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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: Ubaldogate
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

Last week, I mentioned how Ubaldo Jimenez became more of a pitcher than a thrower and that was successful for him against the Blue Jays. On Monday, he morphed back into the pitcher we remember from 2012. The guy who makes coitus with a wood chipper somehow seem more pleasant than watching him pitch.  It took him all of four hitters to zap the Home Opener energy out of a crowd of 41,000-plus. Following that start, the Indians turned on the spin cycle and created Ubaldogate.

One of my favorite baseball people on the internet, Kyle Boddy, has been covering the Ubaldo saga from every angle. I’ve mentioned him before, but Boddy runs a baseball training academy in Seattle that focuses on teaching the proper mechanics of hitting and pitching through physiological science. It’s about staying healthy. Pitchers lose velocity and lose command when they’re pitching hurt or with bad mechanics.

The day after Jimenez’s first start against Toronto, Boddy was skeptical. In his well-trained eyes, Jimenez’s mechanics were not going to increase velocity and they were going to put additional strain on his elbow. Boddy’s last line read, “Ubaldo Jimenez will never be that guy again if he continues to throw the way he does——and I believe he will continue to lose velocity throughout the season if these mechanics keep up.”

As it turned out, “throughout the season” became “in his second start”. Jimenez’s velocity was down so much that PITCHf/x data classified 51 of Jimenez’s 91 pitches as changeups. PITCHf/x data classifies pitches by speed and by movement. The system was incorrectly classifying his fastballs as changeups. Of course, saying “incorrectly” is debatable, since the pitch had the speed and movement of a changeup.

The Indians have said all along that they don’t want Jimenez to care about velocity. They want him to focus on command and using the bottom of the strike zone instead of worrying about throwing the ball past the hitter. Well, they saw what happens when he loses velocity and cannot command his pitches. In his first start in Toronto, Jimenez had 11 swings and misses. In Monday’s abhorrent effort, the Yankees whiffed three times.

Clearly there’s something wrong here and it’s more than just Jimenez’s historically-questionable command. The Indians chose an interesting route to describe the loss in velocity. Building off of the wireless internet and cell phone reception issues that plagued the ballpark in the Home Opener, the Indians’ propaganda machine seemed to work just fine. Let's blame the radar gun!

Here’s Paul Hoynes on the “faulty radar gun” that affected Jimenez’s start:

Jimenez has spent much of this spring throwing between 90 mph to 92 mph with the ability to hit 94 to 95 mph when needed. Monday, however, he rarely hit 90 mph and spent most of the game being clocked in the mid to 80s.

Turns out there was a problem with the PITCHf/x program at Progressive Field on Monday that affected the velocity readings that appeared on the ballpark signboards. The readings affected every pitcher who appeared in the game, not just Jimenez.

Reportedly, the ballpark scoreboard was 2.6 mph to 2.8 mph lower than what the velocity pitchers were actually throwing at according to radar guns behind the plate.

The system uses three tracking cameras and a central pitch tracking system in every stadium. The data can be sent to in real time to television broadcasts or other sites to analyze performances.

The problem with Jimenez was when he saw his declining velocity on the scoreboard, he tried to throw harder. However, that ended up slowing his delivery down.

A reasonable argument, right? There had been technical issues in the ballpark and Jimenez, who has a questionable mental makeup anyway, was compensating for his lack of velocity.

My bullshit detector immediately went off, in large part because I have been reading Boddy’s analyses on Jimenez and his awful mechanics. As it turns out, Boddy’s bullshit detector was in full force as well:

This has happened before in other parks, so it’s a totally plausible theory. The only problem is that Hoynes is absolutely wrong.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched against Ubaldo Jimenez. Here are his Brooks Baseball PITCHf/x average velocities:

April 8th (the slow gun day): 90-91 MPH (link)
April 3rd (vs. BOS): 90-91 MPH (link)

So you’re telling me Kuroda was throwing 92-93 instead? Let’s look at some other pitchers from that game.

Matt Albers, April 8th: 92 MPH
Matt Albers, April 6th: 93.5 MPH (+1.5 MPH)

Albers seems to have been throwing a bit harder, but he was also on one day’s rest in the April 8th game.

