Ubaldo: Have You Got Any More In The Back?

I have told before the story of the argument of the man who built the Yankees’ last twenty years of success, Gene “Stick” Michael, on making a big trade for a star pitcher. Still a consultant when New York was offered Johan Santana for Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, and a minor league body, Michael said he would leave the finance and the health to others. But in terms of baseball, he pointed out that whether through injury or under-performance, 50 percent of all pitching prospects don’t even approach their highest ceiling.

Thus, he said, you have to consider the two pitchers as one: Hughnedy, or Kenughes. And suddenly you’re seeing the trade for what it was: one pitcher with 13 so-so major league starts and a proclivity to injury under his belt, for Johan Santana. He said you’d make that deal every day of the week.

And yet the Yankees didn’t make the trade. The money issue is now clear: the only thing the Mets gave up for Santana that has yet to pan out is Philip Humber, and that wasn’t until this year and it wasn’t in Minnesota. The Mets wound up tying up a huge amount of cash in Santana and got one great season, two fair ones, and this one that might see him back from serious surgery to make six or seven starts this year.

Still, the Yankees could’ve afforded that from Santana. As a major league General Manager explained it to me, the reason they didn’t make it was that they must have seen signs that the Twins weren’t certain about Santana’s health.  Was he getting extra time between starts? Had his pitch count been limited? Were his innings per-start level, or coming down?

In fact, Santana’s innings per-start had dropped by 0.15% from 2005 to 2006, then another 0.13% from 2006 to 2007, meaning he was coming out of every game roughly one batter sooner in 2007 than he had been in 2005. This other statistic is a little looser as an indicator, but the total number of batters Santana faced in 2007 was 45 fewer than he had in 2006. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but it suggests that the ‘torch factor’ – the exact number of pitches at which you go from being a guy who gets batters out, to a guy who gets torched. For whatever reason, Santana was coming out of games six or seven pitches earlier. That’s a red flag.

All of which brings us to Ubaldo Jimenez. Why wouldn’t you trade for a man who shined the way he did the first half of last year? Why, he was 15-1, and he was still 17-2 and the consensus Cy Young Winner before he got “tired.” He’s a solid citizen, and judging by that ‘bicycle license plate’ commercial, a very funny, grounded man. Heck, he’s got an Emmy Award for narrating a special for the regional cable network in Denver (I don’t have an Emmy Award). Well, in the year since he reached that 15-1 mark, he’s 10-16. And if that number is too obvious for you, let’s go back to the tip-off the Yanks evidently used on Santana. In 2010, Jimenez lasted 6.71 innings per start. This year, he’s lasted 5.86.

That number suggests if he’s not hurt, he’s going to be.

So what did the Indians give up for this? A pitcher in Alex White who had successfully stepped into their rotation before a serious but hardly chronic finger injury knocked him out. He’s just beginning rehab and should be starting for Colorado within a couple of weeks, and he’s a sinkerballer going to the thin air of Denver. Then there’s Joe Gardner, a pitcher who’s struggled in AA, but another sinkerballer. And then there’s Drew Pomeranz, that rarest of pitchers, the lefthanded flamethrower. There’s a high-risk throw-in, an ex-catcher named Matt McBride.

All of this for a Jekyll-and-Hyde starter who is showing early signs that a serious injury is in his immediate future. Or, if it isn’t, that he reached a peak of efficiency last July and has been heading downhill ever since. I’m confident that this is a trade the Indians will regret next year. I think they may regret it next month.

18 Comments

This is a rare deadline weekend here in Cleveland; the front office is playing to win now, not 4 years from now. Taking into consideration the big picture (current roster/contracts, who’s left on the farm, weak division), if they’re telling us that from now until 2013 or so is about as good of a chance as we’ll have, then I’m on board…if for no other reason than everything up until now hasn’t worked.

How many general managers have said the best trades sometimes are the ones they don’t make? But Red Barber told a story about Branch Rickey with the Cardinals making a trade with Bill Terry when he managed the Giants. They made the deal and then Rickey said, “William, now you have my man and I have your man. Now, what is wrong with your man?” Terry replied, “You’ll find out.” And, Rickey told Barber, “I did.”

Jimenez did not do his normal off-season conditioning program and that resulted in his lack of stamina and ineffectiveness in the first half of the season. His last nine starts (not including the final inning for the Rockies) he has averaged 6.12 innings pitched. Still lower than last year, but I’m not sure this principle described by KO applies to Jimenez and portending an injury. I guess we’ll see.

