After another stellar outing tonight (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER), Ubaldo Jimenez is 8-1 with a mind-boggling 0.99 ERA. While it is still early in the season and one bad outing can destroy a great ERA, it looks like Ubaldo is in a zone that could last the entire season. He could have the type of season where the question isn't whether he'll win the Cy Young Award but where it ranks among the greatest of all time:
20+ Wins, .800+ W-L%, 2.20 ERA or lower (since 1920)
1999 Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) 23-4, 2.07 ERA
1985 Dwight Gooden (Mets) 24-4, 1.53
1978 Ron Guidry (Yankees) 25-3, 1.74
1968 Denny McLain (Tigers) 31-6, 1.96
1963 Sandy Koufax (Dodgers), 25-5, 1.88
1943 Spud Chandler (Yankees) 20-4, 1.64
1931 Lefty Grove (A's) 31-4, 2.06
1924 Dazzy Vance (Dodgers) 28-6, 2.16
How achievable would this type of season be for Jimenez? With an 8-1 record through May 21, 20 wins is clearly within reach and so is an .800 W-L%. If he has 20 wins, he could lose 5 games and still get there. It will be very difficult, but there's no reason to doubt his ability. Because of his sensational ERA, that part is doable as well.
He has 63.1 IP through 9 starts, which is 7 IP/start. The last two years he had 34 and 33 starts, so we'll assume he has 33 in 2010. Even if he backs off a little, and averages only 6.8 IP/start the rest of the way, he will finish with 227.1 IP. In order to finish with an ERA of 2.20 over 227.1 IP, he can allow 55 earned runs the entire season.
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So far, he's only given up 7, which means that he could allow 48 runs over his next 163.2 IP (an ERA of 2.64) and still finish at 2.20. Obviously, it could go a million different ways (he could pitch complete games every week or only go 5 IP/start), but these numbers seem reasonable based on what he's done so far this year.
Even with his great numbers, he couldn't afford too many subpar outings, but one bad start doesn't have to derail a historic season: In 1999, Pedro Martinez's ERA went as high as 2.51, after a bad start against the Marlins on July 18 where he gave up 7 ERA in 3.2 innings. He finished strong, though, with a Ubaldo-like September, giving up only 4 ER in 41 IP, finishing with a 2.07 ERA. Jimenez has had a good enough start where this type of season is a decent possibility, which is a huge accomplishment by itself.