Month in review: May

Kluber1 copyThere is an adult-sized chicken costume sitting in the empty locker to the right of Corey Kluber’s stall inside Cleveland’s clubhouse at Progressive Field. Outside the locker room, there is a photo of two adult-sized chickens standing in the outfield of the Indians’ home ballpark.

Through some intense investigative reporting, it has been determined that one of the mystery chickens was reliever Cody Allen, whose nickname among teammates is, in fact, “Chicken.” The other player within the poultry suit was discovered to be Kluber.

“I keep telling you guys,” Kluber said recently. “It wasn’t me. I don’t know who it was.”

Kluber has become known for his stoic persona. A smile from the right-hander is a rare sight. The chicken suit is a glimpse into a side of Kluber that he has not revealed to the public. He has embraced the robotic character that has been created in the public domain. This was never more evident than during an in-game television interview, in which Kluber never flinched amidst a shower of powder and sunflower seeds.

For the Indians, May was Kluber’s coming-out party. He might not have a nationally-recognized name yet, but you better believe that people within baseball know all about Kluber by now. I am always hesitant to slap the label “ace” on anyone, but I will say that I feel Kluber is has the makings of ace material.

Let’s take a look at some factoids about the Klubot’s season to date and strong May:

  • As of this writing, Kluber has logged six straight starts with at least 6.2 IP and eight strikeouts. That ties an Indians record held by Sudden Sam McDowell (1970), Herb Score (1956-57) and Bob Feller (1938-39).
  • That’s the longest such streak in the American League since CC Sabathia had seven such outings in a row during the 2011 season.
  • Kluber’s six-game streak of having at least 6.2 IP, eight strikeouts and no more than two walks tied an AL record, which is shared by Roger Clemens (1997) and Randy Johnson (1995). Johnson holds the NL record for that unique pitching-line streak with eight in a row in 2001. Sandy Koufax went seven straight in 1965, and some guys named R.A. Dickey (2012), Curt Schilling (2002) and Pedro Martinez (1997) had six-game runs.
  • Kluber is the only pitcher in the past 100 seasons for the Indians to have four straight starts with at least seven innings, eight strikeouts and no more than two walks. That statistical line had been achieved in three consecutive outings 12 times.
  • Entering Sunday, Kluber led the Major Leagues with eight games with at least eight strikeouts and six games with at least nine strikeouts. The righty also led MLB with 95 strikeouts on the season.
  • In the AL, Kluber’s ranks among qualified pitchers were as follows: 3.04 ERA (11), six wins (t-4), 95 strikeouts (1), 2.22 FIP (1), 1.23 WHIP (18), 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings (1), 5.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio (4), .671 opponents’ OPS (13), 68 percent strikes (4), 3.59 pitches per plate appearance (t-3), 19.3 swinging-strike percentage (6) and 18 three-pitch strikeouts (3). He’s done all this with the highest batting average on balls in play (.352).
  • In May, Kluber became the first Indians pitcher since Dennis Eckersley (1976) to have at least 60 strikeouts in one month Kluber joined Yu Darvish as the only Major League pitchers over the past 10 seasons (2005-14) to have at least 60 strikeouts in any one month. Darvish had 64 in Sept/Oct of last season with the Rangers.
  • Kluber’s May marked only the 20th time in the past 100 years that a Major League pitcher ended one month with at least 60 strikeouts and no more than 43 baserunners. The others: Johnson (six times), Schilling (three), Pedro (twice), Clemens (twice), Koufax, Darvish, Johan Santana, Kerry Wood, Mike Scott, Dwight Gooden.
  • Kluber became only the fifth pitcher (19 times) to have at least 60 strikeouts in a single month. Besides Eckersley (’76), McDowell (eight times), Score (’56) and Feller (eight times) accomplished the feat. Kluber (eight walks) is the only one of that group to have fewer than 17 walks in the same month. His 12.6 K/9 and 7.50 K:BB are also the highest for any of the 19 occurrences.

