Analysis

Corey Kluber is Now the Yankees Biggest X-Factor

Corey Kluber is on a little bit of a hot streak over the past few games. His past and his potential make him the Biggest Yankee X-Factor.

Here at Unhinged New York, we’ve talked a lot about x-factors coming into the 2021 season. We’ve talked about Luis Severino being the biggest Yankee X-Factor, and trust me, he still is a big x-factor, to an extent. We also have mentioned guys like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Corey Kluber, and Jameson Taillon. Well, Hicks has been off to an awful start and Sanchez has been even worse (to the point he got benched for Kyle Higashioka). As for Taillon, he’s still getting his bearings together, but has shown shines of promise. Kluber, however, is pitching in a one-year deal with something to prove, and that something is that he’s still got dominant, ace-like stuff still after two injury-plagued seasons. Now, he can become a Yankee hero, or a Yankee zero.

Yankees Sign Kluber

The Bombers inked Kluber to a one-year, $11 million pact back in January. Kluber was a coveted arm over the course of the offseason, and it makes sense as to why. The former two-time Cy Young Award winner hadn’t pitched a full season since 2018, as two separate injuries kept him off the bump for the large majority in 2019, and held him to just pitching one inning in 2020. However, Kluber, prior to the first injury in 2019, had established himself as one of the most dominant and feared pitchers in all of baseball. He had just won a Cy Young the year prior (2017) and won his first back in 2014. That doesn’t mean he was a scrub in the other seasons, though. In 2018, his last full season, Kluber pitched to a sparking 2.89 ERA with a 2.97 FIP and a 3.05 xFIP. I shouldn’t have to tell you how elite that is.

His career numbers are pretty dang good, too. Heading into Sunday’s game, the 35-year-old righty had a 3.17 career ERA, with his FIP at 3.03 and his xFIP at 3.11. It’s safe to say that he was one of the more impressive and dominant pitchers in the sport from 2014-2018, and taking roughly a $10 million shot at Kluber didn’t just entice the Yankees, but any and every team that could’ve used another arm in their rotation, which, for the record, was just about every team in baseball.

Kluber’s 2021

Although he got off to a slow start, a pair of back-to-back strong to flat-out dominant outing have boosted Klubot’s numbers. I do want to acknowledge, of course, that these outings were against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, who aren’t exactly world-beaters. What I will say, however, is that any pitcher can have a bad outing against any bad team, and vice versa and Kluber’s previous two outings should be applauded regardless of who he faced.

Now that that’s put to bed, Kluber’s numbers on the season are pretty nifty. In 29.2 innings pitched, or six starts, Kluber is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.03. He’s also struck out 29 batters and has a WHIP of 1.35. The negative about Kluber this season is the walks. He’s walked 14 hitters this year, which translates to roughly 4.25 BB/9. Obviously, these numbers look a lot better than they were, as Kluber walked only one batter in eight innings against the Tigers on Sunday. Nonetheless, it is very encouraging to see Kluber begin to bounce back and hopefully get his season on track.

Looking Forward

As it stands, Kluber will pitch against the Washington Nationals next weekend at the Stadium. No one is saying Kluber is what he once was in Cleveland for the Indians, but if he can regain just 60%-70% of that dominant self that he’s known for, he would still be a very solid number two pitcher for this Yankee rotation behind Gerrit Cole. Of course, the Yankees are banking on a lot to go right for them in their rotation. Between Kluber, Taillon, and Severino, those are three names that could boom or bust this season. We have yet to see if this move works out for the Bombers, but if Kluber can keep up what he’s had going for him the past week, he’ll become a reliable arm quickly in this rotation.

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