Ian York analyzes the Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber in anticipation of his matchup with the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the 2016 ALDS.
Corey Kluber is undoubtedly the ace of the Cleveland Indians staff. Over the past three years, he has put up ERA+ of 160 (2014), 123 (2015), and 149 (2016), winning a Cy Young award in 2014. However, Kluber suffered a quadriceps strain on September 26 that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. Although the Indians don’t seem very concerned about his health during the ALDS, they did arrange the pitching schedule to give him an extra day’s rest by pitching Trevor Bauer in Game 1.
Pitch usage and trends: Kluber’s favorite pitch is his sinker, which he throws about 38% of the time. His slider and curve – which blend into each other in terms of movement and velocity – are each thrown about 20% of the time (23.2% and 19.2%, respectively). He throws his changeup fairly infrequently, and over the course of the 2016 season has tended to use it less, while increasing the usage of his curve. Kluber averages about 93 mph on his four-seam fastball and his sinker (bottom chart); he maintained his velocity well over the course of the season:
Kluber’s repertoire to left- and right-handed batters is fairly similar, with the exception of his changeup, which he very rarely throws to righties. When he is ahead in the count, he uses his curve more often; when behind, he is more likely to throw a slider. In neither situation is he likely to throw a changeup, which he seems to use most in 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, and 1-1 counts (5.5, 7.8, 7.5, and 9.5% of the time, respectively):
Pitch value: Kluber’s curve and slider are both significantly better than average, in terms of total bases per 100 pitches thrown as well as in strike percentage. His changeup is also well above average, probably partly due to the surprise factor. His four-seam fastball and sinker both grade out about average, although it’s important to note that pitch value shouldn’t be judged in a vacuum: Kluber’s curve and slider both gain effectiveness by their contrast with the more common fastballs:
Pitch location: The charts below show the typical location of Kluber’s pitches. His curve and slider both target the bottom of the strike zone. His change is typically thrown below the zone, often drawing swings in spite of that. His fastballs tend to be toward the middle of the zone in height, but often targeting the edges in unpredictable ways, as seen by the broad smear of contours and the multiple areas of higher intensity: