When Corey Kluber was at his best as a two-time Cy Young Award winner, he matched pinpoint command with filthy stuff.
Through his first few starts with the Yankees, after hardly pitching over the previous two years, Kluber was missing that command. His stuff, though, left manager Aaron Boone encouraged Kluber could still round into form.
Near the end of April, Kluber finally started to marry the two, and it was on full display Wednesday night when he tossed a no-hitter against the Rangers.
Kluber’s curveball/slider, his best pitch, has been key to that resurgence. It is moving just as much as it has all season — its average vertical movement Wednesday was 41 inches, slightly above its season average, and its horizontal movement was right on its season average of 17 inches, per Baseball Savant. But in recent starts, Kluber has been able to command it however he wants.
“I think I’ve probably been getting more and more comfortable with it as far as throwing the right one when I want to land it for a strike, the right one when I want to try to get a swing on it, the right one when I want to get a chase on it,” Kluber said. “Not saying that I execute every one the way I want to … but just on a more consistent basis. Kind of throwing it where and the way that I want to the last few starts.”
The results have shown. Over his first four starts of the season, Kluber allowed nine earned runs in 15 innings (5.40 ERA) while striking out 14 and walking 11. Across his past five starts, Kluber has allowed seven earned runs in 35 ¹/₃ innings (1.78 ERA) while striking out 36 and walking nine.
It’s not just Kluber’s breaking ball that has stymied hitters. When he twirled an eight-inning, 10-strikeout gem against the Tigers on May 2, it was his changeup that he leaned on to dominate.
Though Kluber had everything going Wednesday, his breaking ball was key. He threw it 31 times, inducing seven whiffs and a season-high 12 called strikes on it.
Overall, the veteran has recorded more called strikes during his recent turnaround than he did at the beginning of the year — an indication of command and hitting his spots. In his first four starts, he averaged 11.75 per game. Over the past five starts, that number has risen to 18 per game.
“Ultimately, we’re starting to see him command the ball more consistently throughout his outings,” Boone said. “The quality of his pitches and the shapes of his pitches have been there all year.”