No, not the Cleveland Indians' best player in 2012. Not their most valuable player; that would be Carlos Santana or Jason Kipnis or Shin-Soo Choo, probably. This time, we're trying to spot the player -- good, bad, or ugly -- who best epitomizes the 2012 Cleveland Indians. This was supposed to be a daily feature, but I let the Division Series throw me off my game last week. I hope to catch up by the end of the World Series, but then I hope to do a lot of things...
When looking for the 2012 Cleveland Indian, I first ran through the team's hitters. After all, the Indians finished next-to-last in the American League in scoring, largely because they just didn't have much power. I considered Johnny Damon's miserable comeback, and Matt LaPorta burnishing his résumé as a Quadruple-A hitter.
But then I looked at the pitching. Cleveland's pitchers finished last in the league with a 4.79 ERA. And that was mostly because of their starting pitchers. Cleveland's bullpen actually did fairly well, but the starters' collective ERA was 5.25, better than only the Twins. The Indians' wins leader was Justin Masterson, who won 11 games ... and lost 15. The Indians' best starter was probably Zach McAllister, who went 6-8 in 22 starts (but really did some encouraging things).
One big problem was Derek Lowe, who was just terrible until the Indians finally released him in August. But I think a far better symbol of the Tribe's struggles is Ubaldo Jimenez, who was actually supposed to be pretty good. Instead, he went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA.
What's worse is that Jimenez showed very little of the talent that convinced the Indians to trade for him just before the trade deadline in 2011.
The only truly good news is that Jimenez, still covered by a long-term contract he signed while pitching for the Rockies, earned only $2.8 million this season and will make just $4.2 million next season. That doesn't mean it's exactly pleasant to have him on the roster. But for $4.2 million, you keep sending him out there every fifth day and hope for five or six decent innings.
What's odd about Jimenez is the deterioration of this strikeout-to-walk ratio. His marks from 2009 through 2012: 2.3, 2.3, 2.1, and 1.5. The explanation isn't so odd, though: Jimenez has lost three or four miles off his fastball in the last two years. He is, sad to say, damaged goods. Oh, and to get Jimenez, the Indians traded two young pitchers who might yet become good major-league starters (although, to be fair, the early returns are not good).