Indians, WWW

The Kluber Domino Effect: While We’re Waiting

Oh…that Craig Lyndall…doing fun things like rolling to a Roger Waters show…and leaving me with WWW at the last second. So…to hell with the statistics today. Let’s talk about everybody’s favorite voodoo dear readers…Big Mo…the rolling current…that’s right…MOMENTUM.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “Ripple Effect” is ‘a cumulative effect produced when one event initiates a succession of similar events.”  Since becoming a baseball fan early in life, this principle has intrigued me from the get go. While some would call this baseball theology “mystical,” the art of building off of what has come before you is an underlying principle in which long-term champions are born.

When a team wins 27 baseball games in 28 attempts, it’s easy to process this thinking as a “domino effect.” While in a general sense this is true in every sense of the word. In this case, I think you can find that singular first domino if you look closely.

Now it isn’t easy, because there are a lot of dominos on this team clamoring to be that first one to fall. You have the “Face of the Franchise” in Francisco Lindor, who hit 30 home runs this year, then thought, “You know, 40 sounds nice.” You have the “Heart of the Team” in Jose Ramirez, who’s fiery hair and helmet flying escapades seem like a more modern version of “Manny is Manny.”

And while I’m sure this team has no problem following the lead of the offensive superstars, I’m not quite convinced that all of this, is because all of them.

So let’s talk about that first domino, shall we?

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal recently made a bold statement in which he made a case that Corey Kluber isn’t just the favorite to win the Cy Young award, but he should also be in consideration for the American League MVP award as well.

Without getting to detailed, Rosenthal simply stated that the narrative surrounding Justin Verlander’s MVP award in 2011 shouldn’t be a singularity. While Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are the main MVP candidates donning Tribe jerseys, Kluber’s numbers are in many ways better than Verlander in 2011. While those two items shouldn’t blend together, it did get me thinking a little bit.

Here’s just a taste of what Rosenthal had to say:

The point here is simple. Years are different regarding leading statistics. You can’t really compare 2011 to 2017, because 2011 didn’t have Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor and Mike Trout (sorry Aaron Judge, you’re having a great year, but you aren’t the MVP) tearing the league up in one way or another.

But, shouldn’t Kluber be at least considered…at least mentioned…at least pondered?

I know…who cares about awards (I do sorta) when you’re trying to win a World Series, and to be fair, I’m pretty sure Corey Kluber hasn’t thought about a Cy Young award since 2014, and may not have even thought about it then.

But…should we be thinking about Corey Kluber as a legit MVP candidate?

And then I thought about a quote I heard from Carrasco from earlier this year, in Mid-June. A couple days before Carrasco’s quote, in Kluber’s fourth start back, he had pitched a complete game shut-out. It was quintessential Kluber. He gave up three hits, struck out 11, and didn’t walk a batter.

Carrasco followed that up with a solid six inning, 10 K performance.

“I think it’s really good to follow Kluber, what he did in the first game. You know, you just go back and forth, and watch the video, the way he attacks…so that’s the same thing I did today.”

Over the past four years, I’ve heard Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger and of course, Carrasco, discuss watching Corey Kluber video, and talking to Kluber, and utilizing Kluber strategies throughout the game. I remember a video of Salazar talking about a discussion he had with Roberto Perez (couldn’t find it) about a sequence that Kluber had thrown as they were walking in the dugout.

I’ve seen other teams discussing how he throws the baseball, and when.

In the month of June, Kluber lowered his ERA from 5.06, to 3.02.

I’ll take a sip of coffee while you ponder that.

When Kluber returned from the DL and made his first start back, the Indians were 27-24. In June and July, a slight uptick to 30-23, and the past two months, the Indians are 39-10. Overall, since Kluber’s return, the Tribe is 69-33, and have passed every team in both leagues, except one.

No, this isn’t all Kluber obviously, but I’ve always really loved that term stopper, and that’s exactly what Corey Kluber has been since June 1st…well…since 2014. No, the Indians don’t win every game, but they certainly know what’s coming.

Kluber on the hill…ice cold…throwing strikes…keeping them in the game.

It’s what he did throughout the entire 2016 playoffs. It’s what he’s done since turning a corner in Columbus way back in 2012.

It’s what he does.

Personally, I don’t like considering pitchers for the MVP Award unless they’re doing something that’s never been done before. My preference is always with the everyday players, because…well…they do it every day.

But when considering Kluber for a moment, where would the Indians be without him? When Lindor was struggling, there was Kluber. When JRam was struggling, there was Kluber. When Kipnis and Brantley got hurt?

Kluber.

When Miller went down, and when Cody Allen was struggling?

Kluber again.

And sure, you can talk about how elite Carlos Carrasco has been this year, and it’s true. But since June 1, he’s slipped a bit here and there. He’s given up eight once, and six once, and five once, but always gets it going again. But Kluber balances him out.

Trevor Bauer? He’s grabbed ahold of that #3 slot in the rotation, and doesn’t appear to want to ever let it go. In a conversation in 2016, Bauer talked about Kluber working his breaking ball in the zone, and that was something he watched over and over again.

He’s having the best season of his career.

Mike Clevinger took Kluber’s spot when he went on the DL, and has been compared to Kluber mercilessly over the past year. Kluber struggled with control problems back in the pre-2012 days. His four-seamer stayed up in the zone, and it caused him a ton of problems. In 2017, Clevinger’s walk rate is still too high, but it’s dropped from almost five walks-per-nine in 2016, to 4 1/2 in 2017, and in his last 14 starts, he’s walked two or less nine times.

He credits watching Kluber for at least part of his improvement.

In the end, who really cares who the lynch-pin is for great teams. There is always a mesh of fantastic things that happen on championship contending teams.

But…

If you had to pick one domino to start the train?

Kluber…every day.