“Corey Kluber is the essential concept and the first truth.” – Albert Camus
Some pitchers are known for their devastating curveballs. Others are known for their facial hair, or the industrial size of their metaphysical cajones, or their goofy leg kick, or their bloody socks. And then there is one – i.e. Corey Kluber – who is best known as a mass of cosmic-level greatness contained at such density he will soon collapse into himself and pull along with him the entire sum of skills employed by the 2014 Cleveland Indians.
The existence of Kluber and the always looming Kluber Event impose upon humanity a question, and the question is this: What do you do when your best player supernovas, quintuplicates himself, absorbs every bit of talent shared by the rest of your club into his now five physical bodies, and thus renders the remainder of your roster as useless as a single jelly donut?
The answer, for now, is found in Out of the Park Baseball. OOTP is a must-have baseball simulation game for many reasons; chiefly among them, the hyperrealism that affords any baseball fan with a computer the opportunity to run what feels like an actual baseball organization. Slightly lesser among them is the hypersurrealism that allows that same baseball fan to debase any moral obligation baseball owes to the laws of the universe. They can clone players, and/or play an entire season in which a team’s hitters do nothing but bunt, and/or begin a season by intentionally walking every single batter until the sun expires.
The game can be unbelievably realistic, but only because the game can be almost literally anything the player wants it to be. In this exercise, the game is a window. The Kluber Event, inevitable here in our own reality, has now occurred in this fake one. What follows is a summary of the 2014 Indians’ quest to win a baseball game with a team of five perfect pitchers and their twenty incomprehensibly pathetic teammates.
So here’s the setup:
- Every starting pitcher for the Indians is either the original Corey Kluber or a clone of Corey Kluber, and each Kluber is maxed out in every possible pitching, hitting, and fielding attribute
- The other four members of Cleveland’s original starting rotation have been deleted from the game (In canon, we’ll say The Kluber Event vaporized four human beings, who coincidentally were the four other Indians starters)
- Every relief pitcher and position player for the Indians remains himself, but he is now totally void of any skill whatsoever
- The game is played in Commissioner mode
- There are no injuries
- The 2014 Cleveland Indians will not participate in any in-season roster transactions
- Each Kluber has been disallowed from pitching in relief
We’ve established that the 2014 Cleveland Indians will employ five very, very good Corey Klubers, and that every other player on the Major League roster will be very, very bad.
Regarding the former, let’s take a closer look at just how good. Observe, below, the pitching ratings of each Corey Kluber.
Note that the rating scale ranges from 1 to 250. Also note that each Kluber has within his arsenal a maximally effective version of every possible pitch type. The hitting and fielding skills of the five Coreys are equally impressive.
In contrast, let’s now view the pitching ratings applied to each member of Cleveland’s bullpen.
Quite the contrast, indeed. It can be assumed that each pitcher knows enough to move their arm forward and release the ball at some point, but not much else. The relievers throw exactly one pitch – a fastball, at an average velocity of 75-80 MPH. A stamina rating of 1 ensures that after just one poetically awful attempt at pitching a baseball, each hurler will experience an eternal and especially bothersome case of dead arm syndrome. The bullpen is not, however, entirely without aptitude. Consider that while they are terribly ineffective at being decent pitchers, they are terribly effective at balking, throwing wild pitches, and hitting batters.
The position players are equally as bad. Take, for example, the skill set of Yan Gomes. Before The Kluber Event, Gomes was a promising young catcher freshly removed from hitting .294/.345/.481 as a 25 year old. After the Event, he is a sack of useless meat inexplicably dressed in a baseball uniform. Gomes’ offensive ratings and projected stats based on those ratings are below. The same ratings have been applied to every other position player on the team.
So there it is. The projected stats (in a neutral, modern Major League environment) for Yan Gomes and every other Indians hitter are .044/.059/.044, 0 HR, 390 SO, and 1 BB. These players might as well be camels, or babies, or 3,700 year old bristlecone pine trees.
The defensive ratings of every non-Kluber player follow the same trend. On a scale of 1-250, every available rating is a 1.
It is the middle of the third inning, and Oakland’s Sonny Gray walks back to his dugout having struck out all nine Cleveland hitters on the minimum twenty-seven pitches. Corey Kluber has also been great – 2 IP, 5 K, 0 BB, 1 H – but he hasn’t been good enough to keep at bay the realization that his team will never win another baseball game.
