Corey Kluber’s last two starts have been great; anyone can see that. What you may not realize is that they haven’t just been great, they’ve been historic.
The early season for Corey Kluber was not what the 2014 Cy Young winner expected. The season started with five consecutive losses on Kluber’s record and seven straight for the Indians. Coming into the season, Cleveland was picked by Sports Illustrated to win the World Series and a lot of pressure is on Kluber to lead the Indians rotation. Recently, Kluber has dominated hitters and is turning his early season struggles around. He hasn’t just been good; he’s been historically good.
Last year, Corey Kluber finished the season with a 2.44 ERA in 235.2 innings pitched. This helped Kluber earn the Cy Young award in the American League. Along with his 2.44 ERA, Kluber finished with a 2.35 FIP and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Not only did Kluber win the CY Young, but he finished 11th in the American League MVP race.
This year, Kluber saw his ERA as high as 5.04, which is twice his 2014 performance—but in a bad way. Through his first seven games, Kluber only had one Game Score higher than 75. In that performance, Kluber went eight innings, allowed three hits, two earned runs and struck out eight. The Indians lost that game.
The past two times Corey Kluber has taken the mound, he has been fantastic. In his two starts, Kluber has thrown 17 innings, allowing six hits and one earned run with 30 strikeouts. Yes, 30. As a matter of fact, 18 of those 30 strikeouts came in his eight-inning performance against the Cardinals (I am still upset that he did not throw the ninth). Just as fantastic is that Kluber has issued just one walk in his last two games, which is a good sign since Kluber has four multi-walk games this season.
In his two most recent starts, Kluber finished with a Game Score of 84 or greater. In his eighteen-strikeout performance against the Cardinals, Kluber finished with a Game Score of 98. Since 2000, there are just seven Game Scores higher than Klubers’ 98. Four of those seven are no-hitters, and the other three are one-hit performances—which are the same as Kluber. While that is very impressive, only Randy Johnson had more strikeouts (20) with a Game Score of at least 90 since 2000.
To put this recent run into historical perspective—there are 34 separate performances where a pitcher has at least an 84 Game Score in back-to-back games since 2000. Of those back-to-back performances, Kluber has the second most strikeouts with 30. The only pitcher he trails in Pedro Martinez—who struck out 32 batters in 18 innings in 2000.
Now there is a leader on this board—Randy Johnson. During the 2000 season, Randy Johnson had a Game Score of at least 84 in three consecutive games. In those three consecutive games, Johnson struck out 32 in 27 innings. When Kluber heads to the mound again, he has the chance to join Johnson atop this list.
If we expand the search back to 1990, there have been just six performances with three consecutive Game Scores of 84 or higher. As stated above, Kluber has a chance at that in his next start. Right now, Kluber’s streak is one of 57 performances with a back-to-back Game Score of 84 or higher.
While watching Kluber, it is easy to be caught in the moment and miss the historical greatness of a streak. This recent streak has put Kluber in an elite class of performances, but there may not be one greater than this. Dating back to 1914, there are just 11 performances where a pitcher threw back-to-back games with a Game Score of 84 or higher while walking one or fewer batters and striking out at least ten. In this group are Hall of Fame pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver and Dazzy Vance. Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and John Montefusco also appear on this list. There is a strong argument for both Clemens and Schilling being inducted to the Hall of Fame. That is some elite company that Kluber is in.
When Corey Kluber takes the mound in his next performance, there is even more history on the line. Kluber has been brilliant in his past two starts, showing his opponents why he was the Cy Young award winner in the American League. While Kluber has been brilliant, the Indians need to start winning in these spectacular performances. Take it in stride, but Corey Kluber is doing some historically great things on the mound right now, so don’t miss out when he takes the mound in his next start.