Ervin Santana Or Ubaldo Jimenez?
The Toronto Blue Jays state of the franchise with season ticket holders has come and gone for another year. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has said that the prices on some of the free agent starting pitchers have come down; implying the Blue Jays may be active on that front. Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez have been the two rumors heard the most regarding the Blue Jays and apparently they may become serious players. Ken Rosenthal has reported the Jays have even gone as far as asking for detailed medical records on Jimenez. Anthopolous has been a big fan of Jimenez for a while and now is his chance to scoop him up. However, considering the Rogers Centre is a launching pad, would Santana or Jimenez be a better fit? I will break down the tendencies of both pitchers (not necessarily comparing the two) and drawa conclusion on who I would rather have (if either one of them at all).
Ervin Santana spent his whole career with the Los Angeles Angels before pitching for the Kansas City Royals in 2013. Santana is a very interesting pitcher when you take a look at the numbers. Let me explain why: Santana averages about 7 K’s per 9 innings pitched. Not great, but not bad. He walks 2.81 batters per 9 innings; which also isn’t great, but not bad. The scariest thing I have found about Santana is the home run ball. His HR/FB ratio is indeed frightening at a career 11.0% (1.11 home runs per 9 innings). In 2013 he stranded 76.9% of the batters who reached base against him. So, he can lock down and prevent the many home runs he does allow to be solo shots. Typically, Santana allows fewer hits against him than innings pitched; yet another reason he can post a solid mid 3 ERA’s (though there have been a few rough seasons of ERA’s above 5.00 which skews his career ERA of 4.19). The thing that could put Santana over the top and become a better starting pitcher is by striking out more batters. He hit the 200+ K plateau once, way back in 2008. Santana is a very interesting pitcher. He is typically able to keep his ERA at solid levels save for the train wrecks in 2007, 2009, and 2012. Every now and then he has a horrendous season; mainly because he walked over 3 batters per 9 innings in those seasons. Those home runs he’s prone to give up turn into multi-run shots in a hurry when you walk guys. Santana in 2012 allowed 39 home runs (pitching in the AL West) primarily at Angels Stadium. Put him in the Rogers Centre and those 39 home runs could escalate to over 40-45 home runs. Santana in a Blue Jays uniform at the Rogers Centre could be a train wreck if he continues to give up the home run ball. His career numbers suggest he can give up the home run ball and be successful. As long as his walk totals stay down, the home runs will often be of the solo variety instead of 2 or 3 run shots.
After a season and a half of lost control Jimenez recaptured his form in 2013 after a few rocky starts early in the season. Jimenez has always been one to walk his fair share of batters (as his career 4.04 BB/9 innings would suggest). That is a scary high total and it gets worse when he loses his control entirely. For example, in 2012 when he came close to walk 5 batters per nine innings the season was a disaster. Jimenez struckout the fewest batters per 9 innings in his big league career (7.28) while allowing 1.27 HR/9 innings and a HR/FB ratio of 11.8%. He also coaxed the fewest amount of batters (38.4%) into hitting a ground ball (which is close to 10% down from his career average of 47.6%). His ERA flew to 5.40 and was barely above the level of a replacement as he had a 0.1 WAR. Save for 2010 when Jimenez was dominant, he hasn’t really proven to be a front of the rotation starter. He typically pitches to the tune of a high 3 ERA (career 3.92) and walks a ton of batters. He walks a ton of batters due to his extremely funky delivery. He can lose control at any point during the season and sometimes can’t get it back. In the Rogers Centre, with all of those walks, the home runs he does surrender will soon turn into 2 run, 3 run, or grand slam home runs. The side of Jimenez that proves to have the most upside is the amount of batters he stikes out per 9 innings. He has a career 8.27 K/9 innings ratio and had a career high of 9.56 K/9 in 2013. That is a good sign, but do the Blue Jays really want a guy who walks nearly 4 batters per 9 innings in a ballpark notorious for surrendering home runs? If he loses his control for a full season again like 2012, that 5.40 ERA may climb even more. A good sign, however is, that in the launching pad of Coors Field Jimenez never gave up more than 15 home runs in a season (removing 2011 since he was traded to the Cleveland Indians that season). Jimenez is simply scary due to the amount of walks surrendered.
Well, it’s pick your poison with either of these guys. Santana is prone to the home run ball, and in Rogers Centre that’s a scary thought. Jimenez walks nearly 4 batters per 9 innings, also a scary thought. There are numerous pros and cons with either of these pitchers. If I had to choose who I would rather have on the Jays staff I would take my chances with Ubaldo Jimenez. He strikes out more batters and gives up fewer home runs. The walks are definitely an issue, but as long as Jimenez can keep the walks under control (by his standards) he would be worth keeping around on a two year deal. I wouldn’t keep him around much longer than that. The results he may be able to give over a two year frame could be fruitful. Anything longer than two years and I am out on the Jimenez sweepstakes.