Cleveland Indians' Corey Kluber Riding Unexpected Wave Of Success

By Thom Tsang
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

He’s already struck out batters at a higher rate than Stephen Strasburg while walking fewer batters, and he’s posted a lower FIP too, even if his ERA is a bit higher.

On Sunday, Corey Kluber got a win over the Washington Nationals phenom to boot.

Now, this is not to say that the Cleveland Indians‘ second-year starter is necessarily better than the once-in-a-decade flamethrower from the nation’s capital, of course, but if you were to look at the numbers that both have put up over the season, perhaps you’d be a little surprised at just how well the unheralded Kluber is doing in 2013.

In their clash over the weekend, though, it wasn’t even close.

To be fair, Strasburg was just coming off the DL for his start, but while the expectant annual Cy Young candidate was out of the game after five innings, having allowed a run on a hit and four walks, it was Kluber who was absolutely … well, Strasburg-ian.

The Tribe’s righty simply dominated the Nationals, throwing eight innings of shutout ball, allowing seven hits, no walks, while striking out a whopping eight batters. Outside of a perilous seventh seventh inning where he saw the bases loaded with no outs and a couple of error-fueled first-and-third situations, Kluber was never really too threatened; and besides, you already know how those high-leverage situations ended.

With the 2-0 win, the 27-year-old moved one game ahead of .500 at 5-4 on his season, one that has seen him come from essentially nowhere to become the team’s second-most successful starter.

It’s hard to argue with the counting numbers: including Sunday five out of his last seven starts have been quality starts, and he’s allowed just one walk or less in all but one of then. Throw in a 9.42 K/9 over that 43-inning span along with consecutive eight-inning outings, and what the Indians have here might be a legitimate breakout story.

But is it one that will have a happy ending?

Well, if you’re going by his improved ability to attack batters (62.5 percent first strikes to 56.9 in 2012) and his slightly bumped-up swinging strike rate (11 percent to 10.7), you’ll see that this is a pitcher who has made legitimate improvements and is going after batters with his 92.6 mph fastball more (51.2 percent to 43.6), something that batters haven’t quite caught up to.

His real calling card, though, is the vastly improved control at 1.65 BB/9 to last seasons, 2.57, and considering that he hasn’t really been lucky (the .328 BABIP is about right given the 25 percent line drive rate), and you know, maybe this Cinderella story for the Indians might just be getting started.

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