Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Cleveland Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez isn't quite back to being the pitcher he was from 2008-10, but he's showing signs that he might be a useful fantasy starter again.
Jimenez' surface numbers -- 5.31 ERA, 4.20 BB/9 -- are terrible, but a lot of the damage was done over his first four starts, when he went 0-2 with a 10.06 ERA and a 5.82 BB/9.
In his last four turns, he's 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and a 29/8 K/BB in 23 2/3 innings.
Jimenez has dealt with declining velocity since his career year in 2010, when he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 221 2/3 innings. His average four-seam fastball velocity that season was 95.8 mph, and his average two- seamer was 96.3 mph.
In 2011, he threw 93.9 and 93.7 mph on his fastballs, and in 2012, he threw 92.5 and 92.7. He's down to 92.1 and 91.9 this year, but it seems he has finally learned how to get by without throwing 95-96 mph.
His K/9, which declined from 8.69 in 2010 to 7.28 last year, is back up to 9.74, and he's giving up less hard contact.
After serving up line drives at a rate of 23.4 percent and flyballs at a rate of 38.2 percent in 2012, Jimenez has allowed line drives at an 18.1 percent rate and flyballs at a 31.4 percent rate this year.
His groundball rate is 50.5 percent, which more closely resembles the pitcher he was in 2010, when he had a 48.8 percent groundball rate.
There's still plenty of reasons to be wary of the Indians hurler.
He's one of the most unpredictable starters in the league, and is just as likely to allow six runs in the first inning as he is to throw six scoreless frames. Along with his high walk rate, he has a 1.55 HR/9 and a 66.4 percent strand rate.
But he's displaying the swing-and-miss stuff that made him a force to be reckoned with earlier in his career. His swing-and-miss percentage is 8.3 percent this season, his highest since recording a .091 swing-and-miss percentage in 2010, according to FanGraphs.
Batters are making contact on 84.9 percent of pitches they see in the strike zone, down from 88.9 percent last year and 88.6 percent in 2011, and his chase rate is up more than two percentage points.
According to a profile of the right-hander by Jorge Arangure Jr. that was published on sportsonearth.com on April 3, Jimenez lost his way in 2011-12 because he lost his mechanics after developing an infected blister on his thumb.
Jimenez always put his thumb on the seam of the baseball to help guide the ball, but after getting the infection, he unintentionally changed his mechanics to compensate for the blister.
But new manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway worked on fixing both Jimenez' mechanics and mentality this year by helping him revert to routines that worked in 2010.
Early results were just as bad as 2011 and 2012, but he seems to have found his way again.
Jimenez' 1.90 ERA over his last four starts is better than any four-start stretch he had last season.