Daily Notes: The Half-Secret to Corey Kluber’s Success

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Featured Game: Detroit at Cleveland, 19:05pm ET
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured Game: Detroit at Cleveland, 19:05pm ET
Starting This Game, In Terms of Pitchers
Starting this game for Detroit and Cleveland in terms of pitchers are right-hander Max Scherzer (54.1 IP, 63 xFIP-, 1.9 WAR) and Corey Kluber (28.1 IP, 86 xFIP-, 0.5 WAR), respectively.

Regarding Max Scherzer, What Is Manifestly the Case
What is manifestly the case with regard to Max Scherzer is that he’s well-suited to prevent runs at an above-average rate relative to other major-league pitchers.

Regarding Corey Kluber, What Is Less Manifestly the Case
What is less manifestly the case with regard to Corey Kluber is that, like Scherzer, he’s also probably well-suited to prevent runs at an above-average rate.

Some Evidence to That Effect
In four starts this season, Corey Kluber has produced a 91 xFIP-, placing him 40th among the 149 pitchers who’ve thrown at least 20 innings in a starting capacity — and just ahead of both CC Sabathia (41st) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (42nd), themselves well-suited to preventing runs.

Some More Evidence to That Effect
Nor does what Kluber’s doing this season appear to represent any markedly new level for the Clevelander. Both his strikeout rate as a starter (19.2% this season, 19.8% last season) and walk rate (5.9% this season, 6.4% last season) are nearly identical to what he produced in 12 starts last season, when he posted a 96 xFIP- and 0.5 WAR in 63.0 innings. In fact, given his swinging-strike rate (11.5%), it would not be wholly irrational to expect an increase in Kluber’s strikeout rate.

Regarding Kluber, The Obvious Concern
The obvious concern with regard to Corey Kluber is that, while he’s well-suited to preventing runs, he’s actually been less successful at actually preventing them. To wit: despite a 3.76 FIP and 3.70 xFIP and 3.86 SIERA, Kluber has actually posted a 6.17 ERA in the same four starts in question.

Regarding Kluber, More of the Obvious Concern
Another part of the obvious concern is that Kluber also had less success in run prevention than seemingly ought to have been the case last year, when he posted a 4.29 FIP and 3.99 xFIP and 3.87, but a 5.14 ERA.

In Conclusion
In conclusion, it is perhaps not entirely accurate to say that what has been revealed here is the half-secret to Corey Kluber’s success — in part, because Kluber has only been half successful, and, in part, because very few secrets have actually been revealed. And yet, it’s also fair to say that something has happened here, and not nothing.

Action Footage: Kluber Striking Out Delmong Young
Here’s action footage of Corey Kluber striking out Delmon Young on a slider in the second inning of his most recent start:

CK Again

Action Footage: Kluber Striking Out Young
Here’s more footage, also of Kluber striking out Delmon Young, except this time in the fourth inning and by means of an inside sinker:


Readers’ Preferred Broadcast
Per the results of our crowdsourcing project from the 2011-2012 offseason, FanGraphs readers prefer Cleveland Radio (link).

Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
Arizona at Colorado | 20:40 ET
Ian Kennedy (55.1 IP, 116 xFIP-, 0.4 WAR) faces Jhoulys Chacin (42.0 IP, 105 xFIP-, 1.1 WAR). Charlie Blackmon Status Update: 16 PA, .267/.313/.467 (.300 BABIP), 101 wRC+, 0.4 WAR.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Arizona Television, Perhaps.

Today’s Complete Schedule
Here’s the complete schedule for all of today’s games, with our very proprietary watchability (NERD) scores for each one. Pitching probables and game times aggregated from MLB.com and RotoWire. The average NERD Game Score for today is 5.3.

Note: the following table is entirely sortable.

Away SP Tm. Gm. Tm. SP   Home Time
Matt Garza* CHN 8 5 6 7 4 PIT Wandy Rodriguez 19:05
Max Scherzer DET 10 7 9 9 9 CLE Corey Kluber 19:05
Phil Hughes NYA 6 6 5 7 2 BAL Miguel Gonzalez 19:05
Alex Cobb TB 8 7 6 4 3 TOR Ramon Ortiz* 19:07
Mike Leake CIN 5 5 4 7 1 NYN Jon Niese 19:10
Mike Pelfrey MIN 0 3 4 8 6 ATL Tim Hudson 19:10
Tyler Cloyd* PHI 4 1 5 0 10 MIA Jose Fernandez 19:10
Dan Straily OAK 6 6 7 5 10 TEX Yu Darvish 20:05
Felix Doubront BOS 5 8 5 1 5 CHA Jose Quintana 20:10
Wade Davis KC 3 7 3 3 2 HOU Bud Norris 20:10
Zack Greinke* LAN 9 2 5 6 1 MIL Hiram Burgos 20:10
Ian Kennedy AZ 3 4 4 8 4 COL Jhoulys Chacin 20:40
Aaron Harang SEA 5 6 5 4 5 LAA Jerome Williams* 22:05
Adam Wainwright STL 10 2 5 6 1 SD Edinson Volquez 22:10
St. Strasburg WAS 10 2 6 5 4 SF Matt Cain 22:15

