Ubaldo Jimenez can’t find the strike zone. He’s walked at least five batters in each of his past three games, the longest streak by an Indians starter since Chuck Finley in 2002, and just the third to pull it off in the last 20 years.
Jimenez has also walked at least three in each of his seven starts this season, the longest season-opening streak by a Tribe pitcher since Barry Moore did so in 10 straight to open the 1970 campaign. Moore was an offseason acquisition from Washington who would make just two more starts in Cleveland before general manager Gabe Paul shipped him off to the White Sox.
Pitch F/X tracks a stat called “non-competitive pitches” which are essentially balls thrown so far out of the strike zone that no batter could reasonably expect to make solid contact. For some pitchers, typically guys who throw hard-breaking sliders or curves, these are intentional and can be used as an effective strikeout pitch. But the stat can also be used to track the pitchers with the least control.
Jimenez currently ranks 24th in the majors with 121 non-competitive pitches. That statistic alone isn’t necessarily concerning. However, of 180 qualifying pitchers, Jimenez has the 8th-lowest “chase percentage,” meaning hitters have offered at just four of his 121 wild pitches. By comparison, Washington’s Craig Stammen leads the majors with a chase percentage of 20% on his non-competitive pitches, due primarily to a slider which breaks low and away from right-handed batters.
The heat map below demonstrates the stark difference between a pitcher who can’t locate the strike zone (Jimenez) and a pitcher effectively throwing outside the zone to induce bad swings (Stammen).
King of Beantown
Jason Kipnis first made his presence felt last year in Boston, where he homered in three straight games. In his return trip this season, Kipnis picked up where he left off, going 7-17 with a homer and two RBI. In his eight career games at Fenway, Kipnis is now batting .394 with four home runs and a 1.232 OPS. Over the past 50 seasons, only one player with at least 30 plate appearances in Fenway has posted a higher OPS: former Orioles backup catcher Floyd Rayford (1.235). And just behind Kipnis is Hall of Famer and former Indian Frank Robinson (1.188).
Hagadone here to stay?
Nick Hagadone has only appeared in nine games this season, but so far, so good. He’s faced 36 batters and sent 10 of them back to dugout with a strikeout. While it’s a small sample size, his heat map shows just how dominant he’s been.
Hagadone has been particulary tough on lefties, who are just 1-15 with six strikeouts against him this season.
While it doesn’t directly relate to the Indians, I just can’t ignore the horrendous start by Albert Pujols. Through 35 games he’s batting .196 with .275 slugging percentage. To put that into a Cleveland perspective, since 1918 only one Indian with as many plate appearances as Pujols has posted an average under .200 with a slugging percentage under .300 this deep into the season, and you have to go back nearly a full century to find him. In 1920, Bill Wambsganss – who hit just seven career home runs – was batting .190 with a .241 slugging percentage. I suppose the silver lining for the Angels could be the fact that the 1920 Indians went on to win the World Series.
Follow Ryan on twitter @TribeFanMcC