CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber wanted a World Series ring and a parade through downtown Cleveland. The ace of the Indians' pitching staff was not concerned about personal accolades. All the hard work, all the dominant outings, all the historic footnotes collected along the way came with the singular goal of winning a championship.
That dream did not come to fruition, but it does not render all Kluber accomplished during the regular season moot. No matter what took place on the October stage -- and no matter how much Kluber would love to trade any personal plaques for the Commissioner's Trophy -- his incredible run this past season was worthy of the American League Cy Young Award. Kluber is indeed a finalist for the honor, along with Boston's Chris Sale and New York's Luis Severino.
"He's the Cy Young. I think he's clearly the Cy Young," teammate Jason Kipnis said of Kluber in September. "That doesn't take anything away from Chris Sale. I think he's clearly the No. 2 and would be the Cy Young any other year that Corey Kluber [was] not pitching like this."
Kluber led the Majors in ERA (2.25), becoming the first Indians pitcher to pace MLB in that category since 1949 (Mike Garcia). The right-hander went 18-4, struck out 265 batters and issued 36 walks in 203 2/3 innings. He had three shutouts, five complete games and held batters to AL lows in average (.193), on-base percentage (.235) and slugging percentage (.321). Kluber also ranked first in WAR (8.1 per Baseball-Reference.com).
In 2014, Kluber was a breakout AL Cy Young Award winner, joining Cliff Lee ('08), CC Sabathia ('07) and Gaylord Perry (1972) as the only pitchers in Indians history to take home the honor. With a second Cy Young Award, Kluber would become the 19th pitcher in baseball history to win the honor at least twice. This time around, Kluber did not shock anyone. He was simply a pitcher showing extreme control with his craft.
"Once he gets comfortable and gets his legs under him in a season," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "man, he pitches at such a high level."
Kluber's case becomes even stronger when examining what he did over the final four months.
A back injury plagued Kluber in the season's first month, sending him to the disabled list for most of May. When he returned on June 1, Kluber did so like a man on a mission. Over the 23 starts that followed, the ace went 15-2 with a 1.62 ERA, piling up 224 strikeouts against 23 walks in 166 1/3 innings. Kluber was named to the AL All-Star team and won the AL Pitcher of the Month Award for June, August and September.
Cleveland's rotation as a whole took a remarkable turn in that same stretch. As of June 9, the Indians' starting staff ranked last in the AL with a 4.86 ERA. By the end of the season, the Kluber-powered rotation had a 3.52 ERA, which ranked first in the AL and second overall in the Majors.
"Right after he came back from the back injury, he just settled in," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said in September.
In the AL Division Series against the Yankees, Kluber was unable to keep it going. He pitched poorly in a pair of abbreviated efforts, contributing to Cleveland's quick exit. That was an unfortunate ending to what had been an outstanding season for Kluber, but it does not mean his season was not worthy of recognition.
"[Kluber is] one of the best, if not the best, in baseball," Indians closer Cody Allen said after the Tribe's final postseason loss. "You can't hang his hat in 2017 on [the postseason]. We think he deserves to win the Cy Young. That's an unbelievable accomplishment."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.