Mike Clevinger is, and has been for the extent of his short career, a truly excellent pitcher. Each year he’s gotten better, each season added a new wrinkle, whether velocity or a better pitch or new shoes, that help him dominate the competition. That alone should be enough.
There’s so much more to it, though. He happens to be on a team with one of the richest pitching histories in baseball, from Bob Feller to Luis Tiant to Sam McDowell, and in this century from Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia to the murderer’s row they put together the last few years. Even in that context, the way Clevinger has started is near-unprecedented. Since the game was integrated, only one pitcher stands above Mike Clevinger: Herb Score.
This is august company to be in for someone like Clevinger. Unlike Score, he wasn’t particularly heralded coming to Cleveland. Nobody ever felt like calling him the right-handed Bob Feller. That’s what Score had going for him. And in his first four years he was frightful. Over 553.1 innings Score logged a 149 ERA+, struck out 25.4% of batters faced in an era where the league average was just over 10%, and looked every bit the Second Coming of Rapid Robert.