If the season ended today, Ubaldo Jimenez would qualify for the ERA title with an 0.78 ERA. Pitching in Coors Field. Only three men in baseball history have thrown more innings in a season than Jimenez has already thrown (80.1) and finished with an ERA below 1.00: Dutch Leonard (0.96 ERA in 224.2 IP in 1914), Hall of Famer Tim Keefe (0.86 ERA in 105 innings as a rookie in 1880), and the immortal Ferdie Schupp (0.90 ERA in 140.1 innings as a swing man in 1916; more on the 1916 Giants here).
That’s impressive, even with the caveat that one bad outing could double his ERA in a hurry. But even more impressive is the fact that Jimenez hasn’t allowed an unearned run this season. Which puts him on pace for an even more exclusive club: if the season ended today, he’d be the only man ever to qualify for an ERA title allowing less than 1 run per 9 innings. Indeed, Rob Murphy in 1986 (50.1 IP, 0.72 ERA, no unearned runs) holds the current record for most innings in a season with a RA (ERA, but including unearned runs) below 1.00.
Here’s the complete list of guys who qualified for an ERA title with an RA below 2.00, including at present both Jimenez and Jaime Garcia:
|Smoky Joe Wood||1915||25||1.49||1.83||157.3||6.86||0.06||2.52||3.60|
When you look at the RA column, it really underlines how historically amazing Leonard, Gibson and Walter Johnson were in their peak seasons. (Henry Thomas, in his excellent bio of Johnson, notes that Johnson got beat up the last day of the season in what was then a common practice of playing essentially a ‘joke’ game with guys playing out of position and whatnot). Gooden and Maddux, too. And of course, Pedro in 2000 and Maddux in 1994-95 are especially impressive when you consider the context they pitched in. (Fun facts about Pedro in 2000: one, the league allowed 5.28 runs/game; two, he had an 0.99 ERA through June 14; three, he was only 6-5 at home despite a 1.84 home ERA; four, 23 of the 44 runs scored off him were on home runs – he allowed 9.95 runs/9 on homers and 0.87 runs/9 otherwise). But if by some stroke of good fortune Jimenez was able to keep this up all year, he’d go straight to the head of the class for the best-pitched season ever (setting aside the debate over how heavily to weight workloads compared to a guy like Johnson).