Quick, who is the best pitcher in baseball right now?
If you’re an American League guy you probably said Gerrit Cole. If you’re a fan of the N.L. you might be thinking Jacob deGrom. But the correct answer is the Kid from Cleveland, Shane Bieber.
Shane Bieber, a 25-year-old right hander from Orange, California with no relation to Grammy award winning artist Justin, may have just stumbled upon the throne as MLB’s best pitcher. The Cleveland Indian’s have sniffed a World Series as recently as 2016. With Corey Kluber off to Texas, Bieber is the piece that can keep the Indians in contention year after year.
So, what makes Shane shine? Well, for starters he has a knuckle curveball. Bieber also isn’t just your one-trick-pony Tim Wakefield or R.A. Dickey type pitcher. He has a 95 mph fastball he can dot on the corners, along with a cutter, slider and changeup. So, while deGrom and Cole get it done with their eye-popping 100+ fastball speed, Bieber is more finesse, with a lot more breaking stuff.
As Bieber has gotten more comfortable throwing the knuckle curve, the better his results on the mound. The first pitch of any at bat is arguably the most important for a pitcher. So, imagine being able to throw a knuckle curve consistently for a strike. Hitters simply don’t know what to expect from the first pitch of any at bat.
The chart below shows Bieber’s E.R.A. along with the percentage in which he has used the knuckle curve throughout his career.
In 2020, Bieber has been fooling major leaguers left and right. His miniscule 1.35 E.R.A. is second in the majors. His 75 strikeouts in 46.2 innings pitched is tops in the majors by a long shot. Sonny Gray is second on the K’s list with 51. Yes Yankee fans, the same Sonny Gray that came to your squad and posted a 4.90 E.R.A. Anyway back to Bieber, the Indians ace is also third in the majors in WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitch) with a 0.81.
He’s able to absolutely dominate hitters at times, pinpointing the corners, and making people look like little leaguers with his sharp breaking knuckle curve. Going into Tuesday’s 10 strikeout performance, 16 of his 65 strikeouts were 3-pitch strikeouts, absolutely dominating the opposition. In 5 of his 7 starts, Bieber has reached double digits in strikeouts. That includes a 14-strikeout performance on opening day against the Kansas City Royals.
Like quarterbacks, pitchers can sometimes get better with age, but with two-time reigning Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom turning 33 next year, and Gerrit Cole turning 30 next month, a new face is ready to be the crown jewel of the mound. Everyone that steps to the plate against Shane Bieber might as well just drop their bat and hope he throws four balls because this 25-year-old has only gotten better in each of his three seasons in the bigs.
His E.R.A. has gone from 4.55, to 3.28 to his current 1.35 In 2020. He lowered his walk rate and his hits allowed rate significantly over the three seasons. Now Indians fans are excited to see just how good their young arm is. He’s proved he can go deep into games, which is rare in today’s game, as he led the A.L. with three complete games last year. The California native has all the tools to be baseball’s best, and maybe he can challenge his counterpart Justin for being the most well-known Bieber in the world.
So far this season, Shane Bieber has 7 games started with all of them being quality starts. He’s 6-0, and on pace to have an astronomical amount of K’s. With young talents like Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac, the Indians could be a World Series contender each and every year.
In a 60-game season anything can happen. It gives players the best chance they will ever have at touching some E.R.A. and batting average records. I’m not saying it will happen, but with a hot second half, Bieber has a chance at posting an E.R.A. under 1.
Perhaps even more impressive, is that Bieber’s strikeout per nine inning rate currently sits at 14.46 K/9. Gerrit Cole set the record last year, posting 13.82 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. The shortened season means Bieber has an even better chance at continuing this unfathomable strikeout pace and grab the record.
Even if Bieber doesn’t make history, remember his name because several Cy Young Awards could be in this young man’s future. Watch out deGrom and Cole, make room for the Kid from Cleveland. Shane Bieber is here to stay.