Bauman: Jimenez having season of dreams
No-hitter proves that right-hander a force to be reckoned with
When some pitchers throw no-hitters, the reaction is: "This is baseball; anything can happen."
But when other pitchers throw no-hitters, the reaction is: "This could happen again."
Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies would be solidly in the second category. You could see him having the classic "no-hit stuff" again, just as he did on Saturday night, when he threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history in a 4-0 victory over Braves in Atlanta.
Jimenez, 26, already had his breakout season in 2009; there is no particular shock value in whatever he achieves next. Still, his 2010 start is the stuff of dreams. He is 3-0 in three starts with a 1.29 ERA and, of course, one no-hitter. But given his stuff, this level of performance cannot be seen as a fluke.
Jimenez has as much velocity as any pitcher in the game. Evidence of that was on display again on Saturday night, when he repeatedly hit 100 mph on the radar gun at Turner Field.
Jimenez was unhittable on this night, but there was an avenue open for the Braves to reach first base, as Jimenez issued six walks while striking out seven. To complete this game, he required 128 pitches, 72 of which were strikes.
The degree of difficulty involved makes this accomplishment even more remarkable. The Braves went into this game sixth in the National League in scoring at a healthy 5.6 runs per contest. Their lineup is loaded with proven hitting talent, and this year, they have added a 20-year-old phenom, right fielder Jason Heyward. None of this mattered on Saturday night, which was Jimenez's night. Both Heyward and Braves leadoff man Nate McLouth fanned twice against Jimenez.
Given the fact that Jimenez had a highly successful season as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for a team that reached the postseason in 2009, he had arrived well before this no-hitter. As the Rockies went on a tear to come from well off the pace to win the NL Wild Card berth, Jimenez went 9-3 with a 3.08 ERA after the All-Star break. But if anything, this no-hit outing should reinforce Jimenez's status in the minds of the baseball public as a major pitching force, now and in the future.
Jimenez has a terrific fastball and an arsenal of offspeed pitches behind that. His only issue in the past has been command, but he has made obvious improvements in that area.
Increasingly last season, as Jimenez's performance rose to the level of his extraordinary potential, you heard baseball people suggest that he could be a future Cy Young Award winner. Based on the way he has begun this season, the future might be moving up rapidly. He could be a prime NL Cy Young candidate for the present, the 2010 season.
With his stuff, and with his growing ability to command that stuff, passing this one signpost on the road to greatness was no fluke. A no-hit performance can never be taken for granted, but the idea of Jimenez having no-hit stuff is a completely reasonable notion.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.