Kluber was the highlight of May for the Indians, but the club also endured some ups and downs to produce 15 wins — a solid comeback from a rough April. All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis missed most of the month due to a right oblique injury, but Mike Aviles performed admirably in his absence and Dr. Smooth (Michael Brantley) and Lonnie Baseball (Lonnie Chisenhall) both continued on their torrid starts.

Here is a glance at the month that was for the Tribe…

AL Central standings heading into June:

1. Tigers 31-21 (–)
2. White Sox 28-29 (5.5)
3. Royals 26-29 (6.5)
4. Twins 25-28 (6.5)
5. Indians 26-30 (7.0)

Record at home: 10-5
Record on road: 5-8

Offense (AL rank)

.273 AVG (t-2)
.344 OBP (t-1)
.428 SLG (3)
.772 OPS (2)
136 R (t-3)
267 H (4)
56 2B (3)
3 3B (t-9)
30 HR (t-5)
127 RBI (4)
12 SB (13)
102 BB (3)
183 K (2)
419 TB (4)

Notes: After a dismal and disappointing April, the Indians enjoyed a solid overall showing this past month. In fact, the last time a Cleveland team posted at least a .770 OPS to go along with at least 130 runs, 100 walks and 410 total bases in one month was August of 2008. If you add the element of having fewer than 200 strikeouts, you have to reach back to May of 2006 to find the last Indians offense to piece together that showing in a single month.

Pitching (AL rank)

15 wins (t-6)
3.86 ERA (7)
4.41 rot. ERA (11)
3.05 rel. ERA (4)
7 saves (10)
254.1 IP (11)
245 H (5)
131 R (14)
109 R (6)
33 HR (14)
93 BB (11)
252 K (2)
.250 AVG (8)
1.33 WHIP (t-8)

Notes: This marked only the eighth time in the past 100 seasons that an Indians’ staff had at least 250 strikeouts in a single month. Cleveland also accomplished the feat in 2013 (May, August, Sept/Oct), 1967 (August), 1965 (Sept/Oct) and 1964 (June, July). This was just the fourth time a Cleveland team had 15 wins and 250 strikeouts in one month and the third time with an ERA of 3.90 or better, plus 15 wins and 250 strikeouts. It also marked the ninth time a Tribe staff finished any one month with at least 200 strikeouts, 95 walks or fewer and 110 earned runs or fewer (once in 2014 and 2010, twice in 1968, and once in each of the 1967, ’66, ’65 and ’63 seasons. The Indians also became the fastest team this season to reach 500 strikeouts this season.

Player of the Month: Brantley
Stats: .345/.405/.564/.969, 5 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B, 19 RBI, 21 R, 27 games

Notes: Among batters with at least 100 at-bats, Brantley’s slash line was the best in one month by an Indians’ hitter since Grady Sizemore’s .377/.455/.642 in June 2005. Prior to that, you’re looking at Roberto Alomar in July 2001, Manny Ramirez in Sept/Oct 2000 and Alomar again in Sept/Oct 2000. If you drop the requirement to 90 at-bats, Kipnis’ June from last season (.419/.517/.699) comes up. The last Tribesman to hit .345 with at least five homers, 19 RBIs and 21 runs in one month was Shin-Soo Choo in Sept/Oct 2008.

Apologies to… Chisenhall, who turned in a .373/.430/.590 slash line to go along with three homers, nine doubles, 14 RBIs and 15 runs in 26 games. I went with Brantley because he had a healthy lead on Chisenhall in at-bats (110 to 83) and Dr. Smooth’s defensive prowess in left field had more of an impact in the field. Chisenhall has also only recently begun to earn trust and playing time against left-handed pitching. Better luck in June, Lonnie Baseball.

Previous ’14 winners: OF David Murphy (April)

Pitcher of the Month: Kluber
Stats: 4-0, 2.09 ERA, 43 IP, 60 K, 8 BB, .217 AVG, 0.98 WHIP, 6 starts

Note: See top section.

