Can Ubaldo Jimenez be the first 30-game winner since 1968?

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The answer is no, of course, but “Ubaldo Jimenez probably won’t win 30 games, but let’s talk about him anyway” really isn’t much of a headline as far as headlines go.
Jimenez notched his 14th victory Monday in his team’s 76th game, which seemed to me like a pretty amazing feat but actually isn’t all that rare. According to the indispensable and highly addicting Play Index on Baseball-Reference.com, Jimenez became the 45th player in baseball history with at least 14 wins in his team’s first 76 games.
The most recent pitchers to do so were Pedro Martinez in 1999, John Smoltz in 1996, Bret Saberhagen in 1987, Roger Clemens in 1986, Joaquin Andujar in 1985, and Steve Carlton in 1980. None of those guys won 30 games, because the last pitcher to win 30 games was Denny McClain in 1968.
However, if Jimenez can win again in his next start Saturday night that would give him 15 wins in 81 team games, which would further thin the field historically and put him on pace for exactly 30 wins. He’ll be facing Barry Zito and the Giants, and Jimenez hasn’t pitched well in back-to-back outings, but if he can pick up the victory he’ll become just the 34th pitcher with at least 15 wins through 81 team games.
Pedro in 1999 and Andujar in 1985 are the only pitchers to do so since 1980, and they finished with 23 and 21 wins, respectively. All of which shows the incredible difficultly of winning 30 games while pitching in a five-man rotation. As amazing as Jimenez has been, he’d have to duplicate his first-half performance and get the same kind of lineup and bullpen support to rarely take a loss or even a no-decision.
Twenty-five wins is much more feasible, and Bob Welch in 1990 is the last pitcher to do that.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.