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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | May 19, 2019

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28 – Corey Kluber

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28 – Corey Kluber

| On 28, Feb 2019

Major League Baseball is now less than a month away from the start of the 2019 season, its earliest start ever (excluding international openers). All 30 teams will take the field on March 28 this year. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 28 days

Should Corey Kluber continue his steady production over the final three years of his contract with the Cleveland Indians, there is a fair chance that his number 28 will one day be retired in his honor by the Tribe.

The surprising career of Cleveland’s ace has resulted in four top three finishes in the American League’s Cy Young voting over the last five years (including becoming the first Indians pitcher to win the award twice when he did so in 2014 and 2017). Even last year, when it felt at times that he was not as dominant as he had been in years past, Kluber still landed a third place finish in the Cy voting while leading all of baseball in complete games and shutouts and leading the AL in innings pitched and walks per nine.

Kluber – Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Coming off of his second award in 2017, Kluber put together another quality season for Cleveland. He made 33 starts (the second-most single season appearances of his career), earned a career-best 20 wins, and was named to his third consecutive All-Star team. His 2.89 ERA was his third-best mark of his eight-year career, and he posted a sub-1.00 WHIP (0.99) for the second straight year. While he saw a slight increase in base traffic via hit and a drop in his strikeout rate of more than two batters per nine innings compared to the year before, he minimized additional mistakes with his 1.4 walk rate.

Unfortunately, regular season Kluber did not show up in the postseason, when he was hit for four runs on six hits (including three homers) with two walks and two strikeouts against the Houston Astros, who easily swept the Indians in three straight games in the American League Division Series. It marked a second consecutive rough postseason for Kluber, who allowed nine runs on ten hits in six and one-third innings in two starts against the New York Yankees the season before in the ALDS. The recent playoff performances from Kluber have been part of a limited number of criticisms of the right-hander in recent years.

Despite having just eight big league seasons under his belt and being a permanent part of the starting rotation since early in the 2013 season, Kluber has already placed himself among Indians pitching royalty. His 3.09 career ERA is 15th-best in club history, behind names like Addie Joss, Gaylord Perry, Sonny Siebert, Stan Coveleski, Luis Tiant, Sam McDowell, and Jim Bagby. Nearly 40 years separate his playing career from the most recent players above him on that list. With four more wins, he will become just the 15th pitcher in team history to top 100 in his career and his .636 winning percentage is third-best by an Indians player. He has the 14th-most starts (196) and will crack the top 20 in innings pitched with a little over 15 innings of work to open the year. His 1,423 strikeouts trail only Bob Feller (2,581) and McDowell (2,159), who both were considered prolific strikeout pitchers of their respective eras (completing his contract healthy and in town could give him a shot of catching McDowell on that list). His 1.07 WHIP and .277 on-base percentage against are the second-best all-time for the franchise, trailing only the Hall of Famer Joss, whose career was notably incredible and tragic, given his untimely death at the top of his game.

Kluber already sits on the top spot of the club’s all-time list for strikeouts per nine innings (9.81) and strikeouts per walk (5.14) and is fifth in walks per nine (1.91).

While Kluber has grown into the ace of a dominating pitching staff built by the Indians and has fulfilled those expectations loyally, it did not stop his name from being frequently bantered about in the offseason. The Indians spent the bulk of the winter dangling Kluber (among others) on the trade marketplace while slashing penny after penny from the present and future payroll of the club after posting franchise record spending in 2018. But while there were inquiries, no team provided Cleveland with the haul of big league ready talent that it would have needed to consider pulling the trigger on such a move.

Kluber – Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As it stands, Kluber could hit the open market following this season, but it is difficult to envision that scenario ever coming to fruition given his production over the last six years. The Indians hold team options on Kluber for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with $1 million buyouts attached. While the Indians owe Kluber more than $50 million if he finishes out the final three years of his contract in Cleveland, he has proven to be worth the money thus far (especially when considering that he made $514,000 in his 2014 Cy Young season and $7.7 million during his 2017 effort). His name will likely continue to come up in trade talks over the next couple of years, but after purging a lot of money in the 2018-19 offseason, the Indians do not need to make such a move if they do not feel that it truly improves the ball club.

The coming 2019 season will be an interesting test for Kluber, as the Indians may need to fall back much more on their starting pitching than they have in previous seasons under manager Terry Francona. With a thinned out offense and questions galore in the bullpen, Francona is already easing his starters into spring training action to prepare for the long season ahead.

For Kluber, much more individually and personally, his own mettle and the thickness of his skin will be put to the test over the coming campaign. The usually stoic hurler has generally proven to be unfazed on the big league mound, overcoming the hurdles of being an overlooked small college pitcher and one who provided mixed results early in his minor league career before turning things around following his 2010 trade to the Indians as part of the Jake Westbrook swap. Francona and the Indians front office will likely have put in some one-on-one time with their star pitcher, letting him know that it was business and nothing personal that led to his name being a frequently uttered one this winter.

The Indians’ success will once again be banking on big things from Kluber, and if history has anything to say about it, the Tribe will be able to count on him to give another Cy worthy performance with the spotlight on him center stage.

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), Rick Manning (1975-81), Bert Blyleven (1981-85), Cory Snyder (1986-90), Derek Lilliquist (1992-94), Russell Branyan (2002), Ben Broussard (2002-03).

Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 99
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 90 – Adam Cimber
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 62
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 60
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 50
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 42
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 40
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 37
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 36
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 29

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