DISCLAIMER: Alex Cora announced Kluber was moving to the bullpen when I was about 90% done with this piece. All of it still stands.
When the Red Sox signed Corey Kluber this offseason, it wasn’t too hard to see why. Several of the team’s slated 2023 starters were unproven, and Kluber (hypothetically) offered some sort of stability. Even with his recent down years, this was a guy with two Cy Youngs! Of course, we knew he wouldn’t be that guy again, but him performing like a mid-rotation starter certainly seemed to be in the cards. Nearly two months into the season, let’s just say that hasn’t been the case.
Nine starts into his season, Kluber is pitching to the tune of a 6.26 ERA, a 1.536 WHIP, and a 74 ERA+. Folks, that’s bad. And get this, his FIP is 6.59! He’s actually lucky to have that ERA of 6.26! Sure those stats look bad, but let’s check under the hood and see if the Statcast tells a different story - OH DEAR GOD.
For those unaware of how Statcast percentile rankings work, it essentially boils down to blue=bad and red=good. Hey, at least his balls are spinning!
Hitters are clearly cranking just about everything Kluber is throwing, but the truly frightening aspect of his game right now is his control. His entire career he has been known to walk very few hitters. Coming into the year, Kluber’s highest-ever BB9 in a full season was 2.4, which ends up still being a bit of an outlier from his career BB9 of 2.0. This year? 3.9. That is ABYSMAL. To put it in even simpler numbers, in Kluber’s wildest season he walked 57 batters in 215 innings. This year he’s walked 18 batters in 41 innings. It’s bad.
I guess where I’m going with all of this is: what’s the point? What is Corey Kluber doing for the 2023 Boston Red Sox? In my opinion, not much at all. Mr. Kluber has taken the mound nine times this season and the Red Sox have lost six of those games. I would say that exactly two of his starts have been not terrible (4/5 vs PIT and 4/25 @ BAL). In a sport where success three times out of ten is considered good, Kluber is still managing to fail.
People will argue that you can’t just DFA a guy you just gave 10 million dollars too. Why not? It’s a one-year deal (with a club option). It’s a sunk cost. I have seen absolutely nothing from Kluber that suggests he will figure it out this year. I suppose up to this week I understood keeping him around, but Garrett Whitlock coming back on Saturday seals the deal for me. That will make seven (Sale, Paxton, Whitlock, Bello, Houck, Pivetta, Crawford) on the 26-man roster I would start before Kluber.
Of course, all seven of the aforementioned pitchers have some serious injury concerns, so maybe Kluber can just sit in the bullpen until they need him for a spot start. But to that I would ask: why bother? Bullpens are critically important in today’s game, and wasting a spot on Kluber is almost useless. Him needing to come into a close game would be a disaster. I would much rather that spot go to an actual reliever. The odds that a random starter from AAA gives you something better than a 6.26 ERA for one game really aren’t that bad.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is: Corey Kluber, it’s time to be a family man.