There are things in life that are unavoidable: death, taxes, and Corey Kluber’s beginning of the year struggles.
From 2014 to 2016, Kluber has begun the season with an average ERA of 4.21. Even this year, Kluber has a 5.25 era over two starts allowing 7 earned runs in just 12 innings.
So what are the causes for Kluber’s early season struggles?
Well to find out, we have to look more under the hood. When looking at his stats from 2014 to 2016, the statistic that jumps out the most is his left on base percentage (LOB%). In March and April, it has been much lower than his career mark of 73.5%, which is around average. Kluber has a 63.6% in March and April, which falls into the poor starter range. This means about 10% more of the batters he allows on base come around to score! Averaging this out, it means that Kluber allows an extra run compared to his career mark approximately every other game and sometimes more.
Generally looking at his other stats, nothing indicates major problems. His FIP and XFIP show bad luck, with BABIP to match and his HR/FB rate is actually below his career average. With little statistical evidence to explain Kluber’s struggles, I’ve begun to think that they may have less to do with how Kluber is pitching and more with how he is thinking.
My idea is that at the beginning of the year, it takes Kluber the first few months to become mentally ready for the season. Once he’s locked in, there’s no going back. Whatever the reason, you can count on Kluber being back to his old self by the end of the month.