scared babyTo be clear, I’ve never said that Ubaldo Jimenez is a great fit for the Chicago Cubs to sign this offseason. The first year of his deal would probably be wasted on the Cubs, and he’s no lock to be great after that first year (he’s hardly a model of consistency). I recognize the loss of velocity. I recognize the potentially deep pool of pitching talent available next year. I know the Cubs have to be judicious in how they use their dollars right now.

All I’ve ever said is that, if Jimenez’s market collapses as the season approaches, there is the potential for his price to fall into the “surplus value” zone. That is particularly true for teams that do not have to give up a first round pick to sign him, like the Cubs. Rumors have his price tag already falling into the three-year, $39 million range, which doesn’t look too bad.

After all, Jimenez was brutally bad in 2012, when he was adjusting to life as a pitcher without superior velocity anymore. But last year he was worth 3.2 WAR. From 2008 through 2011, he was worth 3.9, 5.6, 6.5, and 3.3 wins. Last year, his ERA was 3.30, his FIP was 3.43, his xFIP was 3.62, and he struck out 9.6 per 9 while walking 3.9 per 9.

Three years and $39 million for that guy? In this market? Even after surrendering a second rounder and knowing that 2014 won’t be a great year for the Cubs? Yeah, I’m still thinking it looks like a good deal.

… but then FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan took a massive dump on my interest in Jimenez on a bargain deal. It’s amazing how presenting the same information in different contexts can make you think again. Read Sullivan’s piece to get that context, but here are a couple short snippets:

To just get right to the point: Jimenez made his 24th start on August 17th, in Oakland. He finished with a 4.00 ERA and a 4.33 FIP, and he’d averaged about 1.8 strikeouts per walk. Three of five pitches had gone for strikes. Batters had reached against him at a .335 clip. The average AL starter last year threw 63.5% of pitches for strikes. Jimenez had reached or exceeded that rate in five games out of 24 ….

Here, in order, are Jimenez’s final eight opponents from last August and September:

@White Sox
White Sox

Woof. As Sullivan points out, that Braves lineup didn’t feature Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman, and included a pitcher. The Orioles weren’t terrible, but that’s about it. It’s a mix of horrible, horrible lineups (most of them in September, mind you), and those eight starts accounted for the vast majority of Jimenez’s success in 2013. I knew Jimenez’s season found a great deal of its strength in the second half, but I didn’t realize it was quite this stark.

I don’t like to read one thing about a guy and completely change my position, but this is about as close as it comes for me.

In the end, this is almost entirely academic, since the odds the Cubs go after Jimenez – even on a bargain deal – are quite small. Instead, you can expect them to nab someone like Jason Hammel or Paul Maholm, and proceed into 2014 with an eye on the free agent market at that time.

  • Brett

    Initial version of this headline was missing a pretty critical “n’t” at the end of “is.”

  • Chad

    Wow, that is glaring, and a beautiful example of why you can’t just look at stats or overall averages and have to actually look at the path that it took to get to those numbers.

    • CubFan Paul

      “beautiful example of why you can’t just look at stats or overall averages”

      People assume on BABIP all the time

      • Norm

        It’s easy to assume on BABIP depending on what the number is.

        .400 BABIP? Yeah, I’ll assume all day that its going to go down next year. Probably significantly.
        .200 BABIP? Same thing in the opposite direction.

        • Drew7

          Dude, you’re talking to CubFan “WatchTheGames” Paul – his stance on BABIP will *never* change.

          • CubFan Paul

            “his stance on BABIP will *never* change”

            What exactly is my stance on babip?

            • CubFan Paul


      • DocPeterWimsey

        The critical difference here is the difference in sample size and how thoroughly one’s opponents are mixed. BABiP is in big part a measure of how good the other team’s fielders are. That varies from series to series. 8 different series (matching the number of different series in which Jimenez pitched) is about one month of play for a position player. You might get stretches where you get a month in which the team fielding is as bad as the team hitting is that Jimenez faced: and it shouldn’t be a surprise if guys get above average BABiP in those stretches. “He’s hot!” the announcers will say as well as “when your going right, even the bad ones drop” after a guy rolls over his wrists but sneaks a grounder through or after he makes a flat-footed swing that bloops just between all of the fielders.

