In March of 2015, a writer on Razzball who went by the name “Big Magoo” wrote an article called The Numbers Game: Finding the Next Corey Kluber. This was fresh off Corey Kluber’s 2014 Cy Young season and Big Magoo was determined to find Baseball’s next breakout pitcher. Big Magoo laid out a “Kluber Criteria” which were statistical categories to determine which pitchers had breakout potential. Using Corey Kluber’s 2013 season as the framework, Big Magoo set up the following standards:
|Age||30 or under|
They also provided the league averages in each of these categories in the 2014 season:
Here are the names of the pitchers who made the original cut:
Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Carrasco, Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber (Imagine if Kluber didn’t make his own list?), Masahiro Tanaka, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner, Jacob deGrom, Jeff Samardzija, Garrett Richards, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, Alex Wood, Gerrit Cole, Shane Greene, Alex Cobb
Six years later, we are looking at a list of some of the best pitchers in the entire game over that time and every name on that list has been a decent producer since the piece was written (Jose Fernandez would pitch well in 2015 before requiring Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2016 and was back to ace level before his tragic passing in September of 2016). The author broke the pitchers down into tiers, specifically trying to identify some of the less established pitchers on the list.
Above are the pitchers that were being examined as potential aces in the future. There are three Cy Young award winners on that list and 2015 happened to be the year Jake Arrieta became unhittable for the entire second half before winning the Cy Young. Carlos Carrasco may not have won a Cy Young, but he has been one of the most consistent producers on that list (aside from deGrom and Cole).
This article became somewhat legendary on the Fantasy Baseball subreddit, and every year since 2015 there has been a post of someone applying what would eventually be called “The Kluber Formula” to their draft preparations. Those Reddit posts were how I discovered the original article, and I did not want to until Spring for someone else to make the post, so I started doing the research myself. I would make some tweaks to the “formula” over the years, but even before I started writing about Baseball, I wanted to know who some of the breakout candidates could be.
Fast forward a couple of years and I am getting ready to do my 2021 preparations and I come to the realization that the strangeness of 2020 gave me an opportunity to give to the community what Big Magoo did for me and so many others six years ago. Last season being shortened made stats a little weird (specifically IP) and over the years I have recognized there are much better stats to use than K/9 and GB%. I decided to tweak Big Magoo’s Kluber Formula and put my own little twist on it.
Introducing “The deGrom Formula”
|Age||30 or under|
I added in a slightly subjective rule that to qualify the player needs to have at least a decent shot of being in the rotation to start the season. I decided to rename this “The deGrom Formula” as it has been quite a while since Corey Kluber was an elite starting pitcher, and I want to give deGrom some credit for being on the original list and breaking out into the best starting pitcher in the game. I modeled most of the criteria for each statistic after Jacob deGrom’s 2017 season in hopes of identifying the next Jacob deGrom or Corey Kluber.
I set the bar higher for this list than the original Kluber criteria mostly due to the shortened season and how high strikeout rates have gone up since 2015. Thus, we see far fewer names on this list than what previous lists have looked like but that is okay because we are trying something new here!
Bauer, Cole, Bieber, Nola, Woodruff, and Buehler are already established aces, so we do not need to dive too deep into them. After taking them out here is our new list:
|Pitcher||Age (2021)||Projected 2021 IP||Projected 2021 ERA|
Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman have seemed to find what they could not in Baltimore since landing in Anaheim and San Francisco. Both coming off career years, these two are likely the safer bets over the next couple of years than the rest of the guys on this list.
Plesac had a .917 LOB% in 2020, but as I wrote about last season, I trust Cleveland with how they handle their starting pitchers. His 2.9% walk rate and 3.41 SIERA in 2020 give me some hope that even if he does not strand as many hitters, he will still be a solid arm.
Sticking with Cleveland starting pitchers, I am all aboard the Triston McKenzie hype train. The youngest pitcher on the list, McKenzie is coming off a stellar 2020 season and already looks like Cleveland’s next ace when they decide Shane Bieber is going to cost too much in his arb years.
He had a 3.24 ERA in 33 innings, but he struck out 33% of the batters he faced! He is listed at 6’5″ and 165 pounds and it would be nice to see him bulk up a little, but honestly let him keep doing what he was already doing in 2020.
There are injury and IP limit concerns with him, but who knows; we all thought Masahiro Tanaka would need TJ surgery after the 2015 season, but he never threw fewer than 156 IP until the shortened 2020 season when he pitched 48 innings for the Yankees.
Dinelson Lamet has been on my eye for a couple of years now because of the Kluber Formula (or at least a version of it)! After his 2017 season, he became a breakout favorite of mine and I was convinced he was going to be the next big thing. He ended up needing Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2018 and most of 2019. However, in his limited playing time in 2019, he was excellent which led to his incredible 2020 season.
Lamet is currently going through some elbow issues, but he threw a simulated game on March 18th so hopefully, he can be ready to go sometime in April. There is a chance Lamet ends up in the bullpen mostly due to the Padres having Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Paddack alongside a potential MacKenzie Gore callup (Clevinger will be back next year as well).
Lamet has ace-level stuff and a proven track record, but he needs to stay healthy and in the rotation to be the ace I think he could be. Moving to the bullpen would not be the worst thing to happen to him, as it could allow him to limit his innings and stay healthy while being an elite arm out of the pen.
Finally, we come to a favorite of mine which you might remember because I wrote about him last year! Gonsolin is not going to crack the rotation to start the season with the Dodgers. Kershaw, Buehler, Bauer, Urias, Price, and May are likely all ahead of him in terms of getting starts. The Dodgers like to utilize their injured list to keep guys like Kershaw fresh, and I assume they are not going to push Price to pitch 200 innings this year.
Gonsolin is a strike-throwing machine who had great success when given the chance last year, and I firmly believe that if he gets a shot in the rotation, he could turn some heads. I think he will start the year in AAA where he can stay fresh and potentially stretch out into a starter’s workload, but he only has one option year left, so the Dodgers could trade him at the deadline or next offseason if they do not see him in their future.
I want to give a big thanks to Big Magoo for writing that article six years ago. It got me thinking about Baseball in a different way than I ever had and forced me to familiarize myself with tools that I use daily now. I hope you got something out of this piece and maybe in 2027 you can write “The Tony Gonsolin Formula” for whatever website is still writing about Baseball.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire| Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)