CLEVELAND — It is no secret that one of the Cleveland Indians’ greatest strengths is its starting pitching, as they are five deep with double-digit winners from the 2018 season.
For starter Mike Clevinger and his teammates, including Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber, the Indians’ pitchers take great pride in setting the tone for a game by limiting opposing hitters to low batting averages and high strikeout totals.
“I think we all take pride in being the best rotation, WAR-wise, in the history the past couple years, and I think, each year, we step it up a little bit,” Clevinger said. “Now, we’re adding this fifth piece into the mix, and I think Biebs has the same potential as any of us to go 200-200, so I think it’s going to be a pretty crazy year for the starting rotation.”
The Indians were the first team in MLB history to have four pitchers, Kluber, Carrasco, Clevinger and Bauer, register 200 or more strikeouts in the same season. Three of their five starters, Kluber, Carrasco and Clevinger, pitched 200 innings, and Bauer would have reached that same plateau had he not been forced out of the lineup for five weeks because of a stress fracture in his right leg.
“It’s exciting,” Bieber said. “I think the sky’s the limit, not just the starting staff, but the team.
“With the starting staff in particular and what they did last year, and what we did last year, I wasn’t up the whole year, but to have four guys go 200 and 200 is pretty incredible, and hopefully, this year, we can make it a fifth and really start building off of that.”
While the Indians’ starters had similar numbers in 2018, they all go about their business in vastly different manners.
Admittedly, Carrasco focuses on anything but baseball until he walks out onto the field to warm up for a start, while Kluber earned the nickname “Klubot” because of his expression-less style no matter how well the games are going.
Clevinger was nicknamed “Sunshine” for his carefree spirit and a similar likeness to Ronnie Bass from the “Remember The Titans” movie, and Bauer is analytical in his approach to improving mechanics and maximizing results.
“It actually plays well that all of us are individuals,” Clevinger said. “All of us are very different, and all of us can feed off of different parts of each other’s game, so I think that actually plays to our advantage that we’re not alike.”
Although the Indians’ starters have had plenty of regular-season success in each of the last two years, the playoffs have been a different story, as they have struggled to keep the New York Yankees and Houston Astros offenses at bay during the 2017 and 2018 American League Division Series, respectively.
However, Clevinger is confident the pitchers could get back to the same level of postseason success that carried the team to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
“Baseball’s baseball,” Clevinger said. “I think a lot of cards have to fall your way. No matter what names you have on your roster, no matter what team you are, a lot of things have to go your way for you to get that far.
“In 2016, the cards kind of aligned for us. We had that mojo, and we were just rolling. The last two years were pretty disappointing the way we ended it, but again, the cards could fall our way this go-around, and it could be a whole different story.”