Q&A: Corey Kluber’s Repertoire, A Brief History

Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber entered the 2013 season as a 27-year-old with fewer than 70 major-league innings. He’s departing it, however, having established himself as one of the club’s — and perhaps the league’s — most effective starters, having recorded strikeout and walk rates of 23.3% and 5.2%, respectively, and a 74 xFIP- that’s fifth among pitchers with 100-plus innings.

Nor does Kluber’s success appear to be founded upon deception alone. His two-seam fastball sits at 93-95 mph. He has command of a cutter, which he throws around 90 mph, to either side of the plate. His slider has excellent two-plane break.

In summary, Kluber’s career arc is an unusual one: he’s in what’s typically a player’s peak-age season, entered that season with little in the way of major-league experience, is having great success in the majors presently, and appears to have the armspeed/command capable of sustaining that success.

While the understated right-hander isn’t inclined to meditate at length on the significance of his achievement (“That’s external to what I’m trying to focus on,” he says), he did consent — while rehabbing from a sprained middle finger — to provide briefly for the present author a biography of sorts for each of his four pitches, which appears below.

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Two-Seam Fastball
Carson Cistulli: I think the pitch that you throw most often is a two-seam fastball, yes?

Corey Kluber: Mm-hm.

CC: When does that pitch go back to? How long have you had that?

CK: I only started throwing the two-seam maybe, like, after the All-Star Break of last year. I’d always been mostly four-seam fastballs, but me and my pitching coach last year in Triple-A, we were just working on a way to get the ball down a little more. One thing I was struggling with — I was throwing fastballs for strikes, but they were too hittable, and that was the idea we went with. Whether I was getting a little more sink on it, or it was just helping me get on top of the ball a little more, I just ran with it.

CC: So it was that recent, though? Within the last year, basically?

CK: Mm-hm.

CC: That pitch I’ve noticed you use not necessarily only just as a strike-one pitch. You go to the front hip a lot on left-handed batters; you go back-door against right-handers, too. Has that been something you’ve worked on, or did you do that right away?

CK: No, as I started throwing it, I got more comfortable with it. When I go to my glove-side with it, I get that little bit of extra — I hang onto it a little longer, and it gets that little extra run-back sometimes.

Cut Fastball
CC: You throw another pitch, which — I hear on the Indians broadcast, I hear Rick Manning refer to it as a cutter. You throw it in the 90s, it’s got pretty good velocity, but it’s also got pretty good break. Do you call that pitch a cutter?

CK: Yeah.

CC: Okay. And how long have you had that cutter, and where’d you start throwing that one?

CK: That was probably about — I’d say I’ve thrown it for about two years now. That was another one we worked on. Not last season, but the season before, that’s another one I worked on adding.

CC: What do you view as the instances in which you use that? Because that’s also one of your — that’s a pitch with which you throw a lot of strikes.

CK: I’ll throw that whenever. I don’t have a certain situation where I will or won’t. It all depends on how I feel a hitter’s set up, but I’ll throw it first pitch, I’ll throw it full count. Doesn’t really matter.

CC: And so that’s a second pitch that you’ve developed pretty recently?

CK: Mm-hm.

Breaking Ball / Changeup
CC: A third pitch you throw is a slider?

CK: Mm-hm. A slider, a curveball. I call it a breaking ball. Whichever you want.

CC: Now, that’s a pitch — a lot of times, right-handers, whether it’s a slider or a curveball, a pitch with as much horizontal movement as you have on it, that’s a pitch that generally you’re going to see a right-hander throw a lot to a right-handed batter and not as much to a left-handed batter. I think, though — just looking at some information about you — you have pretty even rates, actually. You seem to feel pretty comfortable throwing that pitch to a left-handed batter, especially going back-foot on him.

CK: Yeah. For me, as long as I can make it look like a fastball coming out of my hand — if I can get it to come out on that same plane, I don’t think I necessarily need it to be more to righties than lefties. I think it can have the same effect on a lefty if it looks like a fastball.

CC: And where did you pick that pitch up?

CK: Well, my breaking ball and changeup I’ve been throwing the same way since college. I might change a little thing here or there, but for the most part [they’re the same].

CC: So that breaking ball you’ve had, and the changeup — which has also been rather effective — this is a pitch you’ve also thrown since Stetson [University]?

CK: Mm-hm.

CC: And that’s also basically unaltered since you’ve left college?

CK: Yeah.



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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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Highball Wilson
Member
Highball Wilson
2 years 10 months ago

Great stuff here. Just goes to show how with a few tweaks a pitcher can become far more effective.

t
Guest
t
2 years 10 months ago

Mm-hm.

