Over the next couple week Let's Go Tribe readers will be voting in a number of categories to determine some of the biggest moments and performances of the season for the Indians. Our winners will then have a chance at being nominated for league-wide SB Nation awards later this month.
Today we look at the very best pitching performances of the season. Don't forget to vote for your favorite in the poll below.
The Indians did some things better than others in 2014. One of the things they did very well was get excellent performances from their starting pitchers. There is no single metric that can determine the pecking order of all starts, but game score is a reasonable proximity to such a thing. (Game score factors in innings pitched, runs and base runners allowed, and strikeouts). Each of the five nominees here had a game score of at least 88. There were only 36 such performances around all of MLB, for an average of 1.2 per team, which means the Tribe had more than four times their share. No other MLB team had five such games, and I would argue no other team has such an impressive list of nominees in this category.
Whatever you find to be the least impressive of these five performances, I think was still more impressive than the best performance on a dozen or so teams.
Alright, without further ado, here are the nominees, presented in chronological order:
Corey Kluber vs. Kansas City (April 24)
Kluber's first four starts of the season included a pair of decent ones, but nothing great, and through that point in the season he was sporting a 5.40 ERA. On this day Kluber retired the first seven hitters he faced, recorded at least one strikeout in all nine innings, went the distance, and allowed only an unearned run caused by a terrible play at first base from Nick Swisher.
9 IP, 1 R (unearned), 11 K, 0 BB, 4 H (all singles), game score: 88
Josh Tomlin @ Seattle (June 28)
Josh Tomlin didn't have a good season, but on this date he pitched a game few in MLB history have matched. He retired the first 12 batters he faced before giving up a leadoff single in the 5th inning, he then retired the next 15 batters in a row, 8 of them by strikeout (to go with 3 Ks from earlier in the game). It was the first 1-hitter by an Indians pitcher since Billy Traber in 2003, and was only the third time in franchise history a pitcher has reached double-digit strikeouts while allowing no more than one base runner.
9 IP, 0 R, 11 K, 0 BB, 1 H (a single), game score: 96
Corey Kluber @ Kansas City (July 24)
Both Kluber and the Royals must have felt some pretty strong deja vu during this one, as three months to the day after Kluber worked 9 innings against them while allowing only an unearned run, he did it again. This time the run scored on the infamous Ryan Raburn play. Kluber had a perfect game going into the 7th inning of this one, but took a no-decision in a game the Tribe eventually lost in the 14th inning.
9 IP, 1 R (unearned), 10 K, 0 BB, 2 H, game score: 91
Corey Kluber vs. Seattle (July 30)
In his very next start after the one just above, Kluber did something no Indians pitcher had done since Cliff Lee in 2009, he pitched a Maddux. Only three batters reached base all game, and two of them were immediately erased by a double play. Kluber retired the final 13 batters he faced, with only one of them hitting the ball out of the infield. He needed just 85 pitches to complete the game, the fewest by any MLB pitcher in more than two years.
9 IP, 0 R, 8 K, 0 BB, 3 H (all singles), 85 pitches, game score: 89
Carlos Carrasco @ Houston (September 17)
The Indians had waited more than five years for a Maddux before Kluber threw his, but this time the wait was much shorter. (Click here for more on all eight Tribe Madduxes) Carrasco was masterful, allowing only a pair of infield hits while striking out a career high 12 batters with maximum efficiency, tying the record for most strikeouts in a Maddux in the process. This also made the Indians the first American League team since the 2006 Mariners to have two different pitchers throw a Maddux in the same year. (that team had 20-year-old Felix Hernandez and 43-year-old Jamie Moyer do it, which is pretty great)
9 IP, 0 R, 12 K, 1 BB, 2 H (both singles), 98 pitches, game score: 94
Kluber was the best pitcher on the team (and the best pitcher in the league) this season, and he pitched six or seven of the team's top ten games. I think the two best belong to to Tomlin and Carrasco though. In fact, I think Tomlin and Carrasco's games were the two best thrown in the American League all season. There can be only one winner here though, and much as it pains me to choose something other than a Maddux, I've got to side with Tomlin.
How about you???