It was a tale of two 28-year-olds, but did you know who Corey Kluber was before the 2014 season began? Surely everyone knew his competition in Seattle, but unless you’re an Indians fan or follow baseball closely, perhaps not. Wednesday night the Birmingham native hopefully became a household name after capturing the 2014 American League Cy Young Award.
Though he was strong late in 2013, the man Cleveland acquired from San Diego in 2010 had just 13 Major League victories seven months ago. He posted 18 this season, and with some better defense and relief pitching behind him, could’ve won 20 or more.
It was down the stretch where Kluber earned baseball’s top pitching honor. As noted last week when I predicted his triumph, the Stetson University product led AL starters with a 1.73 second-half ERA and saved his best for the crucial month as Cleveland mounted a late playoff push. He won five September games (Felix Hernandez had just two and was disastrous in Seattle’s biggest game of the year Sept. 23 in Toronto), posting a sparkling 1.12 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched.
Kluber was edged for the strikeout crown on the regular season’s final day by David Price, who needed 12 more innings to top the Tribe hurler’s 269 punch outs.
But the righty allowed fewer homers and posted more strikeouts than Hernandez (who was the runner up), pitched in front of a poorer defense, in a hitter’s park, and against comparable opponents. Kluber made his strong case even more convincing with back-to-back 14-strikeout outings Sept. 16 and 21, closing the season with a remarkable 39 Ks in his last three starts, all wins.
I was at the dominant Sept. 21 outing and saw Kluber pitch in person three times the final seven weeks. He surely deserved the award.