Great that he’s coming back. Bummer for the Indians he’s replacing Masterson who is missing at least one and probably more starts.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 10 months ago

Classic Corey. A man of few words

Free Bryan LaHair
Member
Free Bryan LaHair
2 years 10 months ago

a man of “few words” because he was asked direct questions instead of open-ended questions…terrible Q&A, at least the Q part.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 10 months ago

As someone who has interacted and conversed with Mr. Kluber on multiple occasions (though not for several years now), this interview accurately captures him.

Oh, Beepy
Guest
Oh, Beepy
2 years 10 months ago

Wait a second – you spoke with Corey Kluber and managed to resist verbally fellating him even once? You never invited him to a Society meeting, let alone mentioned the society.

I’m calling it, this interview was done by proxy. David Laurila just knew people would take it more seriously if Carson supposedly conducted it.

Benzedrine
Guest
Benzedrine
2 years 10 months ago

I think Carson may have fainted half way and needed resucitation with smelling salts.

Matt S
Guest
Matt S
2 years 10 months ago

Kluber knows about the society. I went to an Indians season-ticket holder event where you got to meet-and-great (and get autographs) from a few players. I specifically made a b-line for Kluber. I asked him if he’d heard of it, he told me someone earlier in the autograph session had asked him about the same thing. So the man is aware of it.

rusty
Guest
rusty
2 years 10 months ago

I think, though — just looking at some information about you…

Spoken as if The Author didn’t have such statistics memorized. Good interview technique, make it seem spontaneous, not like it’s been mentally (and SPIRITUALLY) rehearsed a thousand times.

wbrook
Guest
wbrook
2 years 10 months ago

Yeah, that line got me too. We know darn well that CC knows all his CK stuff by heart.

Ricky
Guest
Ricky
2 years 10 months ago

Maybe he’s jealous now that Salazar has taken top billing in Carson’s heart while Corey was on the DL

Jason Lukehart
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Good stuff, Carson. I hope you get the chance to interview Salazar at some point too.

SI
Guest
SI
2 years 10 months ago

Kluber isn’t very good. Probably a fringe #3 starter at best.

Jake
Guest
Jake
2 years 10 months ago

Can you join my fantasy league?

David
Guest
David
2 years 10 months ago

I guess… Are you implying you want Kluber? It’ll cost you. How about Morneau for Kluber?

Penelope
Guest
Penelope
2 years 10 months ago

As a post-Y2K Cleveland resident who finds herself increasingly attached to the Indians at the expense of her Red Sox, this article made me happy. It’s the first time I’ve learned of anything close to what’s typically referred to as “player development” occurring within Indians organization. This is very good news!

Free Bryan LaHair
Member
Free Bryan LaHair
2 years 10 months ago

am i missing something? this interview seems borderline “NotGraphs” material…terrible questions

mario mendoza
Guest
mario mendoza
2 years 10 months ago

Was CK busy while you conducted this interview?

Why do I picture the Bill Lumbergh-nightmare sex scene from Office Space while reading this?

Mm hmm. Yeah. That’s it. Oh hey Peter.

mario mendoza
Guest
mario mendoza
2 years 10 months ago

was he with Carson’s wife during the interview?

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 10 months ago

Corey Kluber is not an excitable man.

Jolbert Cabrera
Guest
Jolbert Cabrera
2 years 10 months ago

As an Indians fan, I enjoyed this article. As a journalism fan, I did not. It’s okay to use words incorrectly from time to time, but try not to draw attention directly to them by italicizing them. “Presently” is not a synonym to “currently.” Rant over. Go Tribe!

Free Bryan LaHair
Member
Free Bryan LaHair
2 years 10 months ago

how not?

Free Bryan LaHair
Member
Free Bryan LaHair
2 years 10 months ago

and shouldn’t it be “synonym for…” if you want to get down to brass tacks and all

Penelope
Guest
Penelope
2 years 10 months ago

That is incorrect. “Presently” most certainly is an acceptable term for “right now.” I think it’s just old school. Plus, it’s present tense. My mind remains blown by the militant grammarians who patrol this site like Bryan Garner on greenies.

Bryz
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

A portion of this interview that was left on the cutting room floor.

CC: “I regularly expose myself whenever you pitch. Spiritually, that is.”

CK: “Mm-hm.”

larry
Guest
larry
2 years 10 months ago

Anyone who’s heard Carson talk on FanGraphs audio podcasts will know where this interview is coming from. Its partially endearing, but his indirect verbage,and closed ended questions can be frustrating to listen to. It must make the interviewee more comfortable, though. Carson comes off as realllly unassuming and just a regular gentle baseball nerd.

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