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Ubaldo Jimenez: Bounce Back Candidate in 2012?

One of our readers posted a question in Saturday's All Questions Answered thread asking if Cleveland Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez would bounce back in 2012. My response was yes, I think he will, and here are my reasons for thinking so.

After his breakout 2010 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA, 3.10 FIP and 3.60 xFIP, Jimenez was a bust in 2011, going 10-13 with a 4.88 ERA, 3.67 FIP and 3.71 xFIP. His 2011 season was a bit unlucky as his strand rate dropped from 76.5% in 2010 to just 65% in 2010, and his BABIP jumped from .271 to .314. In addition, his HR/FB rate jumped from 5.1% to 9.3% in 2011.

More on Jimenez after the jump:

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So, a lot of things went wrong for Jimenez in 2011, but there were some positives to take away that make me think he can bounce back and be an effective starter in 2012. First, his strikeout and walk rates stayed relatively flat:

2010: 8.69 K/9, 3.74 BB/9

2011: 8.60 K/9, 3.73 BB/9

In addition, his ground ball rate dropped from 48.8% to 47.2%, but is still above league average. Anytime you can draft a pitcher with these peripheral stats, you have to jump on him. But, I would not overdraft him in 2012, and I don't think there is a need to do so, as plenty of other owners will probably be down on him on draft day.

In addition to maintaining his very good peripheral stats, his BABIP and strand rates should regress back to his career averages of .286 and 71.1% from .314 and 65% in 2011. Of concern though is the drop in swinging strike rate last year from 9.1% to 7.5%, along with an increase in contact rate from 78% in 2010 to 82% in 2011.

With all that said, I am optimistic that Jimenez will bounce back in 2012, and think he can outperform his draft round/auction price on draft day.