        However, I wouldn’t be surprised if most players fail to go a single month each year batting against team-fielding as bad as the team-hitting that Jimenez got over those 6 weeks.

        (That is why xBABiP probably is better than BABiP anyway: but the naysayers here won’t like what xBABiP says!)

  • Webb

    Did you mean is *not as attractive?

  • Jon

    If you are going to play the game of “chopping” up the season and cherry picking stats, don’t you have to do that for every pitcher?

    • Brett

      Sullivan addresses that issue. This is a pretty unique circumstance.

      • Brocktoon

        Where did he address that issue?? He’s taking out a subset of games because they’re against bad offensive teams, they just happened to occur(for the most part) consecutively. It’s Removing data for one pitcher against the teams he should perform best again and then asking the reader to take his numbers without that data as his true value This is really amateur analysis for fangraphs.

        • Edwin

          I think it was more about how simply looking at his last 8 starts and only using those as evidence of a “turnaround” would be very misleading. Which we probably should have already known.

          • Brocktoon

            It just reminds me all too much of hacks referencing a team’s record against playoff teams as some sort if evidence that they only beat up on lesser competition. Ohhhhhh hey “team A only went 500 against the other playoff teams.” You don’t say???!! The best teams perform worse against other really good teams? Get that Pulitzer ready

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Time series analyses do this all the time. That is, after all, the point of such analyses. (I once published a paper ostensibly about shifts in preservation rates in the fossil record in which I used the month-to-month HR stats for McGwire & Sosa in 1998 as my hypothetical example before using some empirical examples!)

    • baldtaxguy

      “If you are going to play the game of “chopping” up the season and cherry picking stats, don’t you have to do that for every pitcher?”

      Yes, particularly if you were considering an investment in a particular pitcher. Not sure of the point here, but why wouldn’t you analyze the stats in differing subsets for a potential employee?

  • Jim

    His peripherals arent super. I’m curious to what his WAR was through the all-star break. Only way I see value is if he can be signed on a back loaded/heavy incentive deal, then flipped to a contender if he produces.

  • CubFan Paul

    What about Santana? Why no offseason love for him? He’ll come just as cheap

  • Edwin

    Maybe Jimenez had a bunch of tougher starts that made his early season struggles worse, though.

    I get what Sullivan is saying, but those starts pulled his numbers up just as much in the last half of the season as if he’d pitched them throughout season. Obviously the talent levels in Sep can be widely different, but still. Was he as good as his 1.28 FIP over that stretch? No, but we probably already knew that. It doesn’t mean his gains weren’t real, just because they all happened against poor lineups at the end of the season.

    I still don’t want the Cubs to sign him, due mainly to his velocity loss.

  • conysdad

    Agreed. There’s not a whole lot of upside to signing Jimenez or Santana for much of anything, really. I think waiting to spend on pitching until next year is ok as long as the first rounder remains protected. Which is all but guaranteed. Signing a couple of guys out of the class of free agent pitchers next year and only losing a 2nd and 3rd would be a really good value. I don’t think many of us would be too unhappy with one of Shields/Masterson and a guy like McCarthy. That said…the money will have to be there.

    • BenW

      I think if we could get either on the right deal, there would be upside. But it would have to be on the Cubs terms, and I think other teams will be willing to pay more now that we will.

      I would be happy with Shields/McCarthy, but so would many other teams. I could see many teams not active in FA this year (LAA, Boston, Cubs, ChiSox, Pit) being more active next year. I’d be shocked if the Cubs are able to land more than 1 stud SP next year.

  • Spoda17

    Good article, good information, and I want nothing to do with him in the Cubs. But, it’s not his fault those were the teams he faced, and he was [supposed] to beat those teams. If he would have lost to those teams I think the information would be more useful.

    Good to know, but I wouldn’t base my decision making on it.

  • Cubsin

    Next winter, we’ll know things like are Shark and EJax still Cubs, how did Arrieta, Grimm, Rusin and Cabrera perform in 2014, and how did Hendricks, Edwards and Johnson perform in the minor leagues. We’ll also know which potential free agent pitchers signed extensions and which ones filed for free agency.

  • VanceLawblawsLawBlog

    Totally unrelated, but Corey Black made KLaw’s top 10 Cubs prospect list. So THAT’S something…

    • Jason P

      Now that Junior Lake is in MLB, Dan Vogelbach has taken over his role of “Cubs prospect who Law absolutely hates”.

