Corey Kluber’s Peripheral Statistics Reveal a Top Notch Season
Ronnie Tellalian | On 11, Jan 2014
The Indians have been relatively quiet this off season, and it is no secret that they have a need for starting pitching. The spots of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir will not be easy to fill, but this is going to be about the pitchers the Indians do have on board; specifically Corey Kluber, a pitcher that quietly performed as one of the best pitchers on the staff.
In his first taste of big league experience, Kluber gave up four runs in four and one third innings back in 2011. The next season he managed 12 starts with a little better, but still poor 5.14 ERA. He came into the 2013 season with little expectation among fans. In his first full season as a starter, Kluber put up some very good numbers. He finished with a record of 11-5 over 24 starts. He threw 147 innings and struck out 136 batters with a 3.85 ERA. His success was due in part to his much improved array of pitches.
Kluber has a very good and diverse set of pitches. His fastball has made dramatic improvements over the past few seasons. His four-seem used to be a flat pitch that got smacked around, now he locates it with amazing accuracy and he has increased its velocity to an average of 93.6mph. Batters used to only swing and miss at 5.88% of his fastballs, last season he jumped that number up to 11.96%. His sinker is a good groundball pitch that he throws at 93.9mph, and his cutter is his third pitch that he can throw in the 90’s with an average velocity of 90.2mph. He has a change-up as well, but his best pitch is probably his slider. Batters hit just .192 against his slider and he boasts a 20% whiff rate.
His obvious numbers show that he had a pretty good season in 2013, but a look at his peripheral number show just how good that season was. A lot of what a pitcher does is dependent on outside factors. A pitcher can control his strikeouts and his walks, but there isn’t much else beyond that. A guy can consistently induce groundballs, and that’s a good thing, but then he has to have fielders behind him that can make plays. Some pitchers allow a large number of fly balls or home runs, and that is a pitchers personal trend too, but again, there is a large portion of their performance that depends on their defense. To really dig out how good a pitcher is, was, or could be, one has to look at the numbers that isolate his true abilities.
I’ve talked about Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) before. Basically it is a pitching statistic that takes the defensive contribution out of the equation and shows solely the contribution of the pitcher. It takes into consideration things like home runs allowed, walks, and strikeouts, things that are more under the pitchers control. A groundball pitcher with a good defensive infield is likely to have a better ERA than the same pitcher with a poor defensive infield. In this way, FIP is a truer indicator of a pitchers performance. xFIP is the same thing, but regressed. It is a better predictor of future performance and is set on the same scale as ERA. Kluber finished the 2013 season with a 3.10 xFIP. This is better than Justin Masterson, better than Stephen Strausburg, better than Max Scherzer, David Price, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Cole Hamels.
SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA) is a relatively new statistic that attempts to explain the truth behind ERA. It is like FIP in that it tries to separate a pitchers skill from luck or defensive contribution, but unlike FIP, SIERA takes into account balls in play. In this stat, Kluber finished 13th in the Major Leagues with a 3.32 SIERA. Again, like FIP, SIERA is on the same scale as ERA. Kluber finished higher in this category than Masterson, Hamels, Price, Jimenez, and Madison Bumgarner.
These numbers are not to say the Kluber is going to be selected the unanimous Cy Young winner in 2014, but they do show that he pitched as well as the best pitchers in baseball. His numbers suggest that he was in the top 15 pitchers in both leagues, and he is only getting better. His main stream numbers show that he pitched well, but his peripheral number show that he performed with the best in the league. In 2014 he will have a chance to prove that 2013 was no fluke and he truly does belong among better pitchers in baseball.