Ubaldo Jimenez left last night’s start after a season-low 92 pitches because of hamstring cramping, but not before holding the Astros’ lowly lineup to one hit over seven shutout innings. Jimenez is now 8-1 with a 0.99 ERA through nine starts, with his only loss coming on May 9 when he allowed just two hits over seven innings of one-run ball only to see Clayton Kershaw shut out the Rockies.
Plenty of players have amazing numbers six weeks into every season, but I was curious about how Jimenez’s blazing start stacks up against recent Cy Young winners. Here’s what the past 10 award winners did through their first nine starts:
YEAR CYA WINNER W L ERA
2009 Tim Lincecum 3 1 3.45
2009 Zack Greinke 7 1 0.82
2008 Tim Lincecum 5 1 1.92
2008 Cliff Lee 7 1 1.50
2007 Jake Peavy 5 1 1.64
2007 CC Sabathia 6 1 3.65
2006 Brandon Webb 6 0 2.78
2006 Johan Santana 4 4 3.23
2005 Chris Carpenter 6 2 4.07
2005 Bartolo Colon 5 3 2.67
Jimenez has more victories through nine starts than any of the past 10 winners and only Zack Greinke last season had a lower ERA. Greinke ended up with just 16 wins last season because the Royals’ lineup and bullpen repeatedly let him down in the second half, but he was 7-1 with a 0.82 ERA through nine starts and 8-1 with a 0.84 ERA through 10 starts. Jimenez would need to throw 11.2 shutout innings in his next start to get his ERA down to 0.84.
In general though, Jimenez in definitely off to a Cy Young-winning start, as the past 10 award winners have averaged 5.4 wins, 1.5 losses, and a 2.57 ERA through nine outings. Of course, when Livan Hernandez is right on Jimenez’s heels with a 1.62 ERA it’s probably way too early to start thinking about such things.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.