Indians’ Corey Kluber making under the radar case for Cy Young

On May 2, 2017, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians had finished his No. 6 start of the season, lasting just three innings while allowing 5 ER, bumping his ERA up to an uncharacteristic 5.06.  The next day Kluber was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a back injury.  Since his return on June 1, Kluber has been arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball.

In his 13 starts since returning from the DL, Kluber has been unhittable and has nearly cut his ERA in half to 2.65. Over that same stretch, he has had double-digit strikeouts in 11 starts, including at least 11 Ks in his last five.  Altogether he leads the MLB by a significant margin with 142 Ks in that time frame.

Via Jason Miller/Getty Images

The man closest to Kluber in the K department since his return just so happens to be the same man who has overshadowed his ridiculous season, Chris Sale.  While Kluber was struggling through April and was hurt for basically all of May, Sale was dominating his competition.  Through his first 11 starts, Sale had racked up 110 Ks, a 6-2 record, a 2.77 ERA, and had gone less than seven innings in just two starts.

Sale was a strong, early Cy Young candidate, and has remained the leader in a seemingly one-horse race as his performance has only improved in his last 12 starts.  The problem is that while Sale still deserves to be the leader in the Cy Young race, Corey Kluber has pitched his way into the conversation but is getting limited recognition.

Via Getty Images

Since June 1st, Kluber has outpitched Sale and every other pitcher in the MLB. Kluber leads baseball in strikeouts, IP, OBP against, SLG against, wOBA against and is No. 2 to only Clayton Kershaw with a 1.70 ERA.  He recently passed Kershaw and Max Scherzer into second place behind Sale for pitchers WAR according to FanGraphs with a 4.9.

While Kluber did struggle to start the season, his season long stats still nearly mirror Sale’s.  What helps put Sale ahead of Kluber is the 28.2 extra innings he’s pitched along with his incredible 1.98 FIP.  A couple of the two aces important rate statistics, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, and ERA, are all nearly the same showing that Sale’s strong WAR lead comes down to more playing time.

If not for Kluber’s DL time it would be interesting to see how close the gap would be between the two.  Kluber and Sale are the only two SPs averaging more than seven IP per start this season so it seems to follow that Kluber would have made up the 28-inning gap over his four missed starts.

Last night Sale went eight innings with 13 Ks allowing no runs on two hits and one walk, following up his worst outing of the season in which he allowed seven ER against Kluber’s Indians. Kluber kept pace with Boston’s ace by going the distance for the second game in a row with eerily identical pitching lines. In both games he fanned 11, allowed 1 ER on a solo HR and held the opposing lineup to just three hits.

It’s impossible to correctly answer which guy is pitching better right now but the consistency of Sale rightly keeps him atop the Cy Young and WAR leaderboards. With another 7-8 weeks in the season there is plenty of time for Kluber to gain ground if Sale sputters because despite what the mainstream media has said, this is not a one-horse race.

Corey Kluber pitches during 2016 ALDS at Fenway Park Via Jason Miler/Getty Images

 

For the fans, all we can do is hope that both stay healthy and dominant heading into the postseason.  The AL East leading Red Sox and Central leading Indians are slated to face each other in the ALDS of the 2017 Playoffs and if they hold their division leads we could be in for one of the greatest postseason pitching matchups of All-Time will Kluber and Sale both toeing the rubber for Game 1 and possibly games 4 or 5.

2017 MLB All-Star Game Preview

The All-Star game, something every baseball fan looks forward to, is finally here. The NL holds an All-Time advantage with a 43-42 record against the AL, but has struggled in the last couple decades. The American League has won the last four ASGs, and 16 of the last 19, including a 12-game win streak from 1997-2009.

The Starting Pitcher’s for this year’s contest will be two of the top three arms in baseball, Max Scherzer (NL) and Chris Sale (AL). Clayton Kershaw, who is generally recognized as the best starter in baseball, will not be on the mound following a start this past Sunday.

Via Sporting New/Getty Images

The starting lineups and rosters for both teams can be found here.

When comparing the rosters, it seems as though the NL has a better starting lineup, bench, and pitching staff.  While they have more than enough star power to win, talent doesn’t always decide the All-Star Game. Both teams are loaded, and in what’s effectively a one game playoff, anything can happen.

That’s why we’ve seen pitchers at the top of their game like Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Roger Clemens taking the loss, and players like Melky Cabrera, Carl Crawford, and J.D. Drew taking home the MVP.

Look for relievers to dominate the ASG, too, as starters aren’t used to coming out of the bullpen. It wouldn’t surprise me if the losing pitcher is a starter who comes out of the bullpen.

To win, teams are going to have to score early. When fireballers start coming in toward the end of the game, runs are going to be hard to come by. Last year, there wasn’t a single run scored after the 4th inning.  Also, no more than nine runs has been scored in an ASG since 2005.

The unpredictability of this game lies in trying to figure out which starter is most likely to struggle in a shortened outing, and that’s something no one is capable of doing. So rather than trying to and convince you of why the NL will win, I hope to convince you to watch the game — especially the first few innings.

The brightest stars in baseball are on display tonight, and it’s a great chance for everyone to see them, including the casual fans.

