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Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are almost the same pitcher

A look at the numbers reveals how amazingly similar the two Indians aces are this season.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kluber has been generally awesome this season. Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about the decent shot he has at a Cy Young. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last month and a half or so. He’s having a great season. The Cleveland Indians are blessed to have him. What nobody seems to be talking about, though, is that the Indians have two Corey Klubers. By many measures, Carlos Carrasco is as mirror image to Kluber as you can get.

This is not to say Carrasco is being ignored. It’s hard to ignore that repertoire, or 11 strikeouts in his most recent outing against the Miami Marlins. But he’s been relatively under the radar compared to the rest of the rotation. Danny Salazar was the All-Star, Josh Tomlin utterly collapsed, Bauer is inherently fascinating. The injury didn’t help either, he hasn’t even thrown 140 innings this year. But for most of those 140 innings, he’s been every bit as good as the Klubot.

Look at their more traditional stats and true outcome rates:

Corey Kluber 3.09 3.17 26.0 6.3 3.49
Carlos Carrasco 3.06 3.64 26.1 5.9 3.35

When you look at it like that, it’s actually bizarre how close they are. Kluber does have the lead in FIP, but that flips back in Carrasco’s favor with Skills Interactive ERA. That’s because of batted ball management. Carrasco forces 49.6 percent of batted balls into the ground, compared to Kluber’s 46.4 percent, and SIERA likes that more. Other than that, it’s tenths of percentages between them. Like, a few batters’ worth.

They’re taking relatively different routes to incredibly similar outcomes

It’s crazy to think that they go about it in such different ways but get such similar outcomes. They’re not really mirror images of each other. Carrasco has a wider set of pitches he uses to get similar results, but even the plate discipline numbers are very similar. Check it out:

Swing% Z-Swing% Contact% Z-Contact% O-Contact% SwingingStrike%
Kluber 48.3 65.7 75.1 86.9 54.4 12.3
Carrasco 49.1 66.8 74.4 86.5 59.3 12.2

For reference, Z means in the zone, O means out of the zone.

They do approach batters very similarly, though. They both have sinking fastballs that run towards righties, and Kluber’s curve/slider does much the same thing as Carrasco’s slider, just better. Kluber does have that nasty cutter, he just doesn’t throw it nearly enough.

The biggest difference between the two is batters' contact rate on pitches outside of the zone. I figure this is because of Kluber's incredibly nasty curve, which Carrasco doesn't have an equal for. Carrasco has a lot of very good pitches, Kluber has two savage pitches. That higher outside contact also leads to the higher ground ball rate for Carrasco, which can turn into outs much easier than line drives. So two different routes, very similar outcomes.

How did the Indians wind up with two great pitchers that are so similar to each other?

As for how the Indians were able to luck out like this, there are two possibilities. First, they identified something in both these pitchers when they were young, acquired them in various deals, and through patience and coaching they were molded into two of the best pitchers in the American League. That’s one possibility.

The other is one I’ve posited for ages in regards to Kluber, and perhaps they pulled it off with Carrasco, as well. As we all joke, Kluber is in fact a robot, that is why he can dominate so much. Kind of like that episode of The Twilight Zone "The Mighty Casey". His name is even similar. Basically, the Indians picked up a stunningly average pitcher and replaced him with machinery, either in a Robocop or synth sort of thing. What if they did it with Carrasco? He was once borderline crazy, throwing at batters and losing his mind from time to time. It got him suspended. Then he suspiciously got injured, and came back a much calmer, more settled pitcher. Mechanically more sound and dominant. What happened? Did he just mature? Or something more dystopian? Something to think about. Or the ramblings of a man delving into madness. Your choice.

The Indians have a pair of amazing pitchers that do amazingly similar things. This is a good thing because they’re both great. But maybe, if you want to overthink it just a bit, it’s a bad thing because in a playoff series the opponent would see the same thing twice. It would be two episodes of domination, so that may mitigate any comfort level. But it’s a non issue except for those of us who melt into puddles of anxiety at the drop of a hat. The important thing is their greatness, and that is unassailable.