Indeed, Eleven, just whom the fuck is that guy? Once a week I’ll be breaking down a player who is surprising the league – for better or for worse. This will range from stars we’ve grown to expect greatness from, all the way to obscure players who have appeared out of nowhere. In each case, it will beg the question: Whom the fuck is that guy?!
Shane Bieber – SP, Cleveland Indians
What better way to conclude this year’s All-Star break than with a write-up of the game’s MVP – Shane Bieber? No relation to Justin Bieber, Shane instead will not pick fights with Tom Cruise, egg his neighbor’s house, or release summertime singles alongside DJ Khalid. What Shane will do is sneak his way onto the American League roster for the All-Star Game and walk away with the MVP at the end of the night.
At age 24, Bieber’s career has been a tale of “where were you then” to “where are you now.” In his rookie season, Bieber’s numbers were good, if unspectacular. “What do you mean” you might ask? Well, for starters, the splits between last year and this year speak for themselves:
What’s interesting to point out is the sample size we have to work with is nearly identical in terms of innings pitched, games, and games started, so it’s a fairly simple analysis on what’s gone right for Bieber when you notice how well he’s pitched in 2019 versus 2018.
The two obvious stats that will jump out is the SO/9 – 9.3 to 11.3 – being up, and the H/9 – 10.2 to 7.2 – being down. His WHIP is also sitting at an above-average 1.00. So, while the numbers may look great, they don’t tell the whole story:
Bieber has turned many skeptics into Beliebers this year with the changes he’s made to his pitch distribution. In his rookie season, Bieber was predominantly throwing his fastball and slider, which may account for the rest of his numbers lagging when compared to his breakout season this year. Part of the issue can be attributed to his reliance on a two-pitch arsenal – Bieber also gave up an OPS over .800 after the third time through last season. This season, Bieber has not completely reinvented the wheel, but he’s made small adjustments which have paid off.
For starters, Bieber has used his change up more this year as well as his other breaking pitches – lowering his overall fastball use from nearly 60 percent down to 44 percent. It looks to have paid dividends in the way batters fare against him as noted in the uptick in soft contact he’s inducing by keeping batters off balance.
Bieber was a somewhat late addition to the All-Star Game this year, and though many critics might attribute his MVP honors due to the game being played in Cleveland, Bieber has certainly shown he is every bit deserving of being an all-star.
To rank inside the top ten in most categories for pitching should be a key indicator that Shane Bieber is blossoming before our eyes and should reassure every Indians fan that it’s time to beliebe.