FanPost

Constructing a Hall of Fame career for Corey Kluber

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, the conversation on yesterday's game thread got me thinking and now I'm on a mission. Kluber's constructed an all-time Indians great career so far, and nobody here will forget him. But how far will Klubot need to go before creating a Hall of Fame career. That is my mission today: I'm going to construct a Hall of Fame career for Corey Kluber.

Klubot So Far

Corey Kluber took awhile to establish himself in the Majors. Although he debuted young (25 in 2011), he did not pitch anything near a full season until he turned 27 in 2013. In 167 IP he was roughly a league average starter, with an ERA+ of 99. It started off his run, and the next season he won the Cy Young. Overall, including 2017, Kluber's only pitched 7 Major League seasons. Judging by JAWS it's been a decent 7 seasons, but nowhere near a Hall of Fame caliber WAR7 peak:

Average Hall of Fame starter

Career 73.9, Peak 50.3, Index 62.1

Corey Kluber

Career 23.6, Peak, 23.6, Index 23.6

At age 30 Kluber's off to a slow start. His best two seasons thus far are 2014 & 2016. In 2014 he logged 7.4 WAR and 6.4 WAR in 2016. He'll probably exceed his 2016 total this year, but not quite hit 2014. If something happens to Sale, he may win his second Cy Young Award. He's been a strikeout machine among the fastest to reach 1,000 strikeouts.

The Comparable

I think for Kluber to have a fighting chance he'll need to continue this extraordinary peak. The pitcher I think he will need to emulate is Roy Halladay. Halladay started sooner than Corey, but his Hall of Fame cases rests on an amazing peak.

Roy Halalday

Career 64.7, Peak 50.7, Index 57.6

Overall Halladay logged six seasons roughly equivalent or exceeding Kluber's three seasons. His three peak seasons are his near Cy Young miss in 2011, and his two Cy Young campaigns (2010 and 2003). Halladay's first big year, 2002, matches Kluber's Cy Young campaign (7.4), and he logged three seasons equivalent near Kluber's 2016 to round out his peak. He logged one more 5 WAR campaign, and four seasons hitting 2 WAR.

While Halladay's career arguably falls somewhat short on the career total front, his peak falls directly in line with what you would expect from a Hall of Fame starter. In the modern era, Halladay has been arguably the second best starter behind Clayton Kershaw and I expect he'll gain eventual induction.

What it Will Take

I am assuming Kluber will finish this season around his 2014 total, which puts it at 7.4 WAR. Adding the 2.8 WAR to his current total puts Kluber at 26.4 WAR thus far. His yearly WAR totals being:

-0.1
-0.5
1.4
7.4
4.2
6.4
7.4

Kluber will then need to effectively replicate 2017 three more times. Preferably he would repeat it with a few seasons exceeding 2017. I will use Halladay's 2011 as a template, pitching 233.2 striking out 220, with an ERA+ of 163 totaling 8.9 WAR. I will then give him another 2016 season, with a WAR 6.4. With two seasons matching Halladay's 2011 following 2017, and another terrific (non-Cy Young) season his rolling total becomes:

-0.1
-0.5
1.4
7.4
4.2
6.4
7.4
8.9
6.4
8.9
50.6

Kluber's peak total will then be 46.8. By then Kluber will be 34, and he will need one more good year, something comparable to Cliff Lee's 2009 Cy Young follow up, to round out his peak WAR7 score. In 2011 Lee logged 5.4 WAR, pitching 220 IP, with excellent control. The 5.4 WAR replaces one of his weaker seasons, giving him 50.8 WAR for a peak score. After this year Kluber will need to continue pitching reasonably well (something near Sabathia's 2016) until he's 38-39 before he retires. Projecting this gives Kluber:

-0.1
-0.5
1.4
7.4
4.2
6.4
7.4
8.9
6.4
8.9
5.4
3.0
3.0
2.0
2.0
0.5
66.4

It's a tall order for Kluber to accomplish, but it has been done before.

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