SP Corey Kluber is more valuable to the Cleveland Indians than any other player is to any other team in all of MLB. Without Kluber’s consistent dominance among a rotation of disarray, the Indians would not be in contention in the AL Central or Wild Card, and the season would likely be lost.
Today, Kluber won his 13th game of the season, pitching six scoreless innings against a potent New York Yankees lineup. He is a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Kluber boasts a 13-6 record. He has 187 strikeouts, the second most in all of baseball behind only the recently traded David Price. His 2.46 ERA is fourth, behind Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and Jon Lester. His 13 wins are tied for first in all of baseball. Kluber’s WAR sits at 4.8, second only to Felix Hernandez at 5.8.
However, the stats alone fall short in measuring Kluber’s value to the Tribe. Kluber has played behind a horrendous defense, as the Indians have allowed more unearned runs and committed more errors than any other team in baseball. Kluber has been on the mound for 13 of those unearned runs, battling to keep the Tribe in games. Often, Kluber has needed five or six outs just to get through an inning, yet he has still managed to pitch into the seventh in most of the starts he has made. He has been stellar for the Indians despite errors galore.
Kluber has also been resilient despite consistent inconsistency from the rest of the Indians’ rotation. Terry Francona‘s rotation has been a revolving door of mediocrity, featuring T.J. House, Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco among others. Justin Masterson, the Tribe’s preseason ace and vocal clubhouse leader, was shipped to the St. Louis Cardinals after a brutal first half with an ERA over 5.00, leaving a significant void in both the rotation and clubhouse in Cleveland.
The Indians’ new ace has embraced his new role as staff and clubhouse leader, seemingly performing better with each start. He is respected in the clubhouse for his work ethic and stoicism, and Indians President Mark Shapiro has called Kluber the hardest worker on the team. Kluber also knows how to have fun with his teammates, even dressing up in a chicken suit and dancing around in the outfield before games. He often brings his kids to the clubhouse after games, reminding the team that family comes first, and helps them shake off tough losses.
Just three seasons ago, Corey Kluber had no fastball command and was left off the Columbus Clippers‘ postseason roster. Now, he is an ace with a nasty curveball and devastating cutter. By the end of the year, if he continues at his current pace, he should be a Cy Young Award winner.