From the genius of LeBron James to the genius of Corey Kluber.
From the greatest player in the history of the Cavs, if not planet Earth, to — he’s entered the discussion, and if he wins a third Cy Young Award this year, the discussion may be over — the greatest pitcher in Indians history.
Kluber’s metronomic rise to greatness has become so routine that it’s easy, and grossly unfair, to take it for granted. This is legendary stuff. Dominating major league hitters — there is no higher league, these are the best hitters in the world — is ridiculously hard. Kluber makes it look ridiculously easy.
Grab a chair, sit down and consider the following numbers, whose dizzying brilliance are best, and most safely, digested while off your feet:
In 37 regular-season starts since June 1 of last year, Kluber’s record is 25-4, with a 1.76 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting .185 against him, and he has almost 300 more strikeouts (327) than walks (33).
Go ahead, read that again. I’ll wait.
Number of walks by Indians starting pitchers since May 8: Trevor Bauer 10, Carlos Carrasco 11, Mike Clevinger 15.
Number of walks since May 8 by other selected American League pitchers: Justin Verlander 9, Luis Severino 11, Chris Sale 11, Gerrit Cole 14.
Number of walks since May 8 by Corey Kluber: Zero.
He hasn’t walked anybody in over a month. He has faced 168 consecutive batters without a walk. The last time he actually, you know, walked a guy was May 8. He walked a guy that day. But only one. If you want to go back to April 27, he has walked one of the last 212 batters he’s faced.
In those 37 starts since June 1 of last year, Kluber is averaging 11.1 strikeouts and 1.1 walks per nine innings. That’s insane.
In his 14 starts this season, Kluber almost has more wins (10) than walks (10). Think about that.
So to review: opposing teams can’t hit him, and he doesn’t walk anybody.
I remember once asking former Indians outfielder Chris James what it was like to face Nolan Ryan.
“It means you better go 2-for-4 the day before,” he said.
It’s kind of like that with Kluber. Just ask these guys, accompanied by their career averages versus Kluber:
Jose Altuve (.208), Kris Bryant (.100), Paul Goldschmidt (.167), Dustin Pedroia (.111), Brian Dozier (.149), Albert Pujols (.000: 0-for-16), Nick Markakis (.154), Jean Segura (.125), the Seagers, Corey and Kyle (.167: 3-for-18), and … oh yeah, some guy named Mike Trout (.133).
Kluber has won the Cy Young Award in two of the last four years. It arguably could have been three of four. In 2016, he went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA, led the league in shutouts and FIP, but finished third in the Cy Young voting, even though he had a better WAR (5.8 from Baseball-Reference) than the pitcher who won the award, Rick Porcello (4.8).
This year Kluber is positioning himself to make a run at still another Cy Young Award.
In other words, he won the Cy Young last year, and got BETTER this year.
If Kluber wins a third Cy Young Award this year, it all but guarantees induction into the Hall of Fame. Of the six pitchers who have won three Cy Young Awards, four of them are in the Hall of Fame: Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver, and the other two will be: Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.
Even with two Cy Young Awards, Kluber has a decent chance for a trip to Cooperstown. Three of the other eight pitchers who have won the award twice are in the Hall of Fame: Bob Gibson, Gaylord Perry and Tom Glavine.
For now, Kluber would seem to have a strong chance this year to become the sixth Indians pitcher to start for the American League in the All-Star game. The last to do it was Cliff Lee in 2008. The others: Charles Nagy (1996), Perry (1974), Luis Tiant (1968) and Bob Feller (1941).
However, since the American League All-Star manager this year is Houston’s A.J. Hinch, it seems more likely that he’ll pick his guy to start the game, Justin Verlander, speaking of other potential future Hall of Famers.
There is no gray area about whether Kluber now ranks among the greatest Indians pitchers ever. In fact, judged strictly by analytics, he probably already is the greatest Indians pitcher ever.
Among Indians pitchers with a minimum of 1,000 innings, Kluber ranks first in strikeouts per nine innings, strikeouts per walks, strikeout percentage and strikeout to walks percentage.
He’s second in winning percentage (.632, Cliff Lee is first at .634), second in WHIP (1.065, Addie Joss is first at 0.968) and second in ERA+ (Joss 142, Kluber 140).
I could go on, but so could Kluber. So WILL Kluber.
So sorry, hitters.
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