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Zach McAllister (April)

Reliever of the Month: RHP Bryan Shaw
Stats:  0.71 ERA, 12.2 IP, 10 K, 0 BB, .191 AVG, 0.71 WHIP, 14 games

Notes: Finishing a month with zero walks with as many appearances as Shaw had in May is a rare feat. In Indians history, only Bob Wickman (July 2001) and Derek Lilliquist (Sept/Oct 1992) previously had no walks with at least 14 games in one month. Only four Major League pitchers accomplished the feat in 2013: Kenley Jensen (June), Mark Melancon (March/April), Wesley Wright (May) and Edward Mujica (May).

Previous ’14 winners: Shaw (April)

Game of the Month (hitter): C George Kottaras
May 4 against White Sox: 2-for-3, 2 HR, 1 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI

Notes: Called up from Triple-A while starting catcher Yan Gomes was on MLB’s paternity list, Kottaras enjoyed one of the most memorable debuts in Indians history. With two homers out of the chute, Kottaras became the only player in Cleveland history to launch a home run in each of his first two career plate appearances with the club. The last Major Leaguer to accomplish that feat was Jeremy Giambi in 2002 with the A’s. That said, King George has nothing on Jamie “Statistical” Quirk. On Sept. 27, 1984, Quirk launched a walk-off homer in his only career plate appearance for Cleveland. No one will ever be able to top his 1.000/1.000/4.000 career slash line in an Indians uniform.

Game of the Month (pitcher): Kluber
May 4 against White Sox: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R/ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 110 (70), 83 game score

Notes: With this outing, Kluber became the first Indians pitcher to have at least 13 strikeouts in a start of eight or more innings since Bartolo Colon on Sept. 18, 2000. He was the first to have that kind of production in a team loss since Dave Burba did so on July 21, 1999. The last Indians pitcher to go at least eight with 13 strikeouts against the White Sox? You’re looking at McDowell on May 6, 1970.


Minor League standouts for April

Triple-A Columbus

Player of the Month: OF Matt Carson
Stats: .281/.365/.531/.896, 4 HR, 4 2B, 11 RBI, 15 R, 20 games

Previous ’14 winners: 1B Jesus Aguilar (April)

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Nick Hagadone
Stats: 2.25 ERA, 12 IP, 22 K, 3 BB, .146 AVG, 0.75 WHIP, 8 games

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Trevor Bauer (April)

Double-A Akron

Player of the Month: OF Tyler Naquin
Stats: .328/.370/.434/.805, 2 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 17 RBI, 25 R, 6 SB, 29 games

Previous ’14 winners: 3B Giovanny Urshela (April)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Tyler Sturdevant
Stats: 0.00 ERA, 16 IP, 15 K, 3 BB, .118 AVG, 0.56 WHIP, 3 saves, 10 games

Previous ’14 winners: LHP Kyle Crockett (April)

Class A (high) Carolina

Player of the Month: OF Anthony Gallas
Stats: .300/.379/.500/.879, 3 HR, 13 2B, 16 RBI, 15 R, 13 BB, 4 SB, 30 games

Previous ’14 winners: SS Erik Gonzalez (April)

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Ryan Merritt
Stats: 3-2, 2.54 ERA, 39 IP, 31 K, 5 BB, .236 AVG, 1.03 WHIP, 6 starts

Previous ’14 winners: Merritt (April)

Class A (low) Lake County

Player of the Month: INF Paul Hendrix
Stats: .386/.462/.634/1.095, 5 HR, 8 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBI, 18 R, 14 BB,  27 games

Previous ’14 winners: OF Cody Farrell (April)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Robbie Aviles
Stats: 1-0, 1.64 ERA, 38.1 IP, 21 K, 7 BB, .180 AVG, 0.81 WHIP, 6 starts

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Jordan Milbrath (April)


Month in review: April



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