Q&A: Corey Kluber’s Repertoire, A Brief History

Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber entered the 2013 season as a 27-year-old with fewer than 70 major-league innings. He’s departing it, however, having established himself as one of the club’s — and perhaps the league’s — most effective starters, having recorded strikeout and walk rates of 23.3% and 5.2%, respectively, and a 74 xFIP- that’s fifth among pitchers with 100-plus innings.

Nor does Kluber’s success appear to be founded upon deception alone. His two-seam fastball sits at 93-95 mph. He has command of a cutter, which he throws around 90 mph, to either side of the plate. His slider has excellent two-plane break.

In summary, Kluber’s career arc is an unusual one: he’s in what’s typically a player’s peak-age season, entered that season with little in the way of major-league experience, is having great success in the majors presently, and appears to have the armspeed/command capable of sustaining that success.

While the understated right-hander isn’t inclined to meditate at length on the significance of his achievement (“That’s external to what I’m trying to focus on,” he says), he did consent — while rehabbing from a sprained middle finger — to provide briefly for the present author a biography of sorts for each of his four pitches, which appears below.


Two-Seam Fastball
Carson Cistulli: I think the pitch that you throw most often is a two-seam fastball, yes?

Corey Kluber: Mm-hm.

CC: When does that pitch go back to? How long have you had that?

CK: I only started throwing the two-seam maybe, like, after the All-Star Break of last year. I’d always been mostly four-seam fastballs, but me and my pitching coach last year in Triple-A, we were just working on a way to get the ball down a little more. One thing I was struggling with — I was throwing fastballs for strikes, but they were too hittable, and that was the idea we went with. Whether I was getting a little more sink on it, or it was just helping me get on top of the ball a little more, I just ran with it.

CC: So it was that recent, though? Within the last year, basically?

CK: Mm-hm.

CC: That pitch I’ve noticed you use not necessarily only just as a strike-one pitch. You go to the front hip a lot on left-handed batters; you go back-door against right-handers, too. Has that been something you’ve worked on, or did you do that right away?

CK: No, as I started throwing it, I got more comfortable with it. When I go to my glove-side with it, I get that little bit of extra — I hang onto it a little longer, and it gets that little extra run-back sometimes.

Cut Fastball
CC: You throw another pitch, which — I hear on the Indians broadcast, I hear Rick Manning refer to it as a cutter. You throw it in the 90s, it’s got pretty good velocity, but it’s also got pretty good break. Do you call that pitch a cutter?

CK: Yeah.

CC: Okay. And how long have you had that cutter, and where’d you start throwing that one?

CK: That was probably about — I’d say I’ve thrown it for about two years now. That was another one we worked on. Not last season, but the season before, that’s another one I worked on adding.

CC: What do you view as the instances in which you use that? Because that’s also one of your — that’s a pitch with which you throw a lot of strikes.

CK: I’ll throw that whenever. I don’t have a certain situation where I will or won’t. It all depends on how I feel a hitter’s set up, but I’ll throw it first pitch, I’ll throw it full count. Doesn’t really matter.

CC: And so that’s a second pitch that you’ve developed pretty recently?

CK: Mm-hm.

Breaking Ball / Changeup
CC: A third pitch you throw is a slider?

CK: Mm-hm. A slider, a curveball. I call it a breaking ball. Whichever you want.

CC: Now, that’s a pitch — a lot of times, right-handers, whether it’s a slider or a curveball, a pitch with as much horizontal movement as you have on it, that’s a pitch that generally you’re going to see a right-hander throw a lot to a right-handed batter and not as much to a left-handed batter. I think, though — just looking at some information about you — you have pretty even rates, actually. You seem to feel pretty comfortable throwing that pitch to a left-handed batter, especially going back-foot on him.

CK: Yeah. For me, as long as I can make it look like a fastball coming out of my hand — if I can get it to come out on that same plane, I don’t think I necessarily need it to be more to righties than lefties. I think it can have the same effect on a lefty if it looks like a fastball.

CC: And where did you pick that pitch up?

CK: Well, my breaking ball and changeup I’ve been throwing the same way since college. I might change a little thing here or there, but for the most part [they’re the same].

CC: So that breaking ball you’ve had, and the changeup — which has also been rather effective — this is a pitch you’ve also thrown since Stetson [University]?

CK: Mm-hm.

CC: And that’s also basically unaltered since you’ve left college?

CK: Yeah.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Highball Wilsonmember
10 years ago

Great stuff here. Just goes to show how with a few tweaks a pitcher can become far more effective.

10 years ago


Great that he’s coming back. Bummer for the Indians he’s replacing Masterson who is missing at least one and probably more starts.