When the Orioles’ season opened this year, there were arguably no bigger pariahs on the team than Ubaldo Jimenez and Hyun Soo Kim. But rough starts don’t always make for bad endings.
Hyun Soo Kim’s arrival in Baltimore and the mystery that surrounded him caused a major buzz. Kim was known as one of the biggest stars in the KBO, a former batting champion, and multi-time gold glove winner. In his 10 year KBO career, he was most noted for possessing a consistent bat (.318 BA, 142 HRs, 771 RBIs), but most impressive were his low strikeout numbers, something a home run heavy Baltimore lineup badly needed. But things started rocky… incredibly rocky. Kim hit .179 in spring training, and, as many noted, struggled to get the ball out of the infield. At times, he looked lost in the field. His struggles were magnified by the stellar play of Joey Rickard. By opening day, media and fans openly questioned whether he would make the roster and if the team should cut ties with the Korean outfielder after he refused a demotion to Norfolk.
To most (if not all) Orioles’ fans, Ubaldo has become a bad word. After years of mostly staying out of free agency and being perpetually pitcher-needy, the Os ponied up and gave Jimenez a 4-yr, $50 mill deal in the offseason prior to 2014. The contract quickly became an albatross, as Ubaldo spent time split between the back end of the rotation, bullpen, and the DL. He pitched so poorly in 2014, that he was left off the ALCS roster and didn’t pitch in the playoffs at all. Things were so bleak this season that it seemed likely the Orioles would release Ubaldo and eat what was remaining on his contract.
But what a difference a few months can make!
Kim and Jimenez have come through frequently down the stretch for the playoff-bound Orioles. In 5 starts in August, Ubaldo carried an era under 2.5 and allowed only 9 earned runs in 35 innings of work. He also notched the Orioles first complete game in nearly 2 years. Meanwhile, Hyun-Soo Kim has been a model of consistently since finding his swing in the early part of the year. Down the stretch, he has provided multiple walk-off winners and maintained an average over .300.
The Buck-led Orioles have made their name by getting tremendous production from unlikely sources. This year has proven no different. Thanks in large part to the great play of Hyun-Soo Kim and Ubaldo Jimenez down the stretch, the Orioles (who were picked by most “experts” to be cellar dwellers this year) will be playing ball in October.