To learn how Pitcher and Team NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
To learn how Game NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
* = Fewer than 20 IP, NERD at discretion of very handsome author.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

9 Responses to “Daily Notes: The Half-Secret to Corey Kluber’s Success”

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  1. Can we get Mike Pelfrey traded to the Marlins so the pitcher and team NERD would both be 0?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. kretch says:

    When did Strasburg become a saint?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Sogard's Optician says:

    How do the Reds, Texas, and SF Team Nerd score = 5 while the Mets and Baltimore are 7?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • 2 NERD Team Scores:
      St Louis, #1 in the league;
      Washington, home of the Bryce; and
      Angels (who doesn’t enjoy watching car-wrecks and dumpster fires?)

      6 NERD Team Scores: (3 times more watchable?):
      Seattle (Ackley, Montero, Smoak, Ibanez?);
      NYY (Vernon Wells, Scott Brosious, Travis Hafner?);
      San Diego (Yonder Alonso, Chris Denofria?).

      That shit done broke. But I imagine Dear Author would quote the great Athletics pitcher Albert “Chief” Bender: “You ignorant ill-bred foreigners. If you don’t like the way I’m doing things out there, why don’t you just pack up and go back to your own countries.”

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. mattadams says:

    In regards to Kluber, I think his biggest issue is pitching with men on base (which helps explain why his career 5.36 ERA is much higher than his 3.90 xFIP). He’s stranded just 63.8% of base runners over his career, which is well below the typical 70% league average. Here are some of his career splits with bases empty and with runners on:

    Bases Empty: 21.5% Line-Drive rate / .310 BABIP / .695 OPS against
    Runners On: 27.6% Line-Drive rate / .403 BABIP / .994 OPS against

    What these numbers suggest to me is that Kluber is being less careful with runners on base by leaving more pitches over the heart of the plate… or maybe his pitches are just not as effective when he’s pitching from the stretch?

    Another reason for the discrepancy in Kluber’s ERA/xFIP is his “artificial” GB%. Kluber’s 43.1% GB Rate sort of puts him in that middle ground between a GB and FB pitcher, but he’s not inducing GB when he needs them the most (with runners on). Here are Kluber’s career GB% splits:

    Bases Empty: 48.8%
    Runners On: 35.8%

    One of the things that makes GB pitchers so effective is their ability to induce double plays with runners on. While Kluber’s career 11% DP Rate is fairly normal, he has induced just 1 DP in 19 opportunities this season (5%).

    Sorry for the wordy response, but basically what I’m getting at is that I’m not convinced Kluber is an above-average pitcher or that his poor statistics are due to bad luck. I think he needs to seriously improve upon his ability to pitch out of the stretch.

    One last thing – I may be wrong, but I don’t think xFIP or any other type of “ERA predictor” takes into account how a pitcher performs when he’s pitching from the windup vs. from the stretch. Some guys are just not as effective when they pitch from the stretch (or vice versa). Guys like Cueto will almost always have an ERA lower than his xFIP because of his superhuman ability to prevent stolen bases (hence, a higher LOB% than league average). And guys like Kluber may never see their ERA drop down to match their xFIP due to their ineffectiveness pitching from the stretch. I’d be curious to know if anyone has ever looked into this?

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Skoodog says:

    As a Tribe fan, let’s just say that Corey Kluber striking out Delmon Young has as much relevance of success as an MLB pitcher as me, a relatively healthy 32-year-old man, able to outrun Peter Dinklage in a 400m dash being an Olympic runner.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Nickname Damur says:

    Here’s an idea inspired by the Delmon Young gif: instead of always focusing on one pitcher striking out different batters, show several pitchers striking out one batter, for example, Delmon Young or Miguel Olivo. Most amusing.

    In addition, it might be mildly interesting to show multiple pitchers striking out, say, Miguel Cabrera or Joey Votto.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Alexander Nevermind says:

    I am a fervent fan of all things Kluber, and I greatly appreciate this coverage.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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