Smoke Signals: Kluber In The Zone, Verlander Out Of It, and Miggy On the Outside

Detroit (92.3 The Fan) – Corey Kluber has had a simple formula in his early season success up until Tuesday night, which has been to throw strikes.

Entering game two against the Tigers in Detroit, the Indians starter carried a 48.9 Zone%, a percentage of pitches seen in the strike zone. That number was up, while his Z-Swing%, the amount of balls swung at in the strike zone, came in at a career-low 60.4%.

To boot, Kluber’s O-Swing%, the amount of balls swung at outside of the zone, came in at 31.2%, top-30 in baseball.

So basically, the Indians ace is throwing more strikes, while batters are swinging at less of them. Opposing hitters are swinging at a lot of balls out of the zone, though it is Kluber’s lowest O-Swing% since 2013.

All of those numbers seemed to trend the opposite way on Tuesday.

chart 2 Smoke Signals: Kluber In The Zone, Verlander Out Of It, and Miggy On the Outside

Save Miguel Cabrera’s home run to make it 4-1, coming on a four-seam fastball that was belt-high but in-off the plate, Tigers hitters were patient against the former Cy Young winner.

Like the Indians with Verlander in previous occasions, the Tigers waited on Kluber to work over the plate and pounced.

Kluber’s mechanics may have been to blame, as he exited the game early with lower back discomfort.

Comerica Effect?

On the contrary, the Indians’ approach to the Tigers’ former Cy Young winner had been what Detroit deployed against Kluber on Tuesday. Verlander will attack the zone en masse, so pick and choose.

The reason for Verlander’s rough start prior to this series was the opposite of Kluber: an O-Swing of 28.5% (his lowest since 2008), a Z-Swing of 71.9% (the highest of his career), and a Z-Contact of 86.8 (highest since 2008).

Less chasing, more swings and more contact in the zone.

Again, the Indians looked to attack Verlander when he was in the zone, an in general laid off of balls out of the zone.

chart 3 Smoke Signals: Kluber In The Zone, Verlander Out Of It, and Miggy On the Outside

The Indians got their pitches in the zone, but many of them were in the lower half. Normally, this would play into the hands of a pitcher, because it would cause groundball outs, but only 10 percent of batted balls off of Verlander on Tuesday night wound up on the ground.

Seven of the Tribe outs against Verlander came in the air, and with the majority of them below the belt, none really took off.

Also factor in that Comerica Park is perennially a pitcher’s park, mostly because of the space in center field. With 100 being neutral in terms of favoring pitchers or batters, and below favoring pitching, the park has a multi-year rating of 98, but sits at a 92 in 2017.

Combine the pitch location, the park factor and the frigid air in Detroit, and it would seem that those fly balls would bode well for Verlander, as they did Tuesday.

No Way Out

It seems there is no way for Corey Kluber to get Miguel Cabrera out.

Miggy entered the game with .420/.453/.780 splits against Kluber with 5 HR and 3 2B.

In the 4th inning, with a 2-1 lead, Cabrera smoked a home run in on the hands.

Ever since Cabrera’s blow up at Trevor Bauer in the teams’ first series at Progressive Field, the Indians seem to be pitching nothing but away to him. At least over the plate.

chart 4 Smoke Signals: Kluber In The Zone, Verlander Out Of It, and Miggy On the Outside

More from Alex Hooper | 92.3 The Fan
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