The Cleveland Indians starting rotation, that appeared so dominant on paper to start the season, has been a MASH unit in 2019.
One of those hurlers battling injury this season has been Mike Clevinger. However, there are not many pitchers who have been as dominant as him in the last calendar year. In the last 365 days, the league is batting just .192 against him and his strikeout to walk ratio is 3.61. While wins can be a very overrated stat, Clevinger’s 12 wins in 20 starts are telling. His 2.48 ERA over the last year is dominant, but he is also averaging just south of six innings per start, even with his 11.5 K/9. With the low walks, Clevinger boasts a 1.034 WHIP over the span.
His 2019 numbers compare well to these also. This season, in 10 starts, he has a 3.07 ERA and a 1.060 WHIP. In fact, Clevinger has been consistently around these same numbers for the past three seasons.
Since Clevinger does not have enough innings to qualify in the league leaders categories, he is missing on all. However, if he did, he would rank 10th in WHIP and be tied for second with Gerrit Cole in K/9. His ERA and strikeout to walk would just miss the top 10. What stands out the most for Clevinger is the 5.1 WAR that he posted in 2018. If he tossed as many innings as the pitching leaders in 2019, Clevinger would be at 3.52 right now. That would have the right-hander around 17th in baseball for pitchers.
The interesting thing with Clevinger is the increase in the amount of breaking balls he throws. Two years ago, he was throwing a mix of his curve and slider 30 percent of the time. In 2019, he has increased that to nearly 40 percent. Even more interesting is that opposing hitters are batting just .130 against his slider in 2019. This pitch has gotten even better for Clevinger each year. When he first broke in during the 2016 season, Clevinger’s vertical movement plus gravity was -26.45, according to PITCHf/x. In 2019, it is -38.22. In 2019, Clevinger has a spin rate of 2515 RPM on the offering. This is up from the 2300 range that he was in during the 2017 and ’18 seasons.
Though the shear volume of the pitch has decreased, Clevinger has also increased his whiff rate by four points on his fastball. Some of this is that the righty has added two miles per hour on the offering to an average of 96.34 in 2019. Has fastball has seen a similar spin rate increase as the slider. In 2019, it is at 2370 RPM and was in the 2200 range in the previous two seasons.
While his overall numbers over the past three seasons have Clevinger appearing as Mr. Consistent, the movement and the spin rates show that he is getting even better as a 28-year-old. Part of this is because his numbers have been so good. However, with these increases, expect Clevinger to get even better if he can maintain his health in the upcoming seasons.