Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber has been in control on the mound all season, but he was at his most composed when he wasn't even pitching.
Kluber was interviewed from the dugout on May 20 following a strong start against the Detroit Tigers the previous night.
His teammates thought they would have some fun and shower the right-hander with sunflower seeds and water, but Kluber kept a straight face and answered every question without looking at the source of his torment. He smirked when someone draped a yellow hooded raincoat over him, but finished the interview even as rosin powder began to cover his sweatshirt sleeve and cloud the air around him.
What a trooper.
Kluber really has been under fire all season -- he has a .350 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) -- but he's been one of the top pitchers in baseball, second-best if you go by fielding-independent metrics, for Drew Carey's favorite ballclub.
Kluber's fielding-independent pitching (FIP), which measures a pitcher's performance by strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed, ranks second in the majors at 2.23.
Kluber's 27 percent strikeout rate sits seventh, right below stars Masahiro Tanaka, Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, and he has the 11th-highest K/BB among qualified pitchers (4.88).
The 28-year-old's 34.9 percent chase rate, 75 percent contact rate and 11.8 percent swing-and-miss rate all rank ninth in the majors in their respective categories.
But his 3.10 ERA, while still very good, is only 31st-best in baseball and his 1.27 WHIP ranks 61st, so Kluber isn't getting recognition as the dominant ace he's been.
He has the fifth-highest BABIP in the game to blame.
Kluber's line-drive rate is 21.2 percent, his ground-ball rate is 45.8 percent and his infield fly-ball rate is 17.9 percent, so it's taken some terrible luck to post a BABIP so much higher than the league average of .294.
Cleveland's defense has the second-worst Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in baseball, so Kluber's BABIP may not regress entirely to the league average, but it still should come down from .350. Bud Norris had the highest BABIP last season and his was .333.
Kluber's numbers are on the SP2/3 level, so this isn't a buy-low situation, but he can probably be had for less than his expected future value, which is closer to SP1/2.
Kluber's teammates better come up with some new gags, because he's going to be getting interviewed about his dominant outings often over the next four months and it's going to take more than a few sunflower seeds to rattle him.