Words very rarely fail me. I have two modes, all go or no go, and when I’m on, I can talk your ear off and usually make you laugh. However, when looking back on last night’s performance by Corey Kluber, it’s hard to come up with more than “he’s good”, “he’s pitching so great”, “how can he make it look so easy?” After an eight-inning outing (already his second eight inning game…in three starts) in which he struck out 13 batters so easily with an arsenal of pitches that make you wonder if he took some sort of wizardry class and/or want to launch an investigation to see how many plusses he gets on attack rolls,1 you have to wonder if he has reached some level of consciousness or performance that is untapped by us mere mortals. All of these references will lead to what I propose as Kluber’s new nickname since he has stated at length that he is not a fan of “Klubot”. You just have to get to the end of the post to see my suggestion.2 Before we get to the nickname, however, have a look at all 13 of Kluber’s strikeouts:
Can you honestly tell me that there isn’t witchcraft involved?
Taking the Kluber Tunnel
Tunneling isn’t a new thing, it’s something Trevor Bauer has worked on previously (and also gone away from), but to see the way Kluber is able to work through a tunnel is downright dirty. Tunneling, for those that might not know, is the art of making different pitches look similar coming out of the hand or in a “tunnel” before making them go in myriad directions. The tunnel is best set up in an area between the mound and home where the hitter has his last chance to recognize the pitch. You can see the art of tunneling here in this GIF from Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja on Twitter, an account that you absolutely need to follow if you aren’t already):
Corey Kluber, 3 Pitch Sequence.
First two are Two Seamers off the plate/balls, but see how it sets up the Cutter.
So, when you yell: WHY ARE YOU SWINGING AT THAT?
That's why. pic.twitter.com/6Ykd2AawVZ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 9, 2018
When all three pitches hit the red circle, they all look the same to the hitter. Playing with sequencing, Kluber sets up Nick Castellanos with two two-seamers off the plate, one framed as a strike, the other a ball. Once that cutter hits the tunnel, however, it darts down and away, making Castellanos look silly. As Friedman states in the tweet, that process of sequencing and tunneling are what drives Castellanos to take an “aw c’mon man” swing at a pitch almost in the dirt by the time it makes it to the plate.
Zim Shady gets on the home run board
It has not been a great year for Bradley Zimmer at the plate. Through 30 plate appearances, Zimmer has an ungodly 46.7% strikeout rate, undoing all of the goodwill he might have carried into the year after posting a just-barely sub 30% K rate in 2017. Looking lost and overwhelmed at the plate, Zimmer has struggled to put up positive numbers. A swing that rarely has gone the other way in 2018 (only 7.1% to opposite field) has needed a bit of work this year. That is until yesterday.
With that laser shot of a home run, Zimmer gave Cy Kluber all the run production he needed and got himself out of the fan’s doghouse for a day. If he continues to work on that swing and continues to work on the lower third of the strike zone, we could be witnessing a player coming into his own.3
107.3 MPH EV, with only a 22 degree launch angle. He nailed that…
— Jim Pete (@JimPeteEHC) April 9, 2018
I take nicknames very seriously, way more seriously than I need to, more than ANYONE needs to. My father and I have had more than one “argument” over who gets to be called “Gerbs” but when my niece was born last August, we settled on “Papa Gerbs” for him and the rest was history. That being said, “Klubot” has been vetoed by Mr. Cy Young, so I suggest this one:
Now you see the pitch, now you don’t. It works better than you think, so just get over it and be like Ricky Bobby and accept that is actually a great nickname.