This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
In the eighteen year existence of the Colorado Rockies franchise, there has never been a pitcher matching the caliber of Ubaldo Jiménez. There have been players with flashes of greatness, but few match the rising promise of the current Rockies ace. The right hander born in the Dominican Republic turns 27 years old today.
Ubaldo Jiménez was signed by the Colorado Rockies as a 17 year old amateur free agent in 2001 and after a brief struggle during his first year as a professional, he began to climb the ranks of the minor leagues. Though he spent more than five seasons in the minor leagues, Jiménez was just 22 years old when he made his major league debut on September 26, 2006. By July of 2007, Jiménez was inserted into the rotation where he has remained since.
In September of 2007, Jiménez put his name in the records forever as Barry Bonds crushed a pitch from the rookie that turned out to be Bonds’ 762nd and final career home run. Despite his early connection to Bonds and playing in a homer friendly ballpark, he has ranked among the top 6 for fewest home runs allowed per nine innings in the National League over the last three seasons.
2008 was Ubaldo Jiménez’s first full season in the big leagues, and he responded with just the 6th sub 4.00 Earned Run Average season in Rockies history while leading the NL with 34 starts. Entering the 2011 season, he now holds three of the nine sub 4.00 ERA seasons in the team history.
Though Jiménez has just three full seasons under his belt, he has already set a new standard for pitching in Colorado, quieting proving that it is possible to succeed at Coors Field. He currently holds the all-time franchise lead in career ERA, WHIP and WAR for pitchers. If he continues his upward trend, Jiménez will soon become the franchise leader in most of the pitching categories. He displayed his dominance during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when he struck out 10 of 13 batters he faced while pitching for the Dominican Republic.
Unlike Ubaldo Jiménez’s career numbers, pitchers have long struggled in Colorado. In a June Baseball Digest article in 1998, Mike Klis of the Denver Post wrote about Darryl Kile’s decision to embrace the challenge by signing with the Rockies prior to the 1998 season. Click here to check it out!
Early in the 2010 season, Jiménez offered a glimpse into what fans can expect as he enters the prime of his career. In the third start of the seasons, Jiménez threw the first no hitter in team history in a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. He continued his scoreless inning streak in April, keeping the offense scoreless for three starts and more than 25 innings. He ran off another stretch of holding hitters scoreless when he threw 33 scoreless innings in May. For such a hot start, Jiménez was named the National League Player of The Month for both April and May, the first pitcher named for April and May since Pedro Martinez in 1999. He was also selected to his first All Star Game, and made the start for the NL squad.
Ubaldo Jiménez finished the 2010 season with 19 wins and a 2.88 ERA, the highest win total in a single season for the franchise and the lowest ERA for a Rockies pitcher since Marvin Freeman’s 2.80 ERA in 1994. With the 2011 Spring Training less than a month away, there’s no doubt we’ll continue to hear about the future of Ubaldo Jiménez.
Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:
Chone Figgins, born in 1978, has played with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Seattle Mariners during his nine years in the major leagues. During his career, he has reached the postseason six times and has swiped 322 bases. Figgins is currently the Angels’ franchise leader in stolen bases and ranks among the top ten in many more categories.
Mike Caldwell, born on January 22 1969, spent the majority of his 14 big league seasons with the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Milwaukee Brewers. He may be best remembered for his runner up finish to Ron Guidry for the 1978 American League Cy Young Award.