  • Cubsin

    If the 2014-15 free agent class is strong and the Cubs have a protected first round pick, that would be a very good time to sign multiple free agents. It’s much better to lose a second, third and fourth round pick than to lose a first round pick and a couple of second round picks.

  • nate1m

    Did anyone think he was a dominate TOR? He did what I would expect keep you in games against good teams and look great against bad ones. It just looks bad because they all came together. He had 4 or 5 games where he was awful and I’d expect that too.

    I still don’t want him. The fun of the Cubs this year will be the youngsters. I’ll be watching to see a surprise and I want guys to get a shot. He was never going to be life changing

  • Spoda17

    I really think at this point we bag signing anyone. I would rather see Grimm, Beeler, or Hendricks give it a shot over some other FA that comes on the cheap. Not sure we can get Maholm and flip him again… If we pick up anyone it would be to flip, so eff it, let’s just go with what we have and order extra beer.

  • soultosoul

    On a semi-related note. Can someone explain to me how having free agents tied to a draft pick makes sense? Not trying to be an ass. I really don’t get how MLB thought this was a good idea.

    I understand wanting parody in the league. Otherwise you get a team like the Dodgers (fun to pick on) that was good and will be again this year and has a seemingly endless supply of $$ buying up all of the FA with no “penalties” and a bottom level team can’t compete.

    I understand the Cubs 1st rd pick is protected ( and that is the only thing that makes sense about this), but draft picks are even more valuable to a team like the Cubs. That’s 80% of our future team right there. Especially to sign a mediocre pitcher at best (Jimenez). What you are saying by signing him is that, yes, he is worth the value of the contract (as you would anyone you sign) but added to that is also the value of the potential superstar that you would draft in the first round (or second rd for the Cubs). Is any FA contract so undervalued as to make this a good deal? Is Cano really worth $35 million a year instead of $25 million (or whatever the numbers actually were)?

    I’ve been critical of the FO on this board because I’m getting frustrated with the rebuild taking what seems like 10 years, but I guess I have to wonder what else they could do? Sign Edwin Jackson? Never did agree with that. Sign Jimenez or Garza and lose a draft pick (and only have them on the team for about as long as it would take that second rounder to make it to the bigs, then have nothing whereas the pick has the potential to be productive for years)? No thanks. Sign Cano for a ridiculous amount of $$? Again, no thanks.

    Just seems like a stupid system that breeds less parody.

    • Brocktoon

      It’s parity.

      Garza wouldn’t have cost a draft pick.

      The system is in place so a team that was actually poor(not deciding to be poor like us) who can’t afford to match a 250m offer would at least get something in return without being forced to trade all their best players at the deadline before FA.

      In protecting the top 10 picks, terrible teams can sign good players and only give up a 2nd rounder, which really doesn’t mean that much. 2nd rounders can become stars, but their bit rate is far from impressive

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      I want a system with more parody. Parody makes me laugh.

      • soultosoul

        You’re right it is parity, though parody also works in some regards.

        Like I said, I understand the first ten picks are protected, but what is the incentive for a team like the Cubs to sign a higher level FA? Seems like only the teams at the top can afford to sacrifice a bit of the future for now. The teams that really need the draft picks have to have a future not now attitude.

        Good point about the teams that lose the FA getting compensation. Guess that does make sense, but overall I don’t like the system.

        In theory, I guess a FA will come along at some point where it makes sense to sign them and lose a pick.

  • NorthSideIrish

    Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 14s
    Sources: #Cubs in agreement with free-agent RHP Jason Hammel, pending a physical.

    That works…

    • Brocktoon

      We’re going to be the most boring fn team on earth until july

      • Edwin

        Looks like you left out a u in fun.

  • bushybrows74

    I get our Cubbies are not in a position to spend from a competitive and possibly a business standpoint. I really can’t buy into the business argument, but will let it slide.

    This analysis reminds me of Fox or MSNBC program describing why the opposition political candidate is awful.

    How about we take Tanaka’s stats against only the best hitters in Japan and make an argument that his babip is higher against 3 hitters than it is against 8th hitters to make the point its ok we missed out on him.

    • Brett

      Those don’t strike me as analogous at all.

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