Kluber The Ace Needed More Often Than Not Down the Stretch

An ace, an All-Star, and a Cy Young Award winner. Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber is all of those things. The Tribe will need their number one pitcher to be all of those things down the stretch as the team enters August in a pennant race, leading the American League Central Division.

The last couple of go-rounds through the rotation have shown some chinks in the armor of a starting five that looked absolutely impenetrable when the Indians were reeling off 14 straight wins in late June/early July.

Number 4 and 5 starters Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin have been hit hard of late. Even Kluber’s fellow 2016 All-Star teammate Danny Salazar could not figure out how to get outs against a tough Nationals lineup this past week. Of the five-man rotation, only Carlos Carrasco has remained a steady tough customer for opposing hitters since the Tribe hit its high-water mark of 49-30 on July 1.

After Saturday night’s game against Oakland, Cleveland has gone 10-12 following its great run. What was a seven-game lead in the division had dropped to four and a half over the hard-charging Detroit Tigers.

While it is no secret that the Indians have a very good rotation, arguably the best in the A.L. and one of the top five in all of Major League Baseball, the starters were going a little above themselves during Cleveland’s large winning streak. Bauer and Tomlin were pitching far better than their track records. While they are still better than almost any other club’s last two starters, they were pitching like aces in June.

Carrasco and Salazar are really only in their second seasons as starters who really have MLB hitting figured out. While it can be argued that those two have better stuff and may even be better than Kluber, it is the latter who is the veteran and leader of the rotation. Cleveland needs him to be that over the final two months of the campaign and it starts Sunday when Kluber takes the mound against the Athletics.

Far too often this season Kluber has not looked like the unquestioned ace of the pitching staff, let alone a guy only two years removed from winning honors as the league’s top pitcher. Despite his status as an All-Star this season, Kluber has had some disappointing outings, mixed in with his normal superb performances.

In his last ten starts, Kluber has had three games in which he has allowed five runs or more. Two of the teams that roughed him up were the Texas Rangers on May 31 and the Toronto Blue Jays on July 3. Both are possible playoff foes for the Indians, should the Tribe continue down its path toward October baseball.

Another possible playoff opponent is Baltimore. The hard-hitting Orioles scored three runs in seven innings against Kluber last Sunday, the last time Cleveland’s Opening Day starter toed the rubber. While that is a quality start, the Indians could certainly use more of the one- or two-run gems Kluber has become known for. Between his rough July 3 outing and last Sunday’s okay performance, the Tribe’s ace tossed 15 combined innings in two games against the Royals and Yankees, surrendering just one run. That is the type of stuff the Indians need if they are going to hold off the Tigers in the Central and claim their first division crown since 2007.

Kluber certainly can do it. He was a regular in the rotation down the stretch as the 2013 squad rallied to a 92-70 record and earned a spot in the one-game AL Wild Card. He certainly showed the ability to be a consistent lights-out hurler in 2014, his Cy Young season. This season he has strung together numerous eye-popping outings. In that aforementioned ten-game stretch with three bad starts, he also had four starts in which he had given up two runs or less, including a pair of shutouts. Two of those games were complete games. He has a pair of complete game shutouts this season. He also has seven outings of surrendering four or more runs.

Kluber has been all over the map this season, sprinkling in forgettable games in between strong, ace-like stretches. A 9-8 record attests to that. Despite more than a handful of difficult days on the hill, a 3.44 ERA shows just how good Kluber has been when he has been on. Cleveland really needs him to be on a lot more often than not over the next two months, which will cover around 11 or 12 starts.

Kluber may have pitched at a higher level in 2014 than what his final career numbers will some day show. Still, he has the propensity for pitching like one of the game’s best hurlers more times than not. While he may not be viewed by some as his own team’s clear-cut best starting pitcher at this point, he is the leader of the rotation. Of the starting five, he has the longest track record of success, now in his fourth season as a rotation fixture.

If the Indians are to be successful in their pursuit of a division crown and, hopefully more than that, it all begins and ends with their starting five. Their starting five beings with Kluber. Beginning Sunday, Kluber needs to give the Tribe its unquestioned ace during during the pennant race. It would be huge if Kluber could step up from Sunday on and show on a regular basis just why he is a multiple-time Opening Day starter, an All-Star, and the owner of a Cy Young Award trophy.

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. This article may have been appropriate 3 or 4 weeks ago. With a post date of 7/31 maybe you should have waited to post until after yesterday’s 7 shutout innings. Look at his last 7, 10, 15 or the season starts and you see ace stats allover the place. He is in the TOP 10 in the AL in just about all categories. Looks like you’re simply trying to be provocative, although no one else besides me has responded to this garbage.

    1. Faceless Nameless Poster –

      I’m guessing that no one has responded because they did not take the story in the manner that you did.

      Craig’s point in the article is that while Kluber has been an ace-like pitcher quite a few times this season, more often than not in fact, he’s had some duds too. In the final two months of the season, the Indians will greatly need him to be more ace-like, which is how he looked in Sunday’s victory over Oakland.

      If you look at the numbers, whether the last seven, ten, 15, or season as you indicated, you’ll see exactly what Craig described. Last five starts? Had the 5-run shelling by Toronto, three runs against Baltimore (quality start, however, with no support). Last ten? Prior mentions, plus 8 runs against the Royals on June 15. Last 15? Prior mentions, plus 6 runs against Texas on May 31. All difficult, playoff-caliber or rival opponents, no doubt. He has had seven starts of four runs or more, seven starts of one run or less, and seven runs in the 2-3 run range. 14 quality starts in 21 outings is certainly not bad and the rest of his numbers are glowing. The author just noted that the Indians could really benefit from fewer of those 4+ run starts that have made up 1/3 of his appearances this season.

