The Cleveland Indians have one of, if not, the best starting pitching rotation in Major League Baseball and Mike Clevinger has become a force at the backend of it.
One of the main reasons for Clevinger’s rise this season is the command of his pitches. Last season, Clevinger was averaging 4.4 walks per game. The league leader that year was Corey Kluber averaging just above 1 walk per game. This season has been a complete 180 from what we normally see from Clev. This season Clev is averaging 2.9 walks per 9 innings. This is just outside the top 10 in the league, but overall this is a new and improved Clevinger.
A big part that comes from his command is his innings pitched. Last season, Clevinger threw a total of 121.2 innings which is fine, but it does not allow him to go deeper into games. Last season in his starts Clevinger was averaging just over 5 innings a start, but this season he is averaging just about 6 innings per start (baseball-reference.com). With his 182.1 innings pitched, he is tied for fifth in the MLB with Gerrit Cole. Going deeper into games this season has made Clevinger become a budding star for this team.
Along with better command on his pitches, Clevinger is striking out more hitters. This stat also stems from Clev being able to go deeper into games. In his 29 starts this season, ‘Clev’ is striking out an average of 9.4 batters per game. Clevinger is 9th in the league in strikeouts this season with 191 K’s. Along with the K’s, Clevinger has given up fewer home runs than he ever has before. He has only given up 19 home runs this season compared to the league leader in home runs given up at 2.2 with Dylan Bundy.
Clevinger has improved his velocity on almost every one of his pitches except for his slider. The right-hander is averaging just above 94 miles per hour (mph) on his fastball, which is a 2 mph jump from last season (fangraphs.com). Again this all stems from his ability to command his pitches better than he ever has before.
Clevinger being able to be this productive for an entire season has been his best “stat.” Throughout his career, the former Angels prospect, has tended to cool down towards the end of the season. Instead of this, Clevinger has been better in the second half of this season. Since the All-star break this year, Clevinger is 4-3 with an incredible ERA of 2.54 (espn.com).
According to baseball-reference.com, Clevinger ranks in the top 10 in 15 of the 27 pitching categories listed. This is incredible for the Indians fourth starter. It shows just how good this rotation it. Clevinger is good enough to be a 2 on almost any other pitching staff in the league or a 3 on any other good playoff contender.
Overall, Clevinger has brought his game to a different level than it has in the past. With the Indians likely going to a four-man rotation for the playoffs, Mike will have the opportunity to either come out of the bullpen in the ALDS or start a potential game four. The 27-year-old Clevinger will be a force to face the rest of this season and for many years to come.