While the MVP debate is often focused on position players, it is hard to argue against Corey Kluber‘s importance to this Indians team.
Amidst all the injuries and questions surround the pitching staff, Kluber remained a constant. He leads the team with 215 innings pitched, only going less than five innings in three of his 32 starts. His ability to go deep into games gave the team a great chance to win every time he took the mound. His 6.5 WAR also ranks second in all of baseball for pitchers, right behind Justin Verlander.
Statistics are a major telling point, but Kluber’s presence every five days is that of consistency and a warranted expectation that the offense can lock up a win by scoring three to four runs. He only allowed more than three runs in nine of his starts, helping contribute to the +101 run-differential held by the Indians in 2016.
He will not be starting Game 1 of the ALDS, with Trevor Bauer assuming that role, but there is no doubting he is the ace of the staff. Starting Game 2 is not a demotion, but rather an assurance that he is fully healthy, allowing him to pitch late into October if the Indians continue winning.
Only appearing in 32 games hurts Kluber’s chances to be considered the overall MVP of the team, but he is without a doubt not only the best pitcher on the Indians, but one of the best in all of baseball.