Indians go all in with Ubaldo Jimenez acquisition

23 Comments

After selling off CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in recent years, the Indians actually went out and got an ace this time, trading LHP Drew Pomeranz, RHP Alex White, 1B Matt McBride and RHP Joe Gardner for Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez.

The deal certainly carries some risk.  Jimenez was the game’s best pitcher during the first half of last season, but including tonight’s bizarre one-inning cameo, he’s 10-16 with a 4.18 ERA since.  It’s not all bad: he entered Saturday with a 116/47 K/BB ratio and a modest 10 homers allowed in 122 innings this season.  But the drop in his velocity is scary.  His fastball, which was as potent as any starting pitcher’s in the league last season, is down about 3 mph this year.

And in return for Jimenez’s services through 2013, the Indians are giving up the two best pitching prospects they’ve developed in years.  Pomeranz, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, had a 1.98 ERA and a 112/38 K/BB ratio in 91 innings between high-A Kinston and Double-A Akron this season.  He has definite No. 2 starter potential with his low-90s fastball and hard curve.

White, the 15th overall selection in 2009, had a 1.90 ERA and a 28/5 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 innings for Triple-A Columbus and a 3.60 ERA in three starts for the Indians before going down with a finger injury.  He’s healthy again now, but the Indians were planning on letting him spend the rest of the season as a reliever rather than try to stretch him back out as a starter.  His ceiling isn’t much lower than Pomeranz’s, though he probably is the weaker bet to stay healthy.

McBride is the third known prospect in the deal, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the PTBN turns out to be a superior property.  McBride hit .297/.359/.535 in Double-A this season, but he’s already 26 years old.  While he might serve as a stopgap if Todd Helton gets hurt next year, he shouldn’t ever be a candidate to supplant the potential Hall of Famer.

What should make the Indians especially nervous is that the Rockies traded Jimenez even though he had more value to them than to any other team.  His 2014 contract option at the bargain rate of $8 million can be voided by Jimenez now that he has been traded.  So, while the Rockies had him at $18 million for 2012-14, the Indians will get him for $10 million for 2012-2013.

It’s nice to see the Indians rewarding their fans by making every effort to take what appears to be a very winnable AL Central.  They had already acquired Kosuke Fukudome, and all indications are that Ryan Ludwick will be acquired Sunday.  Still, this has the potential to really come back and bite them.  In general, even the best pitching prospects are no more than 50-50 bets to go on to fine major league careers.  But if Jimenez’s velocity dips further, the Indians may be wishing they had their two big-time arms back by the middle of next season.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

Getty Images
5 Comments

A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.