If you are a Cleveland Indians fan, you would know that Corey Kluber is the strike-throwing ace of the Cleveland Indians and a top 10 or even top 5 pitcher in Major League Baseball, but do you know the story behind our beloved stone-faced ace?
Corey Kluber attended Stetson University in DeLand, Florida and was drafted in the 4th round by the Padres in the 2007 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. After 2 1/2 years pitching in the Padres minor league system, where he averaged a ERA of 4.37 in Single A and Double AA, Kluber was traded to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline in 2010.
The trade involved the following players:
Cleveland Indians got: SP Corey Kluber, 6-6 with a 3.45 ERA at Double-A.
San Diego Padres got: OF Ryan Ludwick, .281 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs.
St. Louis Cardinals got: SP Jake Westbrook, 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA in 21 starts.
The St. Louis Cardinals made this trade to acquire a starting pitcher because of injuries, The Padres needed a right-handed power bat to go with Adrian Gonzalez, and the Indians needed and wanted a young starting pitcher with control, so the trade was completed. At first, to the average Indians fan, this was just a trade made just to get something in return for a serviceable veteran starting pitcher that was past his prime, but of course the trade turned into so much more. As of now, Jake Westbrook is retired, Ryan Ludwick is now a Cincinnati Red and, of course, Kluber is the Indians ace.
When Kluber joined the Indians minor league system he had an average fastball with a plus breaking ball and the ability to miss bats. But, throughout his 3-plus years of being in the Indians minor league system he developed a great arsenal of pitches and became a complete pitcher. He developed a sinker that averages 94 mph that has great movement down and away to lefties and down and in to righties, and the sinker is considered his number one pitch. He has a good 4-seam fastball averaging at 94 mph and a changeup that keeps hitters off balance at an average speed of 83 mph. In Major League baseball, many starters have a good fastball-changeup combination, but the pitch mix that makes Kluber the ace he is, is the cutter-slider mix. Kluber throws a cutter, which has sharp movement, right-to-left at an average of 89 mph that keeps hitters off of the sinker, but then he also throws a slider with the same arm speed as the cutter but it averages a speed of 83 mph and it sweeps away with even more movement than the cutter. These five pitches make Major League hitters completely off balance and make Kluber hard to hit. Kluber goes out every fifth day and bolsters one of the best arsenals in baseball which helped him become Cleveland’s ace.
To see all of the pitches in Kluber’s arsenal check out his first career complete game against KC where he had 11 strikeouts.
The arsenal Kluber bolsters is incredible, but what separates Kluber from other elite pitchers in Major League Baseball is his approach to pitching. Kluber goes out to the mound, not with the goal to get to at least 10 strikeouts in the game, but to get every batter out in 3 pitches or less. Kluber does rack up the strikeouts with a total of 244 on the year, which is the most since Gaylord Perry had 238 in 1973, but he would rather pitch a complete game in under 100 pitches than have a 10+ strikeout game and go only 6 or 7 innings. Kluber’s great approach to pitching helps him go 7+ innings every start and save a bullpen that is the most used in baseball. Because of this approach, Kluber has generated three complete games in 32 starts this year. In one of Kluber’s three complete games, he shut out the Seattle Mariners with 85 pitches and only 16 of those pitches were balls. Kluber took advantage of the Seattle Mariners ultra aggressive lineup and went the distance quite easily. So the more aggressive the lineup is, the better it is for Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians.
As for stats, Corey Kluber has drastically improved from a season ago. Last season Kluber was 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA with 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings pitched. This season he is 16-9 with a 2.54 ERA with 244 strikeouts in 219.2 innings. Of course this season he has had more starts: 32 compared to 24 a season ago, but his batting average against has decreased from .271 to .236 and his WHIP (walks-hits-innings-pitched) has decreased from 1.26 to 1.11. In 2014, Kluber has grown leaps and bounds in every pitching stat category from a season ago and is now in the running for the Cy Young award in the American League and he should finish in the top 3 in voting.
After all of that improvement over the last two years, I bet a lot of you reading this think that the Indians are going to end up trading him because we will not be able to pay for his services in the future, but that’s not the case. Kluber is 28 years old and only has a service time of 1.074 years in the Majors, so, he is currently in his last pre-arbitration year. For the next three years, after this year, he is arbitration eligible and under team control, which means unless the Indians can lock up Kluber like a lot of the other Indians players, Kluber is not eligible for free agency until 2019. This is great for the Tribe because they have Kluber for his age 28-age 33 seasons which are Kluber’s prime years. I hope we lock him up to a team friendly contract after this year, but for now we are paying minimal money for a grade A pitcher and a bona fide ace.
Going into the last two weeks Kluber is looking as good as ever with a career high 14 strikeout performance against the Houston Astros, which leads me to believe that he will finish this Cy Young caliber season stronger than when he began.
Overall, in 2010, the Cleveland Indians traded Jake Westbrook who was a number 3 starter at best in a Major League rotation for a pitching prospect named Corey “Klubot” Kluber who is now Cleveland’s ace. And since the Indians waited to bring Kluber up until he was 27, the team has Kluber under control throughout all of his prime years. If Kluber continues this trend for the foreseeable future he can be one of the biggest steals in Cleveland Indians history.