The righty was a relatively late bloomer during his big-league career, debuting with Cleveland in 2011, four years after being drafted in the fourth round by the San Diego Padres and one year after he was traded east.
Kluber appeared in just three games out of Cleveland’s bullpen in 2011 and struggled over 12 starts in 2012, before going 11-5 with a solid 3.85 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 2013. Kluber’s breakout came in 2014 and he established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball over the next half decade.
The Stetson University product tied for the AL lead in wins (18) that year while posting a 2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and career-high 269 strikeouts that season to win his first Cy Young honor. Due to a combination of low run support, bullpen woes and other issues, Kluber led the junior circuit in losses (16) in 2015, despite also tying for the MLB lead with four complete games and recording an elite 1.05 WHIP.
He earned the first of three straight All-Star nods in 2016, going 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.05 WHIP and was a crucial part of getting Cleveland their first pennant in 19 years. The team ultimately lost to the Chicago Cubs in a seven-game classic, despite Kluber going 2-0 in the World Series.
The 2017 campaign was arguably Kluber’s best one. He picked up his second AL Cy Young award and led MLB in ERA (career-best 2.25) and WHIP (0.86) among other categories while tying for the league-best mark in wins (18), complete games (career-high five) and shutouts (career-high three).
Kluber’s last fully healthy and effective season was in 2018, when he won a career-high 20 games, marking the fourth time in five years he collected at least 18 victories. That season was also his fifth straight with a sub-3.50 ERA, at least 29 starts, two complete games, more than 200 innings pitched, at least 222 strikeouts and a WHIP under 1.10.
Kluber’s half-decade stretch from his age 28-32 campaigns briefly put him in an interesting discussion regarding possible future Hall of Fame enshrinement, before injuries and inconsistencies took over.
Rather than focusing on the final seasons of his career, baseball fans should think of “Klubot’s” dominance with Cleveland from 2014-18 when reflecting on his retirement.