This offseason the Colorado Rockies signed Ubaldo Jimenez to an extension. The terms were a guaranteed four years/$10 million dollars with a maximum potential of six years/$22.75 million dollars. At the time of the deal, I thought it was a steal. Jimenez is just 25 years old. He's been durable, he has great stuff, and oh he's really, really good. I expected Jimenez to clearly out perform the contract, but I didn't expect he would give the Rockies half the value of the $22.75 million after just 14 starts in 2009. Now I know it is premature to analyze a potential six year contract after just two and a half months, but Jimenez is quietly putting up some amazing numbers in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.
After yesterday's victory, Jimenez is 6-6 with a 3.73 ERA. Thanks to a nice round K/BB of 2.00 and an amazing 0.30 HR/9 despite Coors Field being his home ball park, Jimenez's FIP is 3.28. Even with his blazing fastball that sits, yes sits, at an average speed of 95.5, he only striking out 7.66 hitters per nine, which is eerily close to his career K/9 of 7.60. Jimenez still struggles with his control, but his 3.83 BB/9 is nearly a full walk lower than last season and about half a walk lower than career norms. The most eye popping stat is the home runs allowed.
As mentioned above, Jimenez has a HR/9 of just 0.30 in 2009. For his career that number is just 0.60. Over his career, if you look at just his home runs per nine at Coors Field, in 194.1 innings tossed at the launching pad, he has allowed just 14 home runs or 0.65 per nine. Ubaldo Jimenez is the human humidor.
Despite the great start, Jimenez actually has room to improve. His current BABIP of .318 is 20 points higher than normal and his line drive percentage is up 2.5% over his career average. While those aren't earth shattering numbers, Jimenez is due for some regression to the mean, which will make his numbers even better.
With a WAR of 2.5 this season, he was already covered $11.2 million of his contract in value. If he just matches his 4.4 WAR from a season ago, he will nearly be worth his entire extension in 2009. For an organization that has not had much of a reputation for developing starting pitchers, Jimenez is changing that quickly.