Sep 22, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) delivers in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kluber: 2014 Cleveland Indians Player Profile


Corey Kluber Has Lofty Expectations

“I am a cybernetic organism, living tissue over metal endoskeleton.”

Some time in the summer of 2010 a rather remarkable man arrived unannounced at Canal Park in Akron, Ohio, informing the people at the front desk he’d just arrived from San Diego following a trade between the Padres and Cleveland Indians, and was to begin pitching for the then-Aeros. A brief check of the fax machine told the receptionist that a pitcher was due to arrive in the next few days, though little more than that, so they welcomed him right in and thus the man we know as Corey Kluber’s career as a Cleveland Indian began its course.

A mysterious man with shadowy origins, Kluber’s methodical climb through the ranks of Tribe prospects saw him in Columbus by the end of the season. Nobody batted an eye much when the Stetson University product struck out nearly a batter an inning, kept his walks low, and gave up less and less homers every year in Triple-A. Maybe prospect hounds were on him already, though even they had him buried in the mid-teens. But as far as many Indians fans were concerned he was a nonperson, one of those names you see in Spring Training with a high number and quickly forget. Meanwhile he plugged away in Columbus with ruthless efficiency, calibrating his skills, methodically maturing, growing and marching toward his ultimate objective – to destroy major league bats.

It took until 2012 for Kluber to hit the big time (aside from 4.1 innings over three games in 2011, but that’s barely existing), and he was understandably over matched. A bloated 5.14 ERA and 7.74 K/9  in 63 innings was not what anyone would hope for, but he was still getting strikeouts, limiting walks and at this point giving up some bombs. Kluber was battered, but like the Borg he learned and assimilated, giving us all a hint of what was to come with a couple fine outings. He was quiet all winter, nary a peep, but 2013 came and he let the league know he was here to stay.

“What’s the matter, CIA got you pushing too many pencils?”

Kluber’s breakout 2013 season was, its face, pretty dead average. Besides the numbers you see here,

Innings

Wins

Losses

ERA

FIP

xFIP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

WAR

2013

147.1

11

5

3.85

3.30

3.10

8.31

2.02

0.92

.329

2.7

corey kluber

Feb 24, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber takes part in the annual photo day at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

He also walked into the winter with a 99 ERA+, essentially right there in the middle of the pack for pitchers. Even so, his peripherals were out of sight, causing Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs to found the Corey Kluber Appreciation Society, though I have to say I was a few months ahead of Cistulli on that, writing a piece praising the pitcher back in June. Maybe we both thought it up at the same time, brilliant pair that we are, I don’t know. Anyway, Kluber was great last season, suffering only because the Indians’ defense was lackluster. His Skills Interactive ERA (SIERA) was at 3.25, better than the presumptive ace of the team Justin Masterson’s 3.32. His strikeout rate was two points off Masterson’s 24%, while he walked just over half as many. All the things a Sabermetrician asks of a pitcher – high K’s, low walks, a survivable number of homers – Kluber did with quiet excellence all year. Personally, I’d like a bit more garbage out of him, but that’s just me, I’m a garbage man.

“I’ll be back.”

There’s a saying, that past performance is no guarantee of future results. The thing is, there’s nothing Kluber did last year to make me think it was a fluke. He threw hard, didn’t walk people, struck people out and kept home runs low enough to not complain. The two worst things about him were hurting his hand in August, which was a blessing in disguise letting him rest up for September, and his sometime propensity to fade in the sixth inning that gets him pulled from the game. All that being said, he’s a fixture near the top of the rotation, though some think less of him than others. Here are some PROJECTIONS!!!:

Innings

WIns

Losses

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

WAR

Steamer

173

11

10

4.07

3.79

7.60

2.90

.93

.296

2.3

Oliver

168

10

9

4.22

3.96

7.70

3.05

1.02

.319

1.7

ZiPS

161

9

9

4.02

3.48

8.27

2.12

1.01

3.20

2.7

Merritt

190

16

6

3.45

3.10

8.60

2.12

.95

.310

3.8

As ever, thanks Fangraphs, for your ever useful database of wonder. It would seem that a lot of people think Kluber will regress in some way, but my main issue with that is that he has nothing to really regress to. His numbers will surely be different from anything he did in the minors and last year was his first full season as a major league starter. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist along with my personal fandom of the man, but I think it’s going to be a great year for Kluber.

Seriously, why would his walks per nine spike up like Oliver suggests, or his strikeouts drop like Steamer suggests? Then again, who am I to disagree with them? Though it’s interesting to note that my thoughts line up with the Fan projections. Maybe we’re just not jaded old salts yet.

The biggest thing for Kluber will be Michael Bourn‘s bounce back in center and hopefully Carlos Santana deciding against opening up a butcher shop at third. And Asdrubal Cabrera of course. He’ll need to remember his glove. With the defense’s improvement, his numbers will get to where the peripherals suggest they should be, his confidence will grow and he’ll be the pitcher we never thought he could be.

At his best, Corey Kluber is a fringe ace caliber pitcher, and his emergence seemingly from the aether simply adds a feeling whimsy to his very existence. Or maybe I’m just baseball smitten, as we all find ourselves over one player or another. He’s going to be a major cog in the Tribe machine this season and for several to come though, and Cleveland fans will hopefully appreciate him. Plus, he time travels. Or will. Or has. I’m not sure, paradoxes are confusing. Kluber is good though.

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