On the coattails of AL Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber, the Indians defeated the Yankees in convincing fashion on Monday night, while evincing a few important indicators about the remainder of 2017. Kluber pitched eight innings allowing two runs with seven strikeouts and a walk. The Indians offense was anchored by two Jose Ramirez solo home runs, a Carlos Santana dong,1 and the speed of Bradley Zimmer. Each of consequence in a 6-2 win.
On Corey Kluber’s Cy Young Candidacy
Corey Kluber has been exquisite. Indeed, it is quite possible that this will be Kluber’s best season in Major League Baseball outshining his Cy Young campaign in 2014. While his ERA and FIP were a touch better in 2014, the run-scoring environment is much more difficult for pitchers in 2017, which makes his performance all the more special. Indeed, Kluber’s ability to raise his strikeout per nine by from 10.27 to 12.04 while his velocity has dropped a tick since then speaks to the brilliance of his 2017 performance.
Yet, all the superlatives above cannot wash away the reality of Chris Sale. Sale is posting a Kershaw-esque season and absolutely dominating hitters. Sale based on peripheral metrics like FIP has been half a run better per nine over a larger number of innings. For this reason, Sale sits at 7.3 fWAR and Kluber 5.5 fWAR. Despite Kluber’s production over the past two months, it would take a monumental alignment of events for him to surpass Sale in terms of quality of season in a neutral environment.4 As Sale and Kluber close in on their final six-to-eight starts, Kluber will need to continue his run while also receiving a bad start or likely two from Sale which is possible but unlikely. Alas, while Kluber’s season has been special Indians fans may need to remember it without the aid of a Cy Young Award.
On Bradley Zimmer’s Importance
Playoff run scoring is different. With teams relying heavily on their three-to-five best pitchers and usually elevating strikeout frequency, strings of hits become more infrequent with large volume scoring mostly occurring as a result of home runs. Plus, tools are magnified in tighter affairs with defense and game-breaking speed elevating in value. Fortunately, for Bradley Zimmer, Gage Will highlighted his defensive skills yesterday in a thoroughly fascinating piece.
However, on Monday night, Zimmer’s game-breaking speed was on display against a tough opponent in what felt like a playoff game.5 Reaching on a base hit, Zimmer stole second base and advanced to third on a mediocre throw from Gary Sanchez. Zimmer then scored on a passed ball just moments later.6
Perhaps as striking as Zimmer’s speed and baseball awareness is Gary Sanchez’ incompetence behind the plate. Digressing, Zimmer’s plus tools being speed and defense have the capacity to alter playoff outcomes which is a sufficient basis to start him in each playoff game. With his raw power, he might just run into a home run as well.
- Note: WFNY’s Jeff Nomina is shaking his head. [↩]
- With Sale scheduled to pitch this evening the innings pitched gap will likely return to roughly 25 again [↩]
- I included W-L because some voters still consider it in the voting process [↩]
- Some voters prefer the results-oriented bWAR. Kluber must hope that enough do if he is going to win the AL Cy Young Award as Kluber (6.0 bWAR) outpaces Sale (4.9 bWAR) in that measure. [↩]
- Kluber-Severino is exactly the type of matchup you can expect to see in the playoffs. [↩]
- The defense of Sanchez should make every Indians’ fan appreciate Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez more. [↩]