New York Yankees: Breaking down Corey Kluber’s first start of 2021

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber
Feb 18, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) works out for the first day of pitchers and catchers spring training work out at the Player Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kluber made his first start for the New York Yankees on Saturday, helping the team to victory despite just a so-so outing. Although he wasn’t given the win, Kluber’s solid four innings put the team in a position to win their first game of the new campaign.

Kluber allowed five hits in his start, however, most of them weren’t hit very hard. The first two batters of the game reached on an infield single and a jam shot to left, putting Kluber in an early pickle. From there, he successfully worked out of trouble to end his first Yankee inning with a zero on the scoreboard.

Inning No. 2 was relatively clean for Kluber, although he hit Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a pitch that began his control issues. He’d walk back-to-back batters in the third inning and at one point, had thrown 10 of 12 pitches outside the strike zone. A wild pitch, a stolen base, and a throwing error allowed a run to score despite not allowing any hits in the inning.

Kluber once again worked into and out of trouble in the fourth inning, loading the bases with two outs after a pair of hits and a walk. He miraculously escaped unscaved, and entered the fifth inning at 70 pitches and on a short leash. He lasted just four pitches into the fifth, as a hung sinker to Marcus Semien found the left field seats. Kluber left with the lead, but Jonathan Loaisiga took the win due to Kluber not making it five innings.

We saw a lot of good things out of Kluber on Saturday, including five strikeouts. However, his control needs some work. Kluber’s lack of control gave the Blue Jays several scoring opportunities on Saturday, but fortunately for the Yankees, they were unable to take advantage of them. His FIP for the game was a 7.33, well above leave average of around 4.00.

Also, as expected, Kluber’s fastball topped off around 90 mph. Just three years ago, Kluber could hit up to 96 mph on the radar gun, but has now lost nearly 5 mph due to general regression and extended time on the IL. Some of his pitching issues could be the result of adjusting to a slower fastball, as 5 mph makes a significant difference of how batters see the ball. Pitchers must learn how to adapt to slower velocity with increased movement on pitches, something Kluber is currently dealing with.

All in all, Kluber’s first start for the Yankees was encouraging. If he can get the control issues figured out, Kluber should succeed in New York.