Revisiting Corey Kluber

In this post, I tried to fight for why Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber is wildly underrated, especially compared to pitchers who are more owned than him in standard ESPN and CBS leagues such as AJ Griffin and Tim Lincecum, My criterium was removing his two worst starts, which were heavy outliers, to normalize his ERA a little.

I got some push back for it. “You could remove the worst two starts from every pitcher and they would all look better.” “Why not remove his two best starts, too?” These are both valid points. It is a given that all pitchers’ ERAs would look better removing their worst starts. And if I meant for the exercise to be truly meaningful, I could have removed the two best and worst starts from Kluber’s game log and derive a sort of interquartile range.

However, Kluber’s starts aside from the major blowups have been quality. Not quality in terms of the official “quality start” — by this criteria, only nine of 18 starts have been quality — but I already have a bone to pick about the criteria for quality start being somewhat arbitrary. One of Kluber’s starts was shortened by rain, in two starts he recorded two earned but only when 5 2/3 innings, in another start he shut down the opposition but only went five innings, and in his latest outing he gave up four runs but ate up 8 2/3 innings on fewer than 100 pitches. Again, yes, you could do this for any pitcher and his quality start percentage would undoubtedly improve, but 13 of 17 (76 percent) sure looks a lot better than nine of 18.

When it all came down to it, my point was to simply prove Kluber deserved more ownership than he had (and still has). Since I wrote the piece, his ERA has improved by half of a run. But ingrained in my point was the starts during which Kluber fell apart are far greater outliers than, say, Dan Haren’s or Marco Estrada’s worst two starts. My exercise was shortcutting the standard deviation in runs allowed by Kluber.

I am working on creating some statistics charting each pitcher’s standard deviation in runs and hits+walks allowed in an attempt to indicate the pitcher’s consistency and reliability. It is similar to what ESPN’s Tristan Cockcroft already does, but he relies on the ESPN player rater. Perhaps my research will yield results identical to those of Cockcroft. Maybe not! We’ll see.


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