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.
For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central
Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?
As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East
The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.
There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.
Here’s how each team breaks down:
New York Mets