Aaron Civale is the perfect compliment to Shane Bieber in Cleveland

Starting pitcher Aaron Civale #43 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Aaron Civale #43 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

After tossing his first complete game of his career and narrowly missing a shutout in the process, Aaron Civale is panning out to be the perfect compliment to Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber.

The Cleveland Indians’ have built their success for the better part of the last two decades on the backs of above average starting pitching, in some cases elite. The team has tallied four Cy Young winners with C.C Sabathia in 2007 immediately followed by Cliff Lee in 2008. After a small drought, Corey Kluber won the award in 2014 and then again in 2017. Now, it’s beginning to look like the Indians’ have another Cy Young candidate for years to come in Shane Bieber, but the Aaron Civale could soon join him on the Cy Young radar.

Over the course of the Indians’ team history it hasn’t always been the fire-throwers that have been steady forces in the rotation. The guys with the best control always seem to emerge as not only fan favorites, but provide a sense of stability when on the mound, and that’s the path that Aaron Civale could look to go down.

Over 10 starts during the 2019 season Civale posted a 2.34 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP while striking out just 46 batters over 57.2 innings. This year, those stats seem to be replicating. Having five starts under his belt now, Civale is holding a 2.91 ERA and 0.97 WHIP while striking out 32 batters over 34 innings, including his first complete game this past Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

On the mound, Civale has a very calm demeanor about him. He has managed to tally a lot of strikeouts this year, but he doesn’t exactly look for them. He’s content with ground balls to get him through innings and prolong starts. He also doesn’t show much emotion and has great control on all of his pitches. During his complete game, Roberto Perez barely had to move behind the plate as Civale was hitting all his spots perfectly. If you watch him pitch, you might even see a resemblance to a few names from Indians’ past.

The first is 2004 All-Star and longtime Indian, Jake Westbrook. In Westbrook’s All-Star season he struck out just 116 batters over about 215 innings, but was able to maintain a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP while logging a league-high five complete games. Westbrook was able to control his pitch count in most games by getting ground ball outs rather than strikeouts. In Civale’s complete game, he completed the nine innings with just 109 pitches.

Another comparison, and one that is more recent, is Josh Tomlin. Tomlin is actually the reason that Civale wears 43 for Cleveland and he played a big role in the development of the young right-handed starter. As a starter himself, Tomlin’s best season came in 2011 when he started 26 games for the Tribe. Despite striking out just 89 batters over 165 innings, Tomlin was still able to register a 4.25 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while leading Major League Baseball in walks per nine innings, averaging just 1.1.

The main comparison between Civale and both Westbrook and Tomlin is their calm approach on the mound that results in sustained statistics. Westbrook and Tomlin made their careers off of being reliable starters that you knew what you were getting from them. They never hit triple-digits on the radar gun or had breaking balls that fell off the table, but rather just knew how to spot their pitches and think through a game. Their baseball IQ was their biggest weapon against hitters and Aaron Civale is showing signs of having a similar makeup.

The other comparison that can be made for Civale is a player that he has modeled his composure after, Corey Kluber. Kluber, dubbed Klubot by some, never shows emotion on the mound no matter the situation and remains calm, cool and collected over the duration of each start. In the small sample size we’ve had with Civale the same characteristics are visible. He doesn’t show emotion and stays within himself throughout the game.

Statistically, Civale isn’t too far off from Kluber’s path either. In Kluber’s second season with double-digit starts, being 2013, he went 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 136 strikeouts over 147 innings. However, from what we’ve seen from Civale, he could even be a year ahead of where Kluber was in terms of development.

Kluber’s third season is when he really locked in and became what we know today as Klubot. In 2014 Kluber started a league-high 34 games and registered an AL-high 18 wins. He also kept his numbers to a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with an impressive 269 strikeouts.

To complete that comparison, I’ll remind you of Civale’s stats so far this season over his five starts. He has a 2.91 ERA, a little bit higher than Kluber’s 2014 campaign, but his 0.97 WHIP is lower and almost balances out those stats. Civale also has 32 strikeouts over five starts, meaning he is averaging 6.4 strikeouts per game. Take that and put it into a 34 start season like Kluber in 2014 and Civale would end the year with 217 strikeouts at his current pace.

This isn’t to say Aaron Civale is Corey Kluber, that’s unfair expectations to put on a pitcher with just 15 career starts, but there are similarities to their games. Bieber has already proven to be in Cy Young form, but Civale could quietly join him on that radar in the very near future, providing Cleveland with one of the deadliest one-two punches for a rotation in baseball. Oh, and they both are only 25 years old.

Carlos Santana walks deeper into the MLB Record Books. dark. Next