The Closer: Ubaldo rocks the Astros

It hasn't taken long this season for Ubaldo Jimenez to put his name up there among the best pitchers in baseball. Through 9 starts Jimenez is now 8-1 with a 0.99 ERA. Both the win total and the ERA lead all of baseball. We take a closer look at his start Thursday and also put his start to the 2010 season in historical perspective in this edition of The Closer.


MLB History

Since earned runs became official in 1912 in the NL and 1913 in the AL, Jimenez is just the 5th pitcher to win 8 of his 1st 9 starts of a season and have an ERA under 1.00. The last was Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 who won the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year that season.

Why Ubaldo Jimenez won:

- Of the 23 batters he faced, threw a strike as one of the first two pitches 21 times. This converts to 91 percent of the time compared to the MLB average of 85.
- 80 percent of batters that went to two strikes were converted into outs compared to the MLB average of 72.
- Converted groundball outs. 82.4 percent of all balls hit into play were groundballs, which is his highest this year. The 14 groundball outs he got were his second highest on the season.

Why Jon Lester won:

- He got ahead of the count by throwing a first pitch strike to 28 of the 32 batters he faced. His 87.5 first pitch strike percentage tied him for the second highest of any starting pitcher who pitched at least 5 five innings.
- Batters chase his pitches. 42 percent of his off-speed pitches thrown outside the zone were chased compared to the MLB average of 31. His overall chase percentage of 39.6 percent was also the highest he's forced this season.
- He gave up zero walks and only 3 of the 32 batters he faced went to 3 ball counts, which translates to 9 percent compared to the MLB average of 19.

Why Adam Wainwright won:

- Good curveball as hitters were 1-8 with 5 K. Wainwright threw a strike on 81.5 percent of curveballs and also got 47.1 percent of hitters to miss the curve. This season, opponents are hitting .152 (12-79) with 32 K.
- Attacked the inside part of the plate to get K's as 4 of 7 were inside and hitters were 1-6 overall. After allowing 10 hits on the inside part of the plate in his first four starts, Wainwright has allowed only 3 in his last five starts.
- Marlins 3-5 hitters (Ramirez, Cantu, Uggla) were 1-6 with 2 BB and 3 K. For the season, heart of the order hitters are batting .187 against Wainwright opposed to .228 for all other places in the batting order.