With 65 games in the books, the Guardians are sporting a 36-29 record and are tied atop the AL Central. After wrapping up a nine-game road trip with a 7-2 finish, the club is heading home to greet the 39-31 Boston Red Sox Friday night.
While the team seemingly finds new ways to grind out wins each night as of late, the bullpen has really started to shine -- and Emmanuel Clase is one of the standouts by far.
How It Happened
If you recall, Clase came to the club in part of the 2019 deal with the Texas Rangers for the Guardians two-time Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber.
Kluber went to Cleveland via a three-team trade with the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals in 2010. The club moved longtime pitcher Jake Westbrook (and paid his remaining salary) to the Cardinals and Ryan Ludwick went to the Padres.
While he made his debut on a call-up in 2011 as well as a few spot starts in 2012, Kluber had his first legitimate shot at the starting rotation in 2013 -- and then would go on to win the Cy Young Award with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017.
His time in Cleveland didn't go without injuries, and during the 2019 season Kluber was shut down after fracturing his throwing arm on a comeback line drive. The team exercised his $17.5 million option, but announced in December he was traded along with cash considerations to the Texas Rangers for Delino DeShields Jr. and Clase.
Kluber was a beloved member and fan favorite of the organization for years, but subsequent injuries has limited his action. The sole year he was with Texas, he pitched just one inning during the pandemic shortened-season.
He found his way to one season with the Yankees (5-3, 3.83 in 80 innings) -- including a stellar performance with a no-hitter against the Rangers -- and is currently with the Rays (3-4, 3.86).
Cleveland Era Begins
Before Clase could throw one pitch for the club, he was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a banned PED. But, since this was the year of the Covid pandemic-shortened 60-game season, Clase would sit out the entire year and his suspension was considered served and lifted at the conclusion.
In 2021, he pitched in in 69.2 innings and owned a 1.29 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Clase held opponents to a .241 on-base percentage and had 24 saves on the year. This was an improvement from his 2019 in Texas with an 2.31 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
This singular season in Cleveland earned him a contract extension worth $20-million over the next five years. Clase was one of three players to be extended by the Guardians ahead of Opening day along with Myles Straw and José Ramírez.
Trade Wins Once Again
The Guardians front office found another piece of their future and didn't balk at the chance to extend the offer, and Clase's numbers this season are proving are elite.
This season, the flame-throwing right hander has a 1.48 ERA and 0.79 WHIP through 30.1 innings pitched. Clase has held opponents to a .212 on-base percentage and has 17 saves (tied for first in AL) on the season with a K/BB rate of 8.3.
Not to mention, in the month of June, Clase has appeared in 10 save opportunities and has earned them all -- with a 0.00 ERA with five hits, no walks, and 13 strikeouts.
Clase relies on three pitches, and is in the 100th percentile for chase rate and has the exit velocity off of his ball at 85.3 which is the top sixth in the league. To add, his weighted on-base average is .201 which is the top two percent of the league (Baseball Savant).
While the Guardians are just over the halfway mark, the backend of the bullpen has really been shaping up and helping the young scrappy club squeak out some winners. The team has won 17 of their last 22, and Clase's fiery passion and fastball has been right in the midst of it all.
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