My dad and I have been discussing lately how the MLB lacks “legacy” stars in today’s game. The likes of A-Rod, Jeter, Bonds, Griffey Jr, etc. are gone, and now most of the leagues headliners are in their early 20s. While it leaves the game lacking a bit of nostalgia, I encourage fans to be incredibly excited about this new wave of youngsters taking the league by storm.

Via the MLB’s official website

The amount of young talent in this game is exceptional. From Trout (who unfortunately won’t be playing due to injury) and Harper, to Judge and Seager, Major League Baseball is flooded with talented young players.  Tonight is a fantastic night to see these guys in action. Get to know their names, because they’ll be around for a while.

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout at 2010 All-Star Game in Kansas City via H. Darr Beiser/USA Today

Maybe 15 years from now, the ASG will be flooded with “legacy” stars.

MLB Home Run Derby Recap: Yankees’ Aaron Judge is king

The derby had it all last night; suspenseful finishes, hometown energy, and the dominance of the game’s newest prolific power hitter. Aaron Judge walked away the new Home Run King in what was one of the most exciting displays of talent we’ve ever seen in the Home Run Derby.

Via Rob Carr/Getty Images

The first round brought us the two most exciting matchups of the night: Gary Sanchez vs Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge vs Justin Bour. Sanchez and Stanton provided an exciting matchup, as Sanchez put on a show (17 HRs), proving to Logan Morrison and all the other haters that he did belong in the derby.

Stanton followed with a slow start, but caught fire in the middle of the round, as he and his pitcher seemed to be working much quicker than the competition. He tired, though, coming up just short with 16 HRs. It was disappointing to many people, myself included, to see Stanton eliminated so early. Not only because of his home run hitting prowess, but also because of the possibility of a Judge vs Stanton match-up. Stanton advancing would’ve energized the home town crowd, too.

Stanton’s lesser known, oft overlooked teammate, Justin Bour, put on an amazing performance, blasting 22 HRs in the first round. He really put his stamp on the competition when he inhaled a donut during his timeout, though, showing that Team Fat Guy wasn’t to be messed with. The crowd was electric watching Bour, and I think most casual fans can’t help but love him after last night’s act.

Giancarlo Stanton feed Justin Bour a donut via Barstool Sports

Unfortunately, for those of us who fell in love with Bour over that 4:30 stretch, Aaron Judge demolished 23 HRs, stealing the show.

Judge was untouchable and uncontested the rest of the night, crushing four 500+ foot HRs en route to his first HR Derby title.  Lost in the fray of roof scraping, window denting HRs was Judge’s ability to muscle balls out to right field.  While Sanchez, Stanton, Bour, and Sano displayed power to their pull side, Judge set himself apart as the only guy who could clear the opposite field fence on less than perfect contact.

This Home Run Derby win will likely be the first of many for young Aaron Judge.

MLB: The Fourth of July provides exciting baseball

Photo via Sandlot (1993)


Although it’s not technically the fourth of July yet, or even July for that matter, everyone around the country is celebrating this weekend as if it is the fourth of July weekend – and rightfully so.

The fourth is a time to celebrate, reflect on and enjoy all the great things we are blessed with as Americans.  So we load up our coolers, fire up the grills and head for the beach to enjoy the fruits of our labor for a couple days.

In between the boozing, the fun in sun, the endless burgers, and the malicious hangovers, we’re all going to find some down time slumped on a couch in front of the television.

That’s where baseball comes in.  America’s favorite pastime and the fourth go together like Busch Light and more Busch Light.

The MLB has also played along nicely with the holiday and scheduled a bevy of afternoon ballgames as well as a couple nationally televised games in the evening.

A quick check of my TV listings shows that on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET ESPN will be showing PBA bowling while the MLB Network offers us an undisclosed game. My best guess for this one would be the Red Sox @ the Blue Jays.

This game should be an easy one to sell to a fan because the man on the mound for the Red Sox is the strikeout machine, Chris Sale.  Sale’s numbers speak for themselves and every time this guy steps on the mound it’s an absolute treat for viewers around the world as the man is almost a guarantee to K 10+ batters a night and will probably start the All-Star game for the AL this year.

Red Sox Pitcherr.jpg
Photo via Getty Images

The craziest number about Sale is his WAR (wins above replacement). Through 16 starts, Sale has a 4.7 WAR, almost a full win better than the second place Max Scherzer (3.8).

Amazingly, there are just FOUR pitchers with above a 3.0 WAR.  Sale has been so much better than not just opposing batters, but basically every other hurler to step on the hill this year.

Sunday offers another Nationally televised on MLBN starting at 2 p.m ET, which is expected to feature the New York Yankees visiting the AL-leading Houston Astros in a matchup of two probably playoff teams. The game will showcase one of the best young arms in the game in Luis Severino, who has come back after an awful 2016 campaign and has been the ace of the Yankees’ staff while Masahiro Tanaka has struggled.

The Astros’ lineup puts fear into opposing pitchers’ every night no matter who they are.  One of the deepest lineups in baseball is throttled by the three-headed monster of Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. All three are in their early 20s, and all three will be in MVP discussions at the end of the season unless Aaron Judge and Mike Trout don’t come back down to earth.

Houston
Photo via Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Lastly, don’t forget the luscious fourth of July inspired uniforms the boys will be sporting over the next few days (I saw the beauties the Nationals were wearing last night and almost bought one on the spot).

Enjoy the beers, boats, burgers and may everyone have a Happy 4th of July!