      I respect your opinion and your right to it, but I will disagree and feel like you completely missed the point that the ace Kluber is the one the Indians need more often than not down the stretch here.

      Thanks for reading our “garbage”.


      1. Boo Hoo – some thin skin at your site!!! Kluber had duds when he won the Cy Young – stuff happens. I still contend he’s putting up ace like numbers this season and has been that pitcher more often than not as you suggest he needs to be. Go look at those starts of 4 runs or more – as an example do you remember the game when Rajai lost 2 balls in the sun – bingo, 4 runs and a loss. So look at his last 7 starts for the most current splits – 3 times no runs, 1 time 1 run, 1 time 2 runs, 1 time 3 runs, 5 runs 1 time with an overall era of 2.01, whip of 0.95, average innings pitched/game 7, etc., etc. We can all play with stats and slice and dice them however we want.

        You missed my point – the article was out of date regarding Kluber – it was more appropriate in late June, now it is just stating the obvious – we need all of our pitchers to pitch to their best and Kluber is doing it. That’s what the article should have focused on – do we need Salazar or Bauer to step up and pitch better than they have recently – of course they do. Carrasco was bombed his last start but he’s still doing great. But should an article be written to say the obvious, that they all need to put up big #s – no and it’s not worth an article.

        1. Mr. or Mrs. My Name –

          If we had thin skin, your comment would have been dumped into the spam folder and I wouldn’t have wasted time responding to you twice now. You have your opinion and I have mine and it appears as though we will not be agreeing on whether or not 7/31 was an appropriate time to post the story. I contend that his outing reiterated the importance of having the “ace-like” Kluber on his game, which was the moral of the story in question. Whether it would have been more appropriate to post such a story on 7/31, 6/30, or 5/31 is strictly a matter of opinion, and I could find reasons on all three of those dates that this subject would have been and remains relevant.

          There was nothing in Craig’s story that said he was not putting up ace-like numbers in his starts more often than not. He pointed out that there were plenty of games (several against high-quality opponents) that he did not fare as well as others. Yes, some were aided by poor run support and balls lost in the sun. Clunkers will happen over the course of a 34-36 start season, including as you said when a pitcher is Cy Young caliber. Craig’s point is that it would be in all’s best interest for those bad outings to stay gone the rest of the way. Of course, that’s what every manager wants from every one of his pitchers, so in that sense, yes, it is obvious, but since Kluber has not done that consistently this year or last, it was worthy of discussion. Kluber is more than capable of doing so, but as the season has shown, roughly once every three starts, he has mixed in an outing not as quality in status. By the same standards, Salazar and Carrasco have just three times allowed more than four runs in a start. Bauer has done so four times. Kluber and Tomlin each have seven starts of four runs allowed or more, so there is an argument to be made that if he wants to be ace-like, he needs to keep those at bay the rest of the season, which was the point of this article. The same story could have been written about Tomlin, but Tomlin is not expected to be the ace. He has no hardware on his shelf at home. He is not the All-Star. He is not the former Cy Young winner.

          Did the story deserve publishing? I felt so. Would it have been more appropriately posted at the end of June? Possibly, but it still applies today. At the end of May? Sure, then too. That’s why I ran it on this site. It was topical then and topical now. Yes, all 30 teams in baseball need all of their starting pitchers to step up and pitch better all of the time. The point was that Kluber has not been as “ace-like” as he *could* be, and that the Indians’ success in the final two months may hinge on his ability to reduce and/or eliminate these higher scoring outings. You didn’t like the story, that’s fine, that’s your prerogative. But you remain the only one of the hundreds to read it who have stepped forward to air this opinion. I could be wrong. Sure, we could have waited to post this after his next rocky start, but that would be just as short-sighted. As the site editor, I felt it was a topic worth discussing now.

  2. Faceless Nameless Poster here. Why would I put my information out on your website when you have the potential to edit, delete my posts? Or is there some other legitimate reason why posts are subject to moderation? Afraid of Putin/Russians/Chechens/Hungarians of hacking your site? It takes hours to get a comment posted.

    1. Well now I feel like you’re just in full blown troll mode with me…

      Comments are subject to moderation and always have been as long as I’ve been a member of the team here to ensure a more family friendly, PG experience. They get approved when I get the notification of a new post, but since running this site is my second job, I don’t always have the liberty to sit and click to approve comments all day. I don’t censor anyone’s posts, but spam still needs to be sorted out. You’d be amazed at the quantity of spam that needs filtered out on a sports blog, surprisingly.

      1. Fair enough on the spam issue. However I’ve never been on a site, whether sports or otherwise, that has moderation. Maybe I just don’t know about it but my posts go up instantly, maybe they have better filters. Besides my posts, your site has had 3 other posts over the last week; I don’t think you have a big issue to deal with.

        1. Very true. I tend to get comments on posts directly on Twitter/Facebook and less on the posts themselves. Other sites that have some element of moderation may have more people able to approve comments much more quickly, whereas my time can be quite limited during the day to do so while focusing on the day job. You’ve brought up an interesting point though, I’ll have to see how well the spam filters are operating and if I can drop the moderation wall for some time.

          1. Thanks Bob on trying to get comments posted quickly. I think for the most part you guys do a good job, keep it up.

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