The reason not to trade for Jimenez is the Rockies wanted Betances AND Banuelos AND Montero (and I even heard Nova’s name as well). If the Yankees had done that trade I think Keith would be criticizing them for that. And the non-Santana trade turned out to be a winner– remember the Philthies in 2009? Remember CC since 2009? Even the Yanks couldn’t afford both Santana and CC.

I agree that Santana is a bust. And the Twins did not want Santana to stay in the AL, much less to the Yankees who they could never beat in the offseason. That’s why they dealt him to the Mets for nothing.

This is why I’m glad the Nationals held onto Drew Storen, as much as they have needed a center fielder since they arrived at RFK Stadium, let Denard Span prove he’s fully healthy until trading for him (in the off-season). Especially since Minnesota also wanted Ian Desmond and/or Stephen Lombardozzi as well. Washingtonians don’t need a 2011 version of the Denny McLain trade, thank you.

At the time of the Santana trade (for only one, brief time in my life), I actually had “a source” (and a legit one, at that) within the Twins organization. The Twins had concerns not only about Santana’s health, but also about his ability to continue to be an effective pitcher. The Twins expected a serious decline from Santana. It was never an issue of not being able to afford his contract, they just didn’t think he would be worth the money.

APOLOGIZE TO THE NL ERA LEADER…RYAN VOGELSONG

Hi, this is an OT comment, apologies for this clumsy approach but I’m not a twitterer. Just wanted to point you to another blog, NPR’s “13.7, Cosmos and Culture”. One of its contributors, Alva Noë, has a habit of delving into sports. It’s been quite enlightening to someone whose being is merely marginally affected by the culture of competitive physical exertion (… the US pro scene being especially unfamiliar territory, as I’m a finn for whom observing a “World Series” so far removed is mainly cause for existential levity). This week he (… Noë) drew some parallels between the telling of baseball and, basically, the meaning of life. Personal insight from an academic I – even though this surely is pretentious of an utter dilettante (to put it kindly) – thought might resonate with you, remembering what I might from having observed your MSNBC “Countdown” days. Baseball seemed absolutely integral to you so the association with Alva’s treatise was rather obvious. Here then, perhaps, is another small knot to that fabric. Link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2011/07/30/138825576/keeping-score

Hey Keith, I know this is way off topic, but just wanted to let you know that a bunch of people have been hacked on Twitter in the last couple of days. I hope you weren’t one of them. I had to look up Twitter help online and ask for a password reset, because I couldn’t log in (yes, I was one of those who was hacked).

Not sure where you’ve been the last couple of days, but I hope you’re healthy and happy. Miss you!

Jimenez did not do his normal off-season conditioning program and that resulted in his lack of stamina and ineffectiveness in the first half of the season. His last nine starts (not including the final inning for the Rockies) he has averaged 6.12 innings pitched.

Hey Keith, I know this is way off topic, but just wanted to let you know that a bunch of people have been hacked on Twitter in the last couple of days. I hope you weren’t one of them. I had to look up Twitter help online and ask for a password reset, because I couldn’t log in (yes, I was one of those who was hacked).

This is why I’m glad the Nationals held onto Drew Storen, as much as they have needed a center fielder since they arrived at RFK Stadium, let Denard Span prove he’s fully healthy until trading for him

Baseball seemed absolutely integral to you so the association with Alva’s treatise was rather obvious.

Hey Keith, I know this is way off topic, but just wanted to let you know that a bunch of people have been hacked on Twitter in the last couple of days. I hope you weren’t one of them. I had to look up Twitter help online and ask for a password reset, because I couldn’t log in (yes, I was one of those who was hacked).beginner runner

This is why I’m glad the Nationals held onto Drew Storen, as much as they have needed a center fielder since they arrived at RFK Stadium, let Denard Span prove he’s fully healthy until trading for him beginner runner

This is why I’m glad the Nationals held onto Drew Storen, as much as they have needed a center fielder since they arrived at RFK Stadium, let Denard Span prove he’s fully healthy until trading for him .

hi,
nicely written about Yankees. i can not understand that why he talked about the two pitchers???
Can any one explain it for me
Samtra
Marketing Manager
http://www.thetrendystyle.com
USA

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