Corey Kluber's Streak of Dominance Has Been Incredible
With apologies to many other fantastic pitchers, the American League Cy Young race is down to two horses -- Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. Arguments can be made that both are deserving of the award, and that's true as you dive into several metrics, like strikeout rate (K%), walk rate (BB%), and SIERA.
By the absolute slimmest of margins, and given he's thrown around 30 more innings due to Kluber's injury, Sale probably gets the nod, at least so far.
In historical context, it's hard to appreciate what these two dudes are doing on the mound -- dating back to the 2000 season, only Randy Johnson's 2001 season included a higher strikeout rate (36.7%).
These guys are just dominant, but lost in the shuffle is that Kluber was probably pitching hurt to start 2017. Understanding how great Kluber has pitched after the injury is a sight to behold.
Let's get overwhelmingly excited, just like the Klubot tends to do, and analyze how unhittable he's been the last two-and-a-half months.
Before Hitting the Disabled List
After suffering a back injury in early May, Kluber was shut down following his May 2nd start, and for good reason. It's hard to exactly discern when the trouble began, but a quick look before and after that stint, which lasted about a month, shows something clearly wasn't right.
Over those first 37 1/3 innings pitched, Kluber was a mere mortal. His strikeout rate would have placed him 14th-best among qualified starting pitchers, but that walk rate is certainly inflated, and the ERA is out-of-this-world high for the Cleveland Indians starter, who has a career mark of 3.24.
Focusing on the right-hander's batted-ball profile, he allowed a 42.3% hard-hit rate and a 37.5% fly-ball rate over that first month, leading to a .339 wOBA allowed. It was a struggle, and being put on the shelf seems to have done him some good, as he's come back with a vengeance.
From a Pinto to a Maserati
After some rest and a few rehab stints, Kluber has turned in one of the most dominant pitching stretches we have ever seen.
Corey Kluber missed a month of this season.
He's third in the AL with 149 strikeouts. pic.twitter.com/BYjc7GAXT4
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 23, 2017
Since the beginning of June, he's posted a 1.70 ERA while striking out 40.5% of batters while walking only 4.3% over his last 95 1/3 innings. In those 13 starts, Kluber has recorded an average swinging-strike rate of 18.5%. He's recorded only two starts with rates under 15.0% (13.2% and 13.3, respectively). Check out how that swinging-strike rate stacks up among the season-long stats of some league leaders.
|Name||Time||Innings Pitched||Sw Strk Rate %|
How can we appreciate how unbelievable he's been during this stretch? Well, he is blowing the best-of-the-best away in swinging-strike rate, and his current run is a full two percentage points higher than his season-long mark. Oh, and his season-long swinging-strike rate of 16.5% would be the highest ever recorded by FanGraphs if the season ended today.
Since June 2nd, his ERA is only second to Clayton Kershaw's mark of 1.65 (and he's thrown 30 more innings than Kershaw), his .203 wOBA allowed is the best mark in the league by 21 points, and his strikeout rate is easily lapping the field (Max Scherzer is the closest at 37.5%).
The Most Dominant Stretch in Recent Memory?
This isn't the first time we've seen an otherworldly stretch from a top starting pitcher, though. While Kershaw was dominant throughout 2015, he produced a stretch from August 23rd to the end of that season that was rather insane. He threw 63 2/3 innings over nine starts, striking out 38.0% of hitters faced while recording a 17.3% swinging-strike rate.
Arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation -- the southpaw has three NL Cy Young awards and an NL MVP at home to help make his case -- Kluber dusted Kershaw's stretch in that season when it comes to strikeouts and swings and misses.
He may not even win the AL Cy Young award, but now is the perfect time to appreciate how special this recent run of dominance has been for Cleveland's ace.