Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28
Bob Toth | On 01, Mar 2018
While the offseason has been historically slow and the winter has crawled along at an even slower pace, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 28 days
When all is said and done, Corey Kluber may just see his number 28 retired among the other legends of Indians history, but he still has some work to do in order to get there. Luckily for Indians’ fans, he should be in town with the club for the next two to four years, and maybe longer.
The number 28 has found a home on the backs of several solid contributors to the Indians over the years, especially during a good run for the number in the 1970s and 1980s, when the likes of Rick Manning, Bert Blyleven, and Cory Snyder took it to the field. But since 2012, the number has been Kluber’s while he has grown into a two-time Cy Young winner and two-time All-Star.
Now 31 and appearing to be in the prime years of his career, the former fourth round pick out of Stetson University by the San Diego Padres has made the 2011 trade of Jake Westbrook an absolute steal for the Tribe. And while Kluber has put up some impressive years in an Indians uniform, he still has more time to give the club – he is under contract through at least the 2019 season, with two more reasonably priced (given his production) team options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Like the proverbial fine wine, the stoic right-hander has only gotten better with age.
Kluber has been a workhorse for the rotation over the last five years, when he has truly blossomed into one of the greats in the game. Since sliding into the rotation early in the 2013 season, his numbers have consistently been the best of the staff. He led the league in wins (18) and FIP (2.35) and all of baseball in starts (34) in 2014 on the way to a Cy Young win, which was supported further by a 2.44 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, three complete games, a shutout, and career-highs in innings pitched (235 2/3) and strikeouts (269). His 9-16 record the following year was deceiving, as he threw an MLB-best four complete games with a 1.05 WHIP in 222 innings. Injuries cost him a few starts at the end of the 2016 season, when he again went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and a league-best 3.26 FIP and two shutouts while finishing third in the Cy Young voting and making his first All-Star team.
Last year, despite missing a month early in the season, his numbers were convincing enough to win a second Cy Young while leading all of baseball with 18 wins, a 2.25 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, five complete games, three shutouts, and a 7.36 strikeout/walk ratio. He also ranked as the top American League pitcher in WAR for the second time in his career.
With just seven big league seasons under his belt and only five that equate to a full season’s worth of work, Kluber has already begun his climb up the team’s all-time leaderboards. He is 24 away from the century mark in the overvalued win statistic and currently slots in at 23rd overall in 117 years of Cleveland pitching. Dating back to the start of the Expansion Era, Kluber ranks fifth in club history with a 3.13 ERA, trailing only Gaylord Perry (the team’s first Cy Young winner), Sonny Siebert, Luis Tiant, and Sam McDowell. He is seventh in strikeouts with 1,201 and he realistically could climb to third place fairly early this coming season with just 76 more Ks (especially given his franchise-best rate of 9.91 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.94 strikeout per walk), leaving him behind Bob Feller (2,581) and McDowell (2,159). Kluber is eighth overall in batting average against with a .232 mark. His career WHIP of 1.09 trails only Addie Joss’ 0.97 mark.
Kluber will once again anchor a dangerous starting rotation for the Indians in 2018, and the club will likely go as he goes. The Tribe is heavily favored in a weak AL Central again this season and will count on that strong starting staff to contend with and contain some powerful lineups that will stand in the way of Cleveland making a deep run through the Junior Circuit’s side of the playoff bracket come October.
Other notable 28s in Tribe history (38 in total): Charlie Jamieson (1931-32), Gene Bearden (1948), Pedro Ramos (1962), Tommie Agee (1964), Vada Pinson (1970-71), Jackie Brown (1975), Derek Lilliquist (1992-94), Russell Branyan (2002), Ben Broussard (2002-03).
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images