Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger embraces use science in baseball

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger has embraced the use of science in baseball.

CLEVELAND -- Mike Clevinger has developed a bond with fellow Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, and it has gone far beyond the diamond, as the young right-hander has taken some cues from the 17-game winner a season ago.

Like Bauer, Clevinger has found comfort in using science to improve his game, and feels it will make him a stronger starter in 2018.

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“I’m super science-based,” Clevinger told WKYC.com at TribeFest. “I want the facts. I don’t want you to give me your best guess of ‘That’s probably going to be the best way you can throw.’ No, now, we have science to show, ‘You’re using your body inefficiently now. This is how you need to do it.’ That actual evidence, that breeds confidence. It’s not like, ‘I think this is right. Well no, I know it’s right now.’”

Part of the science study includes the use of weighted baseballs, but it has a far different result than just increasing velocity.

“It’s easy to look it at from the velocity gained,” Clevinger said. “That’s not necessarily why we do it. The main thing with the weighted balls that’s changed my life is not feeling sore and just being able to maintain how you feel every day.

“Since I started throwing weighted balls, there wasn’t a day you wake up and you’re like, ‘I don’t know if my arm’s connected.’ You don’t have those days anymore, and it’s really due to the weighted balls and the training and strengthening those little muscles in your arm.”

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger (52) delivers to the plate against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Camelback Ranch.
Joe Camporeale

Clevinger finished his first full season with the Indians with a 12-6 record and 3.11 earned run average. Over 121.2 innings of work in 27 games, including 21 starts, Clevinger struck out 137 batters against 60 walks and allowed only 92 base hits.

“I’m always in Bauer’s ear,” Clevinger said. “Kluber’s more of an introvert, so I’m not always in his ear. I’m more of a spectator just watching him, watching him go about his work. It’s really crazy to see. Kluber’s so methodical about everything he does, and that’s what it takes to take that extra step.

“Whether it’s the way you walk, the way you breathe, I found that out after my rookie year and going through this. Bauer has all the sabermetrics with all of the spin and how your body’s moving. It’s a great combination of minds around here.”

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Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger (52) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Camelback Ranch.
Joe Camporeale

Clevinger learned this through experience over the last two years, and ended the 2017 season with plenty of confidence after posting a 5-1 record with a sterling 0.99 ERA for a team that won its second straight American League Central Division Championship and posted an AL-record 22-game winning streak.

And Clevinger is ready to apply lessons learned in 2017 to 2018, a season that brings high hopes once again for the Indians.

“I think a lot of it has to do with experience,” Clevinger said. “I think I’ve always been able to pitch kind of well.

“It’s just getting comfortable and being myself in a big-league atmosphere, a big-league clubhouse, knowing where you fit in, where you go, stuff like that, and I think it’s sometimes a longer process for certain guys. I felt like it took me a year to break into myself and doing me.”