going to talk numbers here, because you can speculate all you want about what teams will offer these two surprise stories of the Indians’ 2013 campaign, but we’ve all heard this before.

What are they supposed to say, “I hate Cleveland, and want to get out as fast as possible?”

The two starters aren’t idiots.

There’s no doubt that the Indians will make an offer to one or both of two, but at the end of the day, it’s likely that the two hurlers have priced themselves out of Cleveland. The question then becomes whether or not the Indians can do anything to counteract the two leaving.

Might they tender Scott Kazmir a one-year offer next season in hopes of signing him to a longer deal? Think about this.

Kyle Lohse signed a three-year, 33 million dollar deal with the Milwaukee Brewers after nobody came after him through the entire hot stove league season. Lohse had gone 30-11 over the previous two seasons, with an ERA just over 3.00.

Scott Kazmir hasn’t pitched in the league in two years.

Then, the question becomes whether or not you risk the chance that he takes that one-year deal, and if he’s worth the $14 price tag?

Then there is Ubaldo. While I want to look at him with blinders, I still can’t help but remember his 2012 season, in which he was arguably one of the worst ten starters in all of baseball, if not THE worst.

Would you sign the enigmatic one to a multi-year deal in the realm of $10 million, banking on the 2013 version being real, or would you back off, banking on the 2012 version returning?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but there is one stark reality: It’s doubtful the Indians will sign both.

At that point, you have to ask yourself which pitcher would provide the Indians with the most value?

Remember, Kazmir didn’t play big league baseball since 2011, and really, since 2010. He only pitched one game with the Angels in 2011. This season, he’s pitched in 130 innings, which is 20 less than Jimenez, and has an ERA over ½ run worse than Ubaldo.

The difference between the two from start-to-start is also interesting. Kazmir can look like the dominating guy from his heyday from 2005-2009. Ubaldo rarely does, but somehow pulls out starts with 10 K’s, 0 walks and painful-to-watch innings.

It’s just odd.

Kazmir, while he’s had dominant games, has also seen a decline in his numbers over the year. Is this due to a ‘dead-arm’ issue that would be normal for a guy that hasn’t pitched 150 innings since 2010? Is this the same issue that ultimately led to his disappearing off a major league roster for the better part of two seasons?

Seriously, I can’t figure out if this is a good problem to have, or like choosing to either reach in a bucket of vipers or cobras.

Good luck with this one Chris Antonetti, and as much as I think that at least one of them will be back for 2014, I’m also likely not to be too disappointed if both head off into the sunset for way more money than I would pay for either.

Who would replace them?

That’s a question for another day.

One other interesting tidbit of information for both Kazmir and Ubaldo. I love baseball reference’s similarity scores. I don’t put a ton of value into either the similar pitchers, or similar ages rundown, but it’s always fun to see who pitchers are compared to, stat-wise.

I took a breeze through both today, and found something that actually took me a bit by surprise.

At the top of the list for Ubaldo Jimenez with regards to similar numbers? You guessed it, Scott Kazmir. Of course, Jimenez tops the list for Kazmir as well.

Who is most similar to Ubaldo Jimenez at age 28?

Len Barker is at one and Ben McDonald is at two. Take that for what it’s worth.

Danny Salazar is scheduled to start on Sunday, against Dice-K. So much for the ‘end of the road.’ I don’t know when they are going to shut him down, but I do know that he’s now gone one or two starts past what most thought.

It just goes to show you that trying to predict these things are pretty impossible with a front office that handles information like a pile of gold.

Danny Salazar is special, and they realize that. I doubt they would risk his arm if they didn’t think he was capable.

My guess here though is that next year, the cap is off.

Let’s all welcome our 2014 ace on Sunday’s edition of Messing with Salazar.

Oh, and before I go, the Cleveland Indians are going to make the playoffs this year. I said it at the beginning of the year. I said it in July, and I’m saying it in September. I don’t think they’ll advance, but I do think they have one more run in them…even without Masterson.

There’s something special about this team, and they are going to show it.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Rick
September 5, 2013 - 1:23 PM EDT
Can the Tribes offense come alive enough to go at least 16-7 down the stretch? One thing for certain, they have the best schedule. Baltimore, NY, and the Rays all play each other - plus the Red Sox, and the Jays have been playing their best in a lost season of late.

Even at 91 wins the 2nd wild card is no lock. Still, I believe it can happen.

I disagreed with Tony on another Ubaldo post; don't think he will be offered 3 years even though pitching commands such a $$$ Premium in the market. His situation (and potential) is more akin to formerly Fausto than it is Edwin Jackson or Kyle L.

Mentioning him in the same breath with Westbrook is a bit of a stretch though. I want to believe that Ubaldo SHOULD BE at 12 or 13 wins right now, but that forgets that Calloway and Tito have correctly kept him on a tight leash and short pitch count.

He is still a guy who you cant trust in a high leverage situation after two times through the order. Is that a common feature of Westbrook now or when we had him?

Hate to say it but it was an awful trade. We gave away a very gifted #1 power lefty - and the only reason it hasn't been regarded as a franchise killing disaster is because Colorado has royally screwed HIM UP. Plus the other #1 White ended up flipped to Houston AND with Tommy J.

As to Kaz, I agree with Tony whole-heartedly on him. Not only is he a lefty, he has shown signs - a three game stretch - of being BETTER than his best before he broke down.

