The former Padre wasn’t too impressive in the minors, and was never one of Baseball America’s top rated prospects. In 2011, it looked like the Major League were a pipe dream for the right-hander, who had a 5.56 ERA in 27 starts with the Class AAA Columbus Clippers in 2011.
So how does it happen? How does a guy, who stubbled at the Triple-A level three short years ago, emerge to be a viable Cy Young Award candidate?
It starts with his arsenal of pitches–most notably, his sinker– as Bleacher Report’s Mike Rosenbaum points out.
That same year Kluber was getting shelled in Columbus, he was learning the intricacies of the sinker, and now it’s a pitch he throws almost half the time he takes the mound.
“Kluber has thrown his sinker 49.53 percent of the time this season, according to Brooks Baseball, which is consistent with his use of the pitch from 2013 (49.89 percent),” Rosenbaum wrote.
“However, he’s throwing it harder this season—his velocity has steadily increased in each of the past four seasons—sitting above 94 mph(94.39 mph to be exact) for the first time in his career.”
Kluber’s fastball can touch the mid-90s and the ability to throw a sinker that doesn’t lose velocity is devastating–evidenced by his 27.4 percent strikeout rate.
Kluber fanned 10 Orioles Friday, which marks his second-straight double-digit strikeout game in a row. He has four 10-strikeout games in his last eight starts.
He can throw the sinker to both sides of the plate, which makes his slider that much more stifling. Washington Post stat guru Neil Greenberg argues that the breaking pitch is what puts the Klubot in the Cy Young conversation.
Opposing players whom Kluber has made look like Little Leaguers are batting .072 with a .098 slugging percentage against the slider. That’s the lowest opponents’ averages for that specific pitch in the major leagues among qualified starters, according to Rosenbaum.
And about that fastball–Kluber throws the cutter almost 30 percent of the time. The cutter has resulted in a 18.5 whiff percentage over his last five starts.