The very best of the Cleveland Indians showed up on Friday and Saturday in Chicago when Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco combined to shut the Chicago White Sox out for 17 innings. Before Zach McAllister finished the job for Carrasco, the two starters allowed six hits while recording 17 strikeouts. The offense was similarly excellent, but the two pitchers led the charge, as they must and as they're expected to.
Carrasco and Kluber have very similar methods of attack and pitch selection, but they do attack in a somewhat different way. Their pitch selection from last year, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, looks something like this:
Kluber and Carrasco’s 2016 Pitch Usage
Off-hand it looks like Carrasco leans harder on the fastball, or did last year. These numbers bore out over the weekend, Carrasco flashing 47 fastballs among his 108 pitches along with 15 sinkers and a mix of breakers that leaned on the slider. Kluber split between his four-seam and sinker at 22 to 30. He also threw 28 sliders (really his curve, but whatever, Brooks) and 21 cutters. Baseball is trends, and people stick to trends. These guys certainly did.
They also worked the zone differently. Our friends at Brooks also collected this PitchFX data of where they threw the ball. Here's Kluber's:
And just for fun, or else to paint a clearer picture, here's the two of them in a single GIF:
Where Kluber worked left and right, Carrasco busted the White Sox hitters at the top and bottom. This makes sense, the four-seam fastball is able to be more effective up in the zone, while the sinker needs depth to begin with to start its work of creating ground balls. Carrasco’s curve is also more a traditional 12-6, and the change needs to be low, so a vertical plane is better. Kluber’s sweeping curve and cutter work more horizontally to get guys reaching.
And yet, despite these disparate attack patterns, in nine innings Kluber caused nine groundouts to three fly outs, Carrasco forced eight ground-ball outs against two fly ball outs. Each recorded a strikeout an inning. Also, Carrasco got gifted a few strikes on the lower left-hand corner. Not his fault, but for a team like the Sox that is rather bad offensively against an excellent pitcher, that’s just killer.
My biggest takeaway from watching and going back for another look is simply that the White Sox aren’t very good. This was supposed to happen. Perhaps not this dominating, but close enough. If anything Carrasco was a bit more lucky — he left more up and in the middle of the zone, and that’s where his hits happened. One of the three Kluber allowed was way down, and got scooped right out. That was Melky Cabrera’s single off the base of the wall that saw him gunned down at second when he hesitated in the basepaths. So really, they were both lucky, just in different ways. They killed the White Sox as so many will throughout the season. It’s neat to see two different pathways, even if they are similar on the surface.