Kazmir should be the priority sign. But again, only for 1-2 year and given the sample size of this year - and the history - @ 10% or more below market value.

Otherwise, given the exciting developments in our young guys, that money is better spent on locking up position players who have earned it.

Ubaldo is always going to be a mystery man; just three bad starts away from turning into Dontrelle Willis. Even so, given how Calloway has seemed to calmed into being effective - I stand by my earlier quote - 2 years 23 mil.
Norm
September 5, 2013 - 1:05 AM EDT
Really enjoyed your article Jim. I think you covered all the bases with U J. Please do not accuse me of being an apologist but I personally believe the coaching and managerial staff has made some of the difference in the pitcher we see today. That, and while he doesn't touch upper 90s often, he still has an excellent assortment of secondary pitches.

I am on record that I believe U J should be given a qualifying offer after he rejects the option. I don't agree with Tony that he will not receive an offer but who knows. Don't really care I suspect he will be more like the pitcher he is today with current guidance.

Hey, good news on the attendance front! While the contending Indians were still 20% under the next lowest ML attendance, at least they got over 10,000 tonight.

I think they have a chance to sign Kazmir an affordable price but he no longer shows the consistency of U J from what I see.
Rich S.
September 4, 2013 - 11:44 PM EDT
I'd pick up the option, knowing Jimenez will decline it. Saves the Indians $1 million. If he picks it up he is still tradeable. I'd be shocked if Jimenez signs for what Tony suggests. One decent year after being the worse pitcher in baseball since joining the Indians doesn't inspire much long-term confidence. But crazier things have happened.
Tony
September 4, 2013 - 10:46 PM EDT
The Indians will no doubt pick up the option, but Ubaldo will no doubt decline it. His agent is already preparing him for a big payday in the offseason. The only hangup could be if the Indians extend him the qualifying offer which should be about 1 year $14M. If they do that then perhaps he takes a smaller long term deal with the Indians because no team is going to waste a first round pick to sign him.
Devin
September 4, 2013 - 10:34 PM EDT
Ubaldo has an $8M mutual option ($1M buyout) that has been written off since about 2011... but it's still there. With the way he's been pitching since the end of APRIL (yeah, that's right... 3.11 ERA since APRIL 29!) I would not be surprised if that option is picked up by the tribe. Then again, maybe Ubaldo declines and tests the free agent waters... but who would have thought THAT's the way it'd go??
Tony
September 4, 2013 - 10:31 PM EDT
I prefer Kazmir over Jimenez. Both have similar numbers, but for me the difference is Kazmir is a lefty and I like that little dynamic to the rotation.....and the other is Kazmir can be resigned for much less than Jimenez. With Jimenez likely in the 3/35 or 4/46 range to be resigned, I'd rather go for Kazmir who is looking for a 1 or 2 year deal at about 7-9M per. That's more manageable to me for a team with finite resources, and especially when Masterson is a year from FA.
Lester Hudson
September 4, 2013 - 10:27 PM EDT
People just don't wanna believe that Jimenez has outpitched Kazmir. Why would anyone want Kazmir over Jimenez? That dude has not pitched a full season in the bigs since 2010, and he is always hurt. At the very least Jimenez is durable and makes every start. I like Kazmir too but if given a choice it's Jimenez all the way. Numbers don't lie.
Rich S.
September 4, 2013 - 10:02 PM EDT
I still believe the Indians did a poor assessment of Jiminez when they acquired him two years ago. I hated watching him and Carmona pitch and would often not just watch. I agree that this year is a miracle but wouldn't think of bringing him back next year. I think this year is an aberration and the Indians should count themselves lucky.

I would try to bring back Kazmir and don't believe he has priced himself out of their market. A 14 million/year figure is ridiculous and at most would get a 2-year/$14 million deal. I'd like the Indians to sign him as he would break up their righty rotation.

No way they make an offer to Jiminez as they have so many other right-handed starters - including Tomlin, who many people are prematurely writing off already for the 2014 rotation.
Canadian Joe
September 4, 2013 - 9:05 PM EDT
WOW !!!! Gomes has to be this team's MVP !!!!!
Canadian Joe
September 4, 2013 - 9:03 PM EDT
This team is hard to stay up with. Every facet of their game has been erratic. They have had more ups and downs than a hooker's drawers at convention time. They just can not seem to sustain any offence or pitching, or defense for that matter over any period of time. Tonite, they are cruising, then a 3 run bomb. Wow. For some reason, I won't give up on them, I just wish they would ease off my blood pressure readings. Want them to win so bad........
Seth
September 4, 2013 - 9:02 PM EDT
Why do people insist that Kazmir has priced himself out of Cleveland? He's currently at 1.3 fWAR, or 0.3 by bWAR with its ERA-based numbers. He might throw 150 innings. Which will also be the number of innings he's thrown in the last 3 years. Shaun Marcum had a far better recent history than Kazmir and signed for 1/4. With his recent fade, Kazmir will be lucky if someone gives him Myers money at this point.

Ubaldo as well, I think right now he gets a larger contract than Kazmir, since they've moved in opposite directions, but I really doubt anyone's crazy enough to go long term, when he'd been one of the worst pitchers in baseball the previous two years. We as Indians fans can appreciate his last 3-4 starts, but anyone looking at giving him their money is likely to look at the larger body of work, which is that of a below-average starting pitcher.

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