Joba Chamberlain, April 8th: 93.8 MPH
Joba Chamberlain, April 6th: 92.5 MPH (-1.3 MPH)

Joba threw harder in the “slow gun” day. So apparently Joba is throwing something like 96-97 MPH again? Definitely something to tell the Yankees’ brass, I’m sure they’d be very happy.

Let’s recap exactly what Ubaldo’s velocity loss was:

Ubaldo Jimenez, April 8th: 11 fastballs at 90.3 MPH, 51 “changeups” at 84.8 MPH.
Ubaldo Jimenez, April 3rd: 28 fastballs at 93.1 MPH, 23 changeups at 83.7 MPH.

So you’re telling me Ubaldo threw 51 changeups? Doesn’t seem likely. His h-break/v-break for his changeup on April 8th wasn’t even close to the same pitch on April 3rd. Compare for yourself using the links above – on April 8th it was -5.34/+8.06, on April 6th it was -6.36/+5.17.

You know what a pitch with -5.34/+8.06 break is most similar to in Ubaldo’s pitch selection? A four-seam fastball.

Boddy, originally from Northeast Ohio, remains an Indians fan even though he lives in Washington. He took to Twitter in an effort to get the truth out.





Boddy’s last Tweet went unanswered.

The rainouts allowed the Indians to reshuffle their rotation and, as a result, Jimenez has been skipped in the rotation and placed at the back of it. Is it because of an injury or is it to avoid another Ubaldo Jimenez Experience for as long as possible?

Facts are facts. As Jimenez’s velocity has declined, his ERA and FIP have gone up. This is a guy who gave up 55 home runs in 851 innings with Colorado. In 252.1 innings with the Indians, he has allowed 35 home runs. It’s pretty safe to ignore the league change when you’re talking about a guy who pitched 419.2 of those 851 innings in Coors Field.

The Indians need to call a spade a spade. The last drops of credibility they were hoping to milk out of this trade this season are gone. It may only be two starts, but there are going to be far more bad starts than good ones. The Indians could try and go the Ricky Romero/Roy Halladay path and send Jimenez down to Single-A to try and rebuild him from the ground up. I’d be stunned if anybody took a chance on Jimenez and claimed him on waivers. It might work enough to make him a serviceable starter or it might not work at all. Either way, it’s better than watching him throw 88 mph fastballs down the pike to Major League hitters.

The spin that they’re trying to put on Jimenez is embarrassing. You can bet that the radar gun will be “hot” on Tuesday night in Jimenez’s next start and they’ll do everything they can to fake Jimenez into thinking he’s something he isn’t. Find me an effective pitcher that lost SIX miles per hour of average velocity over the span of four seasons. If you can find one, you’ll have a real hard time doing it.

The new look Indians surprised us this offseason with their proactivity and go-for-it attitude. To continue that process, the Indians will have to cut the cord with Jimenez sooner rather than later. It’s hard to imagine that Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, or even Trevor Bauer would put up numbers worse than Jimenez, and even if they did, could they possibly be that much worse? Also, you’d be developing those guys to maybe find a middle of the rotation starter for next season, since starting pitching will still be a need.

But, that doesn’t appear to be the case and it was reaffirmed by the organization’s misguided attempt to cover up for Jimenez. It’s unfortunate that Boddy wasn’t taken seriously by the Cleveland media. Paul Hoynes has been stunningly cynical about the Indians for a while now, but when given ammunition to further that cynicism, he tucked his tail between his legs because he doesn’t know who Boddy is. The case presented above is airtight. Jimenez was the only pitcher affected by this "faulty radar gun". Add in declining velocity for some time now and the mechanical mess that Jimenez has become and this is far from a coincidence.

I’ll end with this. Watch as Carlos Santana clearly calls for a fastball and then watch his reaction to the first pitch Jimenez threw in the Home Opener. Also, note the speed in the top left corner:

You think he believes it was a faulty radar gun?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist nor do I often criticize the Indians’ front office. I always try to see things from their perspective and justify them accordingly. However, with something like this, where something is clearly amiss and is proven to be false, they should be taken to task. The smoke has mostly blown over from this, thanks in part to Carlos Carrasco’s “slip” when he beaned Kevin Youkilis and two rainouts, but this weekly column is my soapbox, so it's where I have my chance to say something.

I don’t know if the Indians are lying to the fans, to Jimenez, or to themselves, but it’s time to wise up about the entire Jimenez situation.

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