It is at this moment, as Cleveland’s defense takes the field for the bottom of the third, that the truth becomes the capital-T Truth. The Truth is this: No matter how great Kluber may pitch, the opposing pitcher will always outperform him. This is because Kluber will always face Major League hitters while the opposing pitchers throw baseballs at adult human-sized jelly beans.
The bottom of the third inning is the precise moment when the world breaks apart. It begins with four consecutive errors committed by the Indians-uniformed objects taking up space in the field. Oakland scores a run, and the tie that would inevitably be broken is now an impossible 1-0 deficit. With the bases loaded, Kluber tightens his superhero cape and strikes out three consecutive batters.
The rest of the game, strangely, is a normal one. The Athletics score two more runs, but they’re Kluber’s earned runs. While it certainly doesn’t help that a few of the fielders behind Kluber forget to wear gloves and/or how to move their legs, they only commit one more error. Somehow, Lonnie Chisenhall even drives in a run. The final score is 3-1, despite a 154 pitch gem from Kluber.
As great as Kluber’s section of the box is, Cleveland’s error summary swallows it whole.
This, in a tiny little box, is what happens when Corey Kluber explodes and rebuilds his former baseball teammates as theoretical mass.
END OF APRIL
The first month of the 2014 baseball season is over, and world peace has been achieved. The Indians are 0-29, and Earth is more than two weeks in to a phenomenon in which all the world’s bad guys have simply laid down on the ground and waited for their bodies to expire. Nations have dissolved. No one goes hungry. The rich help the poor, and doctors work for free.
Six no-hitters have been thrown so far, and all six of them have come against Cleveland. Nyjer Morgan leads all Cleveland batters with a .189 batting average. As a team, the Indians have walked zero times. They’ve hit zero home runs. The void created by The Kluber Event is a true void in which the existence of any offensive output is a most improbable aberration.
In 1889, the Louisville Colonels lost an MLB record twenty-six consecutive games. That team featured a reserve outfielder named John Galligan who, in 127 plate appearances, hit .167/.213/.200. The same John Galligan, were he to mimic exactly his 1889 performance, would lead the 2014 Cleveland Indians in OPS.
Observe below the team’s batting leaders as of May 1:
The team has one stolen base, which means they’ve stolen infinitely more bases than they’ve hit home runs. Notice, also, the stealer of said base is none other than Corey Kluber.
Now, about Kluber: here is a month of pitching, stylized as a leaderboard, as pitched by a rotation of glorious and powerful mountains:
Corey Kluber sees you, 2012 Cliff Lee. And he feels no sympathy.
Game 57. The date is probably June 1, 2014. Probably. No one really keeps track any more.
The Cleveland Indians won a game.
The answer to the trivia question is the Colorado Rockies. As one would expect, Corey Kluber was brilliant.
Other items of note regarding the win:
- For the first time this season, the Indians committed only one error. The blunder was scored to shortstop Justin Sellers, and was his thirty-fifth such mistake of the season.
- The game’s only run was scored on Cleveland’s only hit. Michael Brantley hit a grounder to third, which somehow turned into an inside-the-park home run despite Brantley’s position (alongside all his other non-Kluber teammates) as the slowest living human being.
- About the previous item, it is worth mentioning that the game’s box score attributed no errors to the Rockies. Curiously, it also attributed no home runs to Michael Brantley.
Game 57, and Cleveland’s winning percentage is now .018. Which is to say that, after game 57, Cleveland’s winning percentage is infinitely greater than it was after game 56.
There is something to be said of hope, which is that even when your best player becomes a malformed mass of empty darkness that sucks into itself every last drop of your team’s talent; even after the team of scientists assigned the task of figuring out the consequences of The Kluber Event simply throw their hands in the air and return home to spend time with their families as they wait for the unknown, hope exists. And it’s validated. Against every odd, the 2014 Cleveland Indians have won a baseball game.
- In win number two, against the Texas Rangers, Corey Kluber struck out twenty-four batters in a perfect game. The Indians struck out twenty-two times in the contest.
- The Indians selected Brady Aiken with the first overall pick in the amateur draft. Just as in the real 2014, Aiken failed to sign with the organization that drafted him. Unlike in the real 2014, however, the reason for this failure had nothing to do with elbows and/or money, and everything to do with the organization’s infinitely more apposite task of dealing with an inter-dimensional catastrophe of measureless proportion.
