Cleveland Indians: Why Mike Clevinger keeps getting better

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

After a career year for Mike Clevinger, the young stud continues to show that he is a dynamic weapon in the Cleveland Indians rotation of domination.

Everyone loves seeing his long locks on the mound. His golden flow, the jittery movement of his feet, and the deceptive delivery all make Mike Clevinger a blast to watch on the mound for the Cleveland Indians. Even when he throws to first base, Clev looks good doing it. He’s effective at picking off runners at first… because he’s trying to get them out every single time. He’s not just toying with the runner, because Clevinger is throwing it to Yonder Alonso‘s sweet spot every time he tries to pick someone off.

It’s one of the many things that helped Clevinger progress so far in his sophomore season compared to his rookie year. What a sophomore season it was. The golden-haired 27-year-old finished the year with a 13-8 record. Not only that, but he was arguably the best Indians pitcher in the American League Division Series.

What made Clev’s season so special? He changed his mechanics. More importantly, he changes his pitches. Clevinger has always been a fastball pitcher. He doesn’t get insane speed from his fastball, but it’s effective and draws close to a 25% whiff rate thanks to the movement on it.

He also stopped relying on his changeup so much when he was behind in the pitch count. This year, Clevinger turned to his curveball 30 percent of the time in those situations. Why is that important? Well, Mike Clevinger draws the highest whiff percentage on his curveball than any other pitch. A lot of that is thanks to his deception.

Something that’s plagued Clevinger’s game is a lack of command at times. Whether he’s unable to locate his offspeed pitches, or his fastball just doesn’t have it the issues vary. Those scenarios are typically the cause of his struggles. While it was still an issue this year, his command drastically improved. His walks per nine innings went from 4.44 in 2017 down to 3.02 in 2018.

Another remarkable piece of Clevinger’s game is his ability to avoid the long ball. He allowed .95 home-runs per nine innings this year. In today’s homer-heavy MLB, that’s a pretty good number.

So what does all of this mean? What’s the significance of looking at these numbers? For starters, it shows an increase in production that matches the increased volume in pitching. Anytime you have an increased ERA with an increased number of innings throughout your career it’s a pretty good sign.

2019 has the potential to look even better for Sunshine.  Look at Blake Snell. After a fairly good year in 2017, he skyrocketed to a possible Cy Young award year in 2018. That’s not to say it’ll happen for Clevinger. He’s arguably the fourth-best pitcher in the Indians rotation. But he’d be a first or second starter on most other teams.

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The confidence that manager Terry Francona shows in Clevinger is just one of the many signs of Clevinger’s increasing brilliance. Tito saw something in him in 2017 that he felt was good enough to permanently keep him in the rotation. Now he’s continuing to win the hearts of all Tribe fans.