Jul 31, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit:Brad Mills
-USA TODAY Sports
Cliff Lee vs. Corey Kluber
Lee was the lone Tribe Cy Young winner to begin his career with immediate success, but he did have his struggles later on. After posting a 6.29 ERA in 2007, he came back in a big way in 2008. His teammate had won the ultimate trophy the previous season, and Lee was ready to take home his own. He boasted an astonishing 22-3 record, with a 2.54 ERA and a 2.83 FIP. He also allowed just 0.5 home runs per nine innings, and 1.4 walks per nine. While he only amassed 170 strikeouts, all of the other numbers were league bests, making him a clear choice for the 2008 Cy Young.
Believe it or not, Corey Kluber’s 2014 season was just as magnificent, if not more so. Better ERA and FIP? Check. Better strikeout-to-walk ratio? Check. More strikeouts? Check – 99 more strikeouts, to be exact. Let’s face it, Kluber’s Cy Young season was pretty hard to match. Even with a lower walk rate and a marginally lower home run rate, Lee still allowed more runs than Kluber. And while Lee had a better record because he was pitching in front of a good team, Kluber’s season happened despite the players around him.
Much like Sabathia, Lee found himself with another team just half a season after his award. The public relations backlash was intense, and maybe that’s why the Tribe sought to sign Kluber so quickly, removing any trace of the idea that they were going to cash in on him in 2015.
Or maybe, the organization saw something they’d never seen before. Perhaps they felt he could repeat his Cy Young season over again, while assuming Sabathia and Lee would never again reach those kind of heights. Whatever the reason, Kluber is in Cleveland to stay, and it’s going to take a very special season to outdo his 2014 performance.