Game 107, Mariners at Indians
King Felix vs. Corey Kluber, 4:05pm
For a while, Corey Kluber was just a fill-in starter, beloved only by Carson Cistulli for reasons that we’ll never really know. He was a fill-in in one of the Ryan Ludwick trades, a deal that involved Jake Westbrook, if that helps you rememb…no? Yeah, me neither. He was never one of the Indians top prospects; he ranked #25 in John Sickels’ list *of Indians prospects* coming into 2011. Why would he? He was a sinker/slider guy in a system that seemed to have struck a rich vein of pure sinker/slider guys. Josh Tomlin had the great control and the big league resume. Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez/whoever was the established star of the group – the guy who won 19 games with a 64% GB rate back in 2007. Justin Masterson was up and coming. Jeanmar Gomez. Mitch Talbot, I guess. Easy to get lost in a see of fungible sinker/slider guys.
Look at the Fangraphs leaderboard for pitcher WAR this year and there’s Corey Kluber, holding down the #3 spot. He’s become a true ace, with swing-and-miss stuff, solid command, and the ability to avoid mistakes. Unlike Bauer, he’s able to get ahead in the count, and unlike Bauer, he’s fond of targeting his fastball to the low and away zone to lefties/righties. His sinker’s quite hard, at 94mph, and he’s got a cutter at 89 as well as a slower slider around 83. He’s got a change-up that racks up impressive swing-and-miss rates, but he doesn’t throw it all that often, even to lefties. He’s given up a few HRs on it, but it seems odd that he’d get scared off of what looks to be a pretty good big league pitch.
Especially when you consider his platoon splits. The Indians have been through this with Justin Masterson, who dominated righties but struggled against lefties before learning to control them and making the leap to All-Star level performance. Kluber’s an ace, but he’s still having some issues with lefties. They’re currently posting an above-average wOBA against him, which should tell you how well he’s neutralized right-handers.
1: Ackley, LF
2: Chavez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Miller, SS
9: Jones, CF
Speaking of Masterson, the Indians dealt him today to the Cardinals. Their all-star last year, their opening day starter, traded for a minor league OF, but no, not THAT Cardinals minor league OF. Couple of ways to see it – the Indians thought they weren’t really in the race, Fangraphs playoff odds be damned, and cashed in on Masterson because the return was better than the draft pick they’d get by giving him a QO. The other way is that this neither helps not hurts their chances; he’s on the DL and has been awful this year. They saw an opportunity because St. Louis wanted a lottery ticket. The answer may be in between.