CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There has been a movement among baseball writers suggesting that certain pitchers should throw 80 percent breaking balls. The list of players who might make that jump will probably never include Corey Kluber, a man who makes his money on the sinker.
When Kluber made his return from the disabled list on Thursday, he did not throw 80 percent breaking balls, but he edged towards the mark, throwing a curveball 32 times on 77 pitches. That is 41.5 percent.
The former Cy Young winner garnered 18 of his 24 swinging strikes on breaking balls. Despite only going six innings, Kluber was three swinging strikes away from his career high on August 27, 2014.
Kluber also picked up 8 of his 13 called strikes on the curve.
The numbers only get crazier if you consider Kluber’s cutter the same as a slider, as the two pitches are often grouped together. Factoring in the right-hander’s 20 cutters, the “breaking ball” total rises to 52 of 77, a solid 67.5 percent; and the swinging strikes increase to 21 of 24.
Two days after Trevor Bauer’s increased curveball usage shot up, resulting in a career-high 14 strikeouts, Kluber nabbed 10 against the second-most strikeout happy team in the bigs.
Roberto Perez caught both games, and continued his line of thought of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
“He was pounding the zone with breaking balls and fastballs, cutters,” Perez said Thursday. “He barely used his changeup, but they’re a very aggressive team and they couldn’t lay off that breaking ball and he had a good one going today, so why not throw it?”
The ace was excited, agreeing that his outing went about as well as it could have and that he was able to get through the day without anything flaring up his ailing back. He said there may have been a correlation between the health and ability to use all of his pitches.
“That was one of the biggest issues that I had early on in the season is that I wasn’t necessarily able to get through extension with my cutter and stuff,” he said. “I think I gave up a lot of damage early on, too, so to be able to have a full arsenal to work with, it makes it easier to go out there and pitch instead of struggle through it.”
The 8-0 scoreline at game’s end was gaudy, but until Kluber left the game after the top of the 6th, it had been a 1-0 game. Manager Terry Francona said that the righty’s return alone gave the team a boost, but the ability to throw a quality start allowed the Indians to spark an eventual rally.
“Boy, I mean, that’s … first of all, it’s nice to have him back, which kind of gives everyone a lift,” the skipper said. “But then when he comes out and just throws the way he did. In fact, I hate to use the word throw because he pitched and his breaking ball was so, so good and he was crisp right from the get-go.”