I’m not here to take anything away from Corey Kluber.
The Cleveland Indians ace won himself his second Cy Young award last night, and it was beyond well-deserved. He became the first pitcher in franchise history receive to this award twice, truly an honor worth celebrating.
At the same time, it’s quite astounding how much the Cy Young voting also shines a light on the Indians’ 2017 season as a whole. Ironically, the end results point out some of the best highlights of Cleveland’s year, but also only add to the frustration of how it all ended.
Allow me to explain.
Kluber won his second Cy Young in landslide fashion, collecting all but two of the 30 votes. His 2017 stats were so good, they force you to wonder what it was which kept him from winning unanimously.
After returning from an early-season back injury, Kluber finished the year on a tear, going 15-2 in 23 starts. He was second in the AL in strikeouts, notching 265 in 203 2/3 innings. Kluber was also named the American League pitcher of the month in June, August and September.
Clearly, said dominance was one of the bright spots of the Indians’ 2017 season.
Of course, Kluber winning his second Cy Young so convincingly comes with lingering aggravation. This is mainly due to the fact the pitcher who notched the above accomplishments didn’t seem to make the trip to the postseason.
Kluber was a shell of himself in the ALDS, getting spanked by the New York Yankees in Games 2 and 5. He struggled locating his key pitches, and the opposing hitters feasted on the mistakes. His final postseason stat-line – 0-1 with a 12.73 ERA – still elicits nightmares from Tribe fans.
So, as exciting as it is to see Kluber awarded for his regular season success, the question as to what happened in the playoffs remains. Had he been even half the pitcher we saw over the summer, perhaps Cleveland isn’t sent packing in the first round.
Of course, this isn’t just in reference of Kluber. In fact, he wasn’t the only Indians pitcher to place highly in Cy Young standings.
Turns out, Carlos Carrasco – the team’s No. 2 starter – finished fourth in the voting. This, too, was well-earned, as 2017 was his best season in the bigs. Carrasco’s 3.29 ERA was his lowest ever, and he finished with career highs in strikeouts (226) and wins (18).
As with Kluber, though, the accolades for Carrasco’s success are also a pain point for Indians fans.
In five ALDS games, the pitcher who finished fourth in Cy Young voting only made one appearance. In said start, Carrasco dominated, going 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts and no earned runs.
Why wasn’t there a concerted effort to get him on the mound more than once in the playoffs? Why, instead, did the Indians pitch Trevor Bauer twice on short rest? Carrasco was seen by voters as the fourth-best pitcher in the American League this year, yet all he had to his name was a shade under six postseason innings.
As you can see, there’s just as much reason to feel frustration from the Cy Young voting as there is to feel pride. Both Kluber and Carrasco earned their respective results thanks to two dominant seasons. Yet, how each finished in the standings only adds to the lingering feeling of “what if.”
What if Kluber had pitched better in the postseason? What if Carrasco had pitched more? Heck, what if Kluber’s issues were health-related, and the Indians decided against giving Carrasco a second start regardless?
Again, all due congrats to each pitcher for a successful 2017. However, just like the Indians’ year in general, the praise they received for their dominant regular season only adds to more stress about how it all ended.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook