Corey Kluber is deserving of some attention


Indians starter Corey Kluber shut down the Orioles on Saturday afternoon, blanking them over seven innings on five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts. It marks his fifth consecutive quality start, and the right-hander now owns a 3.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 83/17 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings over 11 starts. Pretty good.

Sure, there are better starters in the American League — Kluber’s ERA is 15th best, which is good but not outstanding. But those ahead of him, with the exception of Angels starter Garrett Richards, have all gotten some press in one way or another. There has been relatively little fanfare around Kluber, even after April 24’s gem against the Royals in which he allowed one unearned run with 11 strikeouts and no walks in a complete game victory, and after May 4’s dominating outing against the White Sox in which he allowed one run over eight innings while striking out 13 and walking two.

By defense-independent measures, Kluber has been among the best in the league. His 2.23 FIP leads Felix Hernandez at 2.29, and his 2.72 xFIP is fifth-best. For those not familiar, FIP assumes a pitcher’s home run rate is under his control while xFIP assumes a league-average home run rate.

Kluber’s 27 percent strikeout rate is fifth best in the AL and his 5.5 percent walk rate is the 15th-lowest. And the funny thing is, Kluber has arguably been unlucky as his .355 BABIP is well above the league average of .298 for starting pitchers. So there’s reason to believe that Kluber could get even better as the season progresses.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

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Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.

But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.

To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).

According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.