Kluber Wins Cy Young, Hopefully Won’t Follow Path of Sabathia and Lee

Indians’ fans slept well last night as they were given something to celebrate this season: Corey Kluber became the fourth Tribe pitcher to win the AL Cy Young award for his 2014 performance.

Kluber joined the ranks of recent Indians’ greats CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee as pitchers worthy of the highest acknowledgment of pitching prowess. Looking further back, he also joins Gaylord Perry in the club of Cleveland Indians pitchers to win Cy Young awards since the award’s inception in 1956. The Cy Young was originally given to the best pitcher in all of baseball, but is now given to the best pitcher in each respective league.

However, both Lee and Sabathia  followed their Cy Young seasons with seasons that resulted in their leaving Cleveland, which can make Kluber’s victory almost nerve-wracking for Tribe fans. Kluber follows Lee, who won the award in 2008 after a 22-3 record and 2.54 ERA. Lee had come off a 5-8 season with a 6.29 ERA, making his 2008 campaign one that deserved more than a little attention. However, even with his 2008 season, in which he also had two shutout games and was an American League All-Star, Lee was unable to replicate those results in 2009.

At age 30 in 2009, Lee went 7-9 in 22 games with the Indians before he was traded away to the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee was joined in the trade by Ben Francisco, and the Indians received Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, and Jason Knapp. The trade was not an overall well-received change, as the addition of Marson was not especially needed with Carlos Santana making his way through the system at the time, Donald was no an especially highly-touted prospect for everyday play, and Knapp was hardly mentioned. Carrasco was the lone well-known prospect and, while time has shown that he has been the only one to really pan out for the Tribe in the trade, it took a while for him to get to the level he is pitching at now. Plus, this coming season will show if Carrasco’s performance as the 2014 season progressed is truly a reflection of his abilities, or if his dominating starts were a flash in the pan.

Lee fared better in Philadelphia, going 7-4 in 12 games. he was an All Star again in 2010, when he played for Seattle and Texas and pitched an impressive seven complete games with one shutout. He finished seventh in the Cy Young voting that season, third in the voting in 2011 (when he was again an All Star while back with the Phillies), and sixth in Cy Young votes in 2013 (and was, again, a National League All Star). Lee did not have an especially strong season this year, as he pitched only 13 games and went 4-5. He spent two months on the DL with a sprained wrist.

Sabathia’s season following his Cy Young award followed a similar trajectory, as he went 6-8 in Cleveland following his award winning 19-7, 3.21 ERA season in 2007. He started 34 games for the Indians in 2007 and 18 in 2008 before he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade that brought Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and Michael Brantley to Cleveland. This trade has panned out significantly better for the Tribe, considering Brantley’s breakout season and invaluable addition to the Tribe roster. Sabathia’s exit was, luckily, during the same season that Lee had his Cy Young season with the Tribe, though to have had two pitchers of such a high caliber on the same team pitching well could have propelled the Indians to even greater successes. Sabathia was able to improve his 2008 campaign with the Brewers as he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. He earned All-Star recognitions again in 2010, 2011, and 2012 with the Yankees, when he finished third in Cy Young voting in 2010 and fourth in 2011. He pitched only eight games in 2014, going 3-4 at age 33 with a 5.28 ERA.

However, that is not to say that every Cleveland Cy Young award winner has left or struggled the year after their award. Gaylord Perry was the first Indians player to win the Cy Young in 1972, when he went 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA. He pitched 29 completed games in his 40 starts, including five shutouts. He was also named an All Star that season. In 1973, he did perform at lower numbers, though going 19-19 with a 3.38 ERA is nothing to complain about. Perry finished seventh in the 1973 Cy Young voting, and finished fourth in 1974, when he was again named an All-Star and went 21-13 with a 2.51 ERA.

Perry left Cleveland during the 1975 season, when he went 6-9 in 15 games (he still pitched 10 complete games) before departing for Texas. With the Rangers, Perry went 12-8 in 1975 and pitched 15 complete games and four shutouts. Perry was again awarded the Cy Young in 1978 with the San Diego Padres, when he went 21-6 and posted a 2.73 ERA in 37 starts.

Tribe fans can be hopeful that Kluber won’t follow this trend, however, as the young pitcher is just that — young, and only just solidified himself as the Indians’ ace this season. His consistency all season points to the assumption that he is more than a one-season wonder for the Tribe, and it stands to reason that the Tribe will work to lock him up for many seasons to come. Hopefully, Kluber reverses the trend of Cy Young pitchers leaving Cleveland, and keeps pitching in the award-winning fashion that he did this season.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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