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Updated: July 19, 2010, 12:07 AM ET

Will Ubaldo come back to Earth?

By Steve Berthiaume
ESPN
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We've spent most of this season gawking in amazement at the remarkable pitching we've seen across the majors while spending nearly as much time searching for a way to explain it. We have incessant waves of new metrics washing in, all trying to measure the superb level at which big league pitching has performed this year. We may, however, be in the process of seeing one simple explanation that's been under our noses the entire time: it can't last.

These guys, after all, are only human. It's a long season, and now that the steamy, summer midpoint is here and the optimism and energy that launches us out of spring training has been burned off, a certain lunch-pail, clock-punching aspect of the pitching job takes over. It is, of course, exactly that -- a job, and even the best in the world can hit a lull.

Let's use Roy Halladay as an example. After beating the Cardinals on May 6, Halladay was 6-1 with a ridiculous 1.45 ERA. That had us all wondering if there was a chance he could win 30 games. What happened? The Phillies then lost Halladay's next three starts. That losing streak ended May 29, when Halladay threw a perfect game in Miami. He then beat the Padres in his next start to improve to 8-3. He was back to superhuman. What happened? The Phillies then lost four of Halladay's next five starts. In fact, Halladay opened June with an 8-3 record, but finished the month only 9-7.

I'm not bashing Halladay here; the guy is amazing. That's exactly the point: Even someone we could consider the best money pitcher in baseball can have an engine that occasionally sputters. Getting major league hitters out every fifth day for six months (eight if you include March and, hopefully, October) is THAT hard. The Phillies made the big move to acquire Halladay, a trade that no one could argue was a bad deal, even given the fact that the Phils have lost three consecutive Halladay starts in each of the past two months.

Sunday only served as another example. Halladay went rolling into Wrigley Field having allowed only one run on 10 hits in 18 innings pitched in July. What happened? He was soundly beaten by a Cubs team that went into the night 10 games under .500. Sunday night marked the third time this season Halladay allowed at least six runs in a game. He allowed six or more runs only twice in 2008 and 2009 combined, when he was pitching in the American League, which is more offense-oriented. Yup, it's a hard job getting these guys out every fifth day. How hard? Roy Halladay has now lost seven of his past 11 decisions.

Ubaldo Jimenez has been assembling one of the greatest pitching seasons in modern history, but even he may not be immune to the midseason lull. Granted, it's a sliding scale and Ubaldo's bar doesn't lower a whole lot, but Jimenez has left two of his previous four starts without the victory. He allowed six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings against Boston on June 23 and was touched for seven runs on five hits in six innings against San Francisco on July 3. Even if you're Jimenez, the hitters can eventually catch up to you.

These numbers show that Jimenez may be in the midst of a lull as we speak. In his first 15 starts this season, opposing hitters batted only .207 against his fastball when he threw the pitch in the upper two-thirds of the strike zone. In Jimenez's last four starts, that average jumped up to a startling .300. Jimenez will be on the mound tonight for his first start of the second half when the Rockies play at Florida. His overall numbers (15-1, 2.20 ERA) hardly suggest a midseason drought for Ubaldo, but watch to see how the Marlins do against his fastball. He's been getting it up in the zone lately, and it's been getting hit more often.

Even in 2010, the year that pitching returned to the majors with a vengeance, almost with some sort of agenda that called for it to make up for lost time, the best mound men in the world can run into a midseason lull.

Steve Berthiaume is a host for "Baseball Tonight"

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