K:BB. Mmmm can’t think of a sexier group of three letters. Double D’s are nice but that’s only two letters. JB is only two letters. So if you have to go to three letters, I’ll take K:BB.
A guy I’ve liked for a while now, Corey Kluber came into yesterday’s matchup against the Nationals with a sparkling 57:12 K:BB ratio so far this season. Don’t believe me that he’s been my man crush the past month? Look at phone records to Sky or my friend Peter. Just ask the NSA, they’ve got them saved somewhere… Kluber has been around a while, pitching in the Minors since 2006 with consistent strikeout numbers, but other than that never has put it completely together. Now 27 years old, Kluber is suddenly owning MLB offenses.
As soon as I saw Kluber’s numbers last month before he was the talk of the town, I went and looked at his pitch selection. He’s completely changed his arsenal from a slider as his main breaking offering into tossing a cutter as his second pitch. Does that remind you of any other Cleveland Indian who had late(r) career success? Reminds me of Cliff Lee! Ok so I’m not saying Kluber is the next Cliff Lee, they’re very different pitchers, but it is interesting.
I was lucky enough to pick up Kluber in all my leagues where I’ve got more on the line than dealing with Tehol trade offers, and have been riding him out since the Boston start on May 26th and enjoying a phenomenal run (I did bench him at Texas, but hey, I bet almost everyone did). So let’s look at how he fared pitch-by-pitch against at home against Washington:
First Inning: The first pitch to Denard Span is a 94 MPH fastball on the outside corner, 0-1. Kluber misses just outside, then inside, still all fastballs, 2-1. Kluber has a nice, smooth, easy delivery with maybe a little bit of stress on that arm, but he’s thrown a ton of innings through his professional career, so I’m sure it’s steady for him.. The next pitch is lined to right field, but it’s right to Drew Stubbs, one down. Anthony Rendon takes a fastball for a strike, then a curveball at 83 MPH drops in to make it 0-2. Man what a combo, and we still haven’t seen the cutter yet. There’s the cutter at 89 MPH, it stayed upstairs, 1-2, then a fastball on the hands is roped down the third base line for a double. Fair by about an inch, that was a pretty solid pitch on the hands, but Rendon kept it fair. Kluber misses to Ryan Zimmerman then again low with a heater hitting 95, 2-0. Kluber then goes to the cutter, and it’s fantastic at 90 MPH to get a swing-and-miss, 2-1, then pounds the zone on the outside corner with the fastball then paints the outside black at 95 MPH and locks Zimmerman up looking for his first K. Man, that was nasty. The first pitch to Adam LaRoche is cut on and missed, then a fastball is low, then outside, 2-1. Kluber blows a fastball past him at 94 MPH, then a 95 MPH fastball is hit hard to center, but it’s caught by Michael Bourn in front of the track to end the inning.
Second Inning: Random side note, opposing pitcher is the just off the DL Stephen Strasburg who has really big ears. Never really noticed before… Anyway, Kluber starts the inning with a 93 MPH fastball to Jayson Werth that tails in for a strike, then misses high, then another fastball gets the outside corner, 1-2. Then another fastball is flared to right, and Stubbs takes a few wrong steps and then charges it with it dropping in front of him for a lead-off single. A correct path to the ball and that’s caught. The first pitch to Ian Desmond is a cutter for a strike, then a fastball is chopped for a tailor-made double play, 2 outs. Kluber misses outside to Chad Tracy then inside, 2-0, then again way outside, 3-0. The next fastball barely catches the outside corner, then a fastball at 95 at the knees is flied out lazily to left, inning over.
Third Inning: Still no score, the first pitch to Jhonatan Solano is taken for a strike, then a cutter is outisde, then a nasty, NASTY cutter gets a swing-and-miss at 91 MPH, 1-2. If you’ve seen Matt Harvey pitch, the speed and late break is very similar to Harvey’s slider. Then another cutter, or it could’ve been a slider at 86 MPH, is just nasty and gets a swing-and-miss breaking from the middle of the plate to two feet outside and in the dirt. That was disgusting. So it’s another K and up is Roger Bernadina who takes ball one, then pops one out of play, then he tries to bunt his way on but Kluber fields it clean and gets him out, two down. A first-pitch curveball is taken low by Span, then a fastball skips in there, 2-0. Another heater is grounded weakly to first for a clean 1-2-3 inning.
Fourth Inning: Kluber gets a fastball in there for a strike to Rendon, then misses barely low and outside, then a sick cutter that looked good on the outside lower corner doesn’t get the call, 2-1. Another cutter in the same spot is flared to right for a single. So Rendon is 2-2, and the first pitch to Zimmerman is an 81 MH curve for a strike, a fastball is outside, then another fastball is grounded weakly to third and John McDonald throws it wide of Jason Kipnis for an error that could’ve easily been a double play. So instead of no runners on and two down, it’s runners on first and third with no outs. Tough break. First pitch to LaRoche is a ball, then a fastball blows by him, 1-1. Kluber then dials up a nasty curveball that LaRoche is way in front of, 1-2, a quick check at first, then a fastball tapped foul, followed by an absolutely unreal 2-seam fastball at 95 MPH that started a foot inside and tailed perfectly on the inside black for his 3rd K looking. Kluber starts Werth with a cutter for a swing-and-miss, another nasty one, 0-1, then a curveball drops in, 0-2, what a sequence. Werth fouls a curve out of play, then barely rips one third base side foul, then Kluber misses outside, 1-2. A curveball misses inside, 2-2, then that cutter right on the outside and breaking away gets a swing-and0miss for back-to-back Ks. Kluber barely misses outside with the two-seamer at 95, 1-0 to Desmond, then a foul back, then another fouled just out of the reach of Yan Gomes then another two-seamer hoping to tail in stays just outside, 2-2. Then Kluber dials up a curveball that drops outside and low and gets Desmond swinging to strike out the side! After the error with runners on the corners and no outs, Kluber dials it up and Desmond throws his bat in anger.