- The All-Star Game featured zero Corey Klubers. This, despite each Kluber ranking in the league’s top five pitchers by WAR. Below, American League leaderboards for pitcher WAR and pitcher Losses as of the break:
- That is, above, evidence of a player’s accumulation of 11.4 Wins Above Replacement in just fewer than 100 games. The version of Kluber responsible for leading the league in both WAR and Losses had 247 strikeouts in 167.2 innings at the All-Star break. His K/BB ratio, at the time, was 21.56. It is again worth noting that the All-Star Game featured zero Corey Klubers.
- Wins three, four, and five all come by way of perfect games thrown by Kluber. In each game, the pitcher/destroyer of worlds struck out at least sixteen batters.
- In one game, against the Detroit Tigers, shortstop Justin Sellers committed an error on eight consecutive plays. The Tigers beat the Indians by a score of 19-0.
- In another game, against the Seattle Mariners, Lonnie Chisenhall somehow struck out six times in only four plate appearances. The Indians lost that one, 1-0.
The season ends, and the 2014 Cleveland Indians’ quest to win a single game is a success five times over.
The team hit a total of three home runs, each accounted for by Kluber. They stole a total of two bases, also accounted for by Kluber. Their .310 OPS was good for lowest in both leagues. The second lowest was Philadelphia’s .640. Cleveland’s offensive MVP was pretty clearly Lonnie Chisenhall, who finished the year hitting .161/.177/.164, with 0 home runs, 10 RBI, 204 strikeouts, and 0 walks. All good, that, for -10.8 Wins Above Replacement.
Defensively, the Indians committed 388 errors. The team’s Zone Rating was -317.5. For perspective, the American League was +135 ZR without the Indians; with Cleveland, the league was -182.5 ZR. Shortstop Justin Sellers led baseball with 96 errors. Catcher Yan Gomes allowed 55 passed balls, which bested the game’s second worst (Sal Perez) by 39. 632 pitches thrown by Cleveland were scored as Wild Pitches. The second highest Wild Pitch total belonged to Detroit, who had 82. Cleveland’s pitchers balked 60 times, i.e. 54 more than the next highest total.
And then there is Corey Kluber.
In 1913, Walter Johnson recorded the best season ever by a pitcher according to WAR. That year, The Big Train was worth 14.6 Wins Above Replacement.
In 2014, four of the five Corey Klubers exceeded Johnson’s 14.6 mark despite posting a combined W-L total of 5-142.
The average Kluber line was this: 1 W, 28.4 L, 258.2 IP, 2.24 ERA, 356.6 SO, 19 BB, 167.2 ERA+, 15.9 WAR. The average Kluber struck out 18.8 batters for every one walked.
The Indians pitching staff recorded a groundball rate of 87.9%. They threw 83 complete games. The second highest totals in baseball for each metric were 57.1% and 19, respectively
Despite all of these things, Kluber did not win the American League Cy Young Award. That award went, instead, to Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb. Cobb won 20 games and lost 6, struck out 175 batters against 54 walks, and recorded a 3.06 ERA.
And now we get to the part where Brian Kenny, disheveled and unshaved, brings into the MLB Network studio a live pig for slaughter on live television. Kenny, his eyes looking in every direction at once, pulls a permanent marker from his pocket and begins scrawling the word “WIN” all over his porky subject. It is precisely one-and-one-half seconds after Kenny reaches into a duffle bag to reveal a butcher’s knife when three very large studio security guards tackle the unkempt madman to the ground and drag him off camera.
What follows is the last twelve seconds ever to air on MLB Network. The still and obviously drugged pig remains atop a broadcast table in the direct center of the screen. The word “WIN” is written six times on the pig’s camera-facing side, each letter scribbled in a different typeface and height. This pig, idle and unaware, right there in the measured middle of the screen, is dressed in costume as the most desperate wall of an insane asylum. Shadows move into scene from the space just off camera as Kenny, disarmed now, struggles amidst maniacal screams of “KILL THE WIN!” In the very last second before the network succumbs to SMTPE color bars, a graphic appears along the bottom of the screen. The graphic is a simple one – an innocuous blue bar, with thin notes of silver and red along its border, and captioned only by the phrase “#KillTheWin.”