Ubaldo Jimenez Triples the Pain

Gregory Shamus

Ubaldo Jimenez will be making his third appearance of the spring this afternoon. Last time he went out there, something familiar happened.

Ubaldo Jimenez will be making his third appearance of the spring this afternoon, facing some part of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. He's scheduled to put four innings in, but there are no certainties when it comes to Ubaldo. In his second start of the spring (last Saturday) he was scheduled to pitch three frames. He got through the first two without allowing any runs, but the wheels fell off the wagon in the 3rd inning. Five runs scored without him recording a single out. It's too early to get worked up, but the way that hit parade began caught my eye, because it seemed somehow familiar.

For those who don't remember, the inning began with Jimenez giving up a triple to San Diego's Logan Forsythe. I'm not acquainted with that particular Padre, so I knew that wasn't what struck me about the play. What could it have been? ...Then it dawned on me, it was the sight (and by "sight," I mean "MLB.com update") of Jimenez giving up a triple. Why would that seem familiar? Because Jimenez tied for the American League lead by allowing seven triples last season and no pitcher in baseball has given up more of them than Jimenez over the last five seasons (31).

That Jimenez gave up a lot of triples while pitching in Colorado is no surprise, since Coors has always been a haven for three-baggers. The Rockies have allowed 437 triples there since the stadium opened in 1995 (24.28 per season), far more than any team. The Rockies have also hit fare more triples while at home than any other team, so it's not just a matter of them having had awful pitching the whole time. The thing is, since coming to Cleveland, Jimenez has INCREASED the rate at which he's giving up triples. Jimenez allowed one triple for every 156.2 batters faced while with the Rockies. Since becoming an Indian, he's allowed one triple for every 91.3 batters faced.

Unlike Coors, Progressive Field has never been a strong park for triples. Since opening in 1994 (as Jacobs Field), there have been 196 triples given up by Tribe pitchers at home. That is the fifth-lowest total in MLB over those nineteen seasons. The Indians have also hit just 218 triples of their own at home over that time, tied as the fourth-lowest total. Point is, Cleveland has not been a good place to hit triples, and Jimenez has still managed to allow more triples than any pitcher in the American League since he joined the Tribe.

There are 164 active pitchers who've faced at least 2000 batters in their career (that works out to ~500 innings). Here are the ones who have given up triples the most frequently.

Highest triples-rate among active pitchers:

Rank

Pitcher

Batters Faced Per Triple

1

Jair Jurrjens

105.8

2

Luke Hochevar

107.6

3

Charlie Morton

125.6

4

Ricky Nolasco

132.0

5

Octavio Dotel

133.2

6

Guillermo Mota

133.5

7

Ubaldo Jimenez

133.9

8

Max Scherzer

135.9

9

Edwin Jackson

137.6

10

Josh Johnson

140.4

So, Jimenez is in the 96th percentile of all active pitchers (meaning he's given up triples at a higher rate than 96% of all those with 2000+ batters faced). If we shrink down the time frame to just the last two years and count only Jimenez's time with the Indians for his figure...

Highest triples-rate for 2011-2012:

Rank

Pitcher

Batters Faced Per Triple

1

Josh Tomlin

79.6

2

Ubaldo Jimenez

91.3

3

Luke Hochevar

96.2

4

Carl Pavano

122.3

5

Rick Nolasco

123.1

6

Max Scherzer

124.6

7

Anibal Sanchez

126.9

8

Edwin Jackson

170.0

9

Mat Latos

127.5

10

Barry Zito

128.0

A Josh Tomlin sighting! There's much here to be excited for Indians fans, as over the last two years the pitchers giving up the rarest of hits most frequently have both been doing it for Cleveland. Triples are nowhere near the level they were at in previous eras. I think that's fairly common knowledge.

Triples per team throughout baseball history:

Season

Triples Per Team

2012

30.9

2000

31.7

1990

33.3

1980

35.9

1970

38.6

1960

41.1

1950

49.6

1940

58.1

1930

80.2

1920

79.2

1916

71.3

(1916 is the first year for which there are complete box score records)

As you can see, there are dramatically fewer triples than their used to be. The drop has mostly flattened out over time, but there have been fewer than half as many triples of late as there were before World War II. Given that triples occur so much less frequently than they used to, we might expect that modern era arms won't stand up to their competition from the past, when it comes to giving up triples.

Highest triples-rate in Indians history (since 1916, minimum 1000 batters faced):

Rank

Pitcher

Batters Faced Per Triple

1

Ubaldo Jimenez

91.3

2

Josh Tomlin

94.3

3

Rick Sutcliffe

99.0

4

Brian Anderson

103.7

5

Rich Yett

113.6

6

Len Barker

116.9

7

Larry Sorensen

119.3

8

Jackie Brown

119.4

9

Don Hood

126.5

10

Mike Paul

128.4

Ubaldo!

Of all the pitchers in Indians history, no one has given up three bases at a time like Jimenez. I look forward to his continued his work as Cleveland's ultimate triple-threat.

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