Fifth Inning: Kluber finally gets a run of support, and protects a 1-0 lead starting Tracy with a fastball low, then another fastball at the knees is flied out weakly to center, 1 down. Kluber gets strike one on Solano, then one fouled off, then a fastball outside, 1-2. Kluber then goes with the cutter on the outside corner and Solano is late for Kluber’s 6th K. He misses low to Bernadina, then again low, and once again low, 3-0. Kluber fights back with a fastball in there, then another fastball is grounded very weakly to first to end the inning.
Sixth Inning: Still up 1-0, Kluber misses twice outside to Span, then a fastball is fouled off of Span’s foot, 2-1 with Span hobbling. Kluber misses again outside, then a fastball that would’ve been ball 4 low is grounded very weakly but Span beats the throw to first and Mark Reynolds just plain misses the throw right to him, and the ball gets out of play and Span moves to second. Kluber has had some rough breaks, that should’ve been an easy out, but Kipnis didn’t charge it fast enough and Reynolds couldn’t catch an easy throw anyway. Kluber misses with a curve, 1-0 to Rendon who is 2-2 on the day, then a 93 MPH fastball is laced hard to right, so hard it keeps Span at third, so it’s another runners at the corners with no outs situation. Kluber misses outside to Zimmerman, then a curveball drops in 1-1, then Kluber throws a nice cutter but it cuts too far outside, 2-1. Another curve from Kluber gets a swing-and-miss, then a 95 MPH fastball that looked good on the outside black doesn’t get the call, full count, then another curveball gets a swing-and-miss, another K – now seven for Kluber. The three curveballs he threw that at bat dropped successively lower, excellent sequence. Kluber throws a first pitch cutter for a swing-and-miss by LaRoche, then a fastball is low, then another fastball breaks LaRoche’s bat, and it’s hit just hard enough to get the double play with LaRoche a quarter step out at first and Kluber gets out of another jam that wasn’t his fault.
Seventh Inning: Still a paltry 1-0 lead, Kluber misses high to Werth, then gets a check-swing too far for a strike, then a 94 MPH fastball is flared to right, right into no-man’s land less than a foot inside the foul line for a leadoff double. Unlucky break there. First pitch to Desmond is fouled off, then a fastball tails inside and hits Desmond near the hip and it’s runners on first and second with no outs and another jam. Up now is pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi for Chad Tracy and the first pitch is bunted foul, then the next one is bunted in the air and Kluber dives for it and barely misses it on a back hand catch, the ball lands and gets past Kluber for a bunt single. Man, tough, tough break, bases loaded, no outs. Kluber starts Solano with a cutter that gets a big swing-and-miss, 0-1, then another cutter a few more inches outside gets another whiff, 0-2. Kluber stays with the slider, Solano lines it, but it’s right to Reynolds at first who takes it back to the base to double off Lombardozzi for a huge double play to keep it scoreless. So two down, runners at 2nd and 3rd, and Kluber paints the outside corner to Bernadina with 95 MPH heat, 0-1. Then the next pitch is a fastball grounded weakly to short and Kluber gets out of another stressful inning.
Eighth Inning: So at 102 pitches, Terry Francona decides to leave Kluber in, and starts Span showing bunt with a fastball for a strike, then another strike is in there, then a cutter is flared to left for a flyout, 1 down. Kluber hits the inside corner to Rendon, 0-1, Rendon looking for his fourth hit, and takes a curveball in there 0-2. Then Kluber dials another curveball, it lands right in the dirt but Rendon offers and it’s Kluber’s 8th K. Kluber misses inside to Zimmerman, then 95 MPH at the letters is fouled back, 1-1. Velocity still there. Kluber bounces a curveball, 2-1, then another curveball with tight movement outside is cut on and missed, then the crowd erupts with Kluber missing high and tight still at 95 MPH to fill up the count. Another fastball outside is grounded weakly to Kipnis, and Kluber gets through 8 scoreless and picks up the win.
Final Line: W 8 IP 114 Pitches (73 Strikes) 7 Hits 0 Walks 0 ER 8 K Gamescore: 76 Gamescore+: 78
Final Analysis: Absolutely unreal stuff from Kluber, who got through some stressful innings but kept the Nationals to goose eggs. A lot of the jams Kluber had were unlucky breaks on errors and weakly hit balls. The only extra-base hits were Rendon’s double down the line in the first and an unlucky flare double by Werth in the 7th. Overall, not a lot of hard hit balls for hits, keeping Kluber’s Gamescore+ above his Gamescore.
Constantly hitting 95 with his fastball, Kluber went from 4-seam to 2-seam with ease and kept up the velocity until the final at bat. The pitch that has really helped Kluber emerge this season is that cutter which got a lot of swing-and-misses and kept the Nationals off balanced. As I mentioned above, the cutter reminds me of Matt Harvey’s slider – last break, high 80s to low 90s, just really tough to lock in on. Then the curveball was working all game, with late break and great control.
Kluber is pretty much must-own material even in 10-team leagues, with that K:BB ratio now 65:12. The Ks are there, good park to pitch in, and besides the Tigers, he gets to pitch against the struggling offenses of the Royals, the Twins (who his next start is against) and the White Sox. The stuff is absolutely real, as is his control.
I’m out of town next week, so there won’t be a pitcher profile until July 1st, but if you have pitchers you’d like broken down, be sure to shoot suggestions below!