How good has Ubaldo Jimenez been through 11 starts in 2010?  Almost unbelievably good.

Everyone knows, or should know, that Coors Field in mile-high Denver, is far and away the best place to hit in the major leagues.  Jimenez has a 1.29 home ERA this year, and only an 0.52 ERA on the road.  Based on that performance, I’d guestimate Jiminez’s current ERA (0.78 in fact) at 0.60 if he played his home games in a completely hitting/pitching neutral park.

By way of comparison, the modern record (since 1900) for ERA is Dutch Leonard’s 1.01 ERA in 1914 (in 223 innings pitched, which was only 15th most in an eight team league).  BTW, the lowest post-1900 ERA for any pitcher who pitched significantly over 100 IP that I am aware of is the immortal Ferdie Schupp, who had an 0.90 ERA in 140.1 IP for the 1916 NY Giants. 

The truly modern (since 1946) record is, of course, held by Bob Gibson, who posted a 1.12 ERA in 1968.

These records were set in extreme pitchers’ eras in baseball history.  The fact that Jimenez has an 0.78 ERA pitching in his home games in probably the best hitters’ park in baseball, at least since they closed down the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, is truly amazing.

According to wikipedia, the Baker Bowl was only 280 feet down the right field line and an even more astounding 300 feet to right center—around 1920, the Phillies added a metal fence at the top that made the right field wall 60 feet high, but at those dimensions it simply turned a lot of routine fly balls from homeruns into doubles and triples.

By way of comparison, the current dimensions of Fenway Park, according to the Red Sox, are 310 feet down the left field line, 379 to left center and the Green Monster is 37 feet high.  The wall at the Baker Bowl long had a huge painted sign stating, “The Phillies Use Life Buoy Soap,” but, of course, the Phillies of that era still stunk.

It’s definitely time to wonder whether the pendulum is swinging back from the extreme hitters’ era that ended with a proper testing regime for performance enhancing drugs. 

I always though that PEDs helped hitting more than pitching, because even if PEDs allowed a pitcher to throw harder, ‘roids weren’t necessarily going to help command or breaking stuff, and the faster the ball comes in, the faster jacked-reflex hitters like Barry Bonds could turn the ball around.

We’ve now had what should have been three perfect games in less than a month, and you have to start to wonder if this isn’t going to be a strong pitchers’ year when all is said and done. 

Keep in mind also that the strike zone is definitely bigger than it was a decade ago, since MLB has made a concerted effort to make umpires call pitches between the letters and the belly button strikes.  There are a lot more fastballs at the letters called strikes now than there were 10 years ago.

All that being said, I’m certain that Ubaldo Jimenez will not finish the 2010 season with an ERA of 1.12 or lower in 200+ innings pitched.  There will be a hot night in Denver in July or August when the air is absolutely still, and everything Jimenez throws up there will be hit into a gap or will carry off somewhere into the Denver night.  It only takes one such game in Denver to end all hope of a record setting pitching season.

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