Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching like Bob Gibson in 1968, and he's single-handedly propping up the Rockies' playoff hopes along the way. If the season ended today, you could make a strong case for him as the NL MVP, because no player has meant more to his respective team than Jimenez. It's the Year of the Pitcher II, and in light of that, consider these simple numbers:
When Jimenez pitches, the Rockies are 13-1, a winning percentage of .929. In the games in which he does not pitch, the Rockies are 21-31 for a winning percentage of .403. We haven't reached the halfway point of the season, and he's bound to lose more in the days ahead. But I assume that the disparity in winning percentage between the games he pitches and the Rockies' other games, of .526, is probably on pace to be a record. It's far from a perfect way to assess value, because pitchers on bad teams have an inherent advantage, but it is one way to measure just how valuable Jimenez has been.
I didn't have time to go through all the numbers this morning, but did check on some other notable performances: The Indians went 24-7 in the games Cliff Lee started in 2008, while going 57-74 in the games others started, a winning-percentage disparity of .339. In one of the more incredible pitching performances of all time, the Phillies won 29 of the 41 games started by Steve Carlton in 1972 for a .707 winning percentage, and 30-85 (.261) in all other games, a disparity of .446.
I will await confirmation from the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau.
And for the record: Twenty-five years have passed since a starting pitcher won an MVP award -- Roger Clemens, in 1986.
Jimenez was not as dominant Thursday as he had been in other starts this year -- in fact, Doug Kern of ESPN Stats & Information sent along this note. Why Jimenez should not have won against the Twins (relatively speaking):
A. His overall strike percentage of 57.3 (63-of-110) was his second-lowest of the season.
B. He couldn't work the outside: Only 40 percent of pitches were considered "away," and he left 28.2 percent of pitches over the middle of the plate horizontally. That's his highest in 18 starts (including postseason).
C. Delmon Young's single in the second was the first hit off Jimenez' slider in six games. He allowed seven hits on fastballs (most of the season); the Twins put 55 percent of their swings in play and whiffed only once against Ubaldo's heater.
D. He had eight 3-1 counts, and was behind 14 of the 29 batters he faced at some point during the at-bat.
• Jeremy Bonderman is not one who checks the radar-gun readings after every pitch, but he will glance from time to time, for confirmation that what he's seeing from the hitters, and what he's feeling, is reflected in the power of his fastball.
Last year, Bonderman's fastball was often in the range of 88 mph. But this year he is consistently hitting 92 to 93 mph, and he's been touching 94 mph. That's a big reason he has an ERA of 3.02 since May 1. "It's nice to learn how to pitch [with less than great stuff]," Bonderman said Thursday evening, "but to have that extra velocity helps. If I make a little mistake and the ball is not quite as far inside as I want, the hitter might foul it off, or maybe he'll pop it up."
Bonderman's improvement in stuff is critical for the Tigers, who are 1.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central -- and it's good for him, too. Bonderman will be eligible for free agency in the fall, at a time when it doesn't appear as if there will be many attractive options, and he is throwing well -- and is still just 27 years old.
Why Bonderman won Thursday, from ESPN Stats & Information: All six swinging strikeouts were on pitches that were down, four of them below the strike zone. For the game, 54 percent of Bonderman's pitches were of the "low" variety, and the Nationals went 0-for-11 against them. His average fastball velocity of 91.4 was his highest since the first start of the season (April 10). He got ahead and stayed ahead: Bonderman had no 3-0 or 3-1 counts to any hitters the entire game. He recorded four groundouts and ten flyouts, the best such ratio in seven starts. The Nationals whiffed on 27 percent of their swings, the highest by a Bonderman opponent this season. He retired leadoff batter in the first five innings. In the sixth and seventh, the leadoff batters both reached and both scored.
The Tigers threw out a whole bunch of hits, writes Vince Ellis.
• Cliff Lee's days with the Mariners could be waning, writes Larry Stone.
Dings and dents
1. Home plate umpire Jerry Crawford had a tough night, getting hammered by deflections.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Lew Wolff, Oakland's owner, says within this piece he's disappointed that Major League Baseball has not made a decision about the San Jose issue.
2. The Pirates had given extensions to John Russell and Neal Huntington during the offseason, and the timing of this revelation was not good, writes Ron Cook. Owner Bob Nutting was unavailable for comment, as mentioned within this Dejan Kovacevic piece. Neither the GM nor the manager is in jeopardy of losing their jobs, writes Rob Biertempfel.
6. Dave Trembley might be a perfect fit at Notre Dame.
8. The White Sox called up a hitter from the minors.
2. The Pirates' losing streak has reached 11 games.
3. The Phillies took the series against the Yankees.
4. The Nationals got swept, and limped home.
5. Why Tim Hudson won: The Rays were 0-for-11 with season highs of 10 swinging strikes and four strikeouts against pitches away. Hitters were 0-for-6 against his slider. He finished off 10 of 12 hitters that reached two strikes (83 percent; MLB average is 72).
6. Alexi Ogando boosted the Rangers.
9. The Mets are on a serious roll, as David Waldstein writes, as they head into Yankee Stadium for the weekend.
11. The Indians got steamrolled, as Dennis Manoloff writes.
13. The Marlins got swept and fell four games below .500, writes Juan Rodriguez.
14. The Rays got shut down again. In 12 of their past 25 games, they have scored three runs or less.
15. The Oakland bullpen failed in the late innings, as John Shea writes.
16. The Red Sox finished the job this time, writes Scott Lauber.
The Patience Index
• The fact that Daric Barton has been credited with nine sacrifice bunts -- which is not usually the chosen strategy of the Oakland Athletics -- is drawing a lot of attention from Joe Posnanski and our Rob Neyer.
Here's the thing: It's still not the chosen strategy. I checked with the Athletics, and Barton has repeatedly chosen to bunt on his own. Sometimes with runners on base -- mostly at second, with nobody out -- hitters will get a sign to advance a runner, and how they do that is typically left up to them. Almost all hitters will swing away and just try to pull or punch a ball to the right side of the infield, with the intent of moving the runner and perhaps getting a hit along the way.
But Barton is not comfortable doing that, not always confident that he will pull a grounder to the right side, so his preferred method of advancing runners is bunting. He's not alone in this, by the way: For years, Derek Jeter has done the same thing, preferring to bunt to move a runner from second to third rather than swinging away.
• Jerry Seinfeld, baseball announcer; Neil Best has the story.
• Stephen Strasburg recoils from the glare of stardom, writes Dave Sheinin. This is where we are with Strasburg: As I write this at 5:40 a.m., can't wait to see him pitch this evening. His efficiency will determine how long he lasts, writes Adam Kilgore.
• Here's proof that umpires are having trouble working behind the plate when Strasburg pitches, from David Biderman.
• The 2010 Mets are starting to resemble the 2005 Yankees, writes Tyler Kepner.
• Diamondbacks players are trying to keep trade rumors in perspective, writes Nick Piecoro.
• The Marlins will be handing out vuvuzelas to their fans Saturday, writes Joe Capozzi.
• A happy 46th birthday to Gabriel Tornusciolo, the hardest-working dude from Acklen Avenue.
And today will be better than yesterday.