Shane Bieber is a unicorn in a time of short starter usage

We all know, baseball is becoming a game designed to be shortened to hard-throwing relievers and limiting young starters workload. With this, a complete game shutout happens about as often as a 200-inning season nowadays.

Don’t believe it? Look at the numbers. In 2019, there have been 20 complete game shutouts total. Last season, there were only 19 all season long. Last season, only 13 pitchers reached the 200-inning plateau. Just a decade prior in 2009, when the game was even already starting to evolve into what it is now, there were still 36 starters that surpassed 200 innings. Additionally, there were 48 different pitchers who worked a shutout. Of those, 12 had multiples and Zack Greinke and Roy Halladay had three and four, respectively. No starter had multiple shutouts at all in 2018. In fact, the 2017 season was the last time any did, and Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana had three, while Carlos Martinez had two.

CLEVELAND, OHIO – JULY 09: Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Indians and the American League poses with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award after the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This season, only one pitcher has multiple complete game shutouts. Combine that with an All-Star Game MVP, and it has been a huge season for Shane Bieber. In a season where the Cleveland Indians rotation has been a MASH unit, Bieber has led a group that has kept them afloat.

One interesting stat is how dominant that Bieber has been on the road. Bieber has allowed just 44 hits in 71 innings of work on the road and has walked just 10. That is good for a 0.761 WHIP away from Cleveland. His numbers at home are nothing to overlook either, allowing a 1.251 WHIP, but an ERA of 4.19. Coincidentally, the All-Star MVP came in his own park, where his numbers are not as strong.

If you remove Bieber’s May 13 start in Chicago, where he allowed seven hits and five earned runs in 6.1 innings, Bieber’s road ERA drops to nearly two. He has been even better away from Cleveland of late. In his last three road games, Bieber has worked 25 innings, and allowed eight hits and two earned runs. This includes his latest shutout and two eight-inning outings. Eight of Bieber’s 21 starts have gone at least seven innings.

With Cleveland having played 102 games in 2019 and with 60 games remaining, Bieber is likely going to get 11 more starts if he makes all of his remaining games. In his 21 starts, Bieber has averaged 6.24 innings. This means, if he stays on his average, Bieber will have worked 201 innings for the season. Currently, Bieber ranks 11th in innings pitched in Major League Baseball in 2019. Though there are several hovering just under the average, Bieber is the last hurler on pace to surpass 200 innings in 2019. If everything stays on pace, that means that there will only 11 pitchers to eat 200 innings. If it holds, the totals will fall less than the season before once again, as it has for each year since 2012 into ’13…and that season climbed from 31 to 36.

The game has changed and young pitchers like Bieber just don’t get utilized like workhorses today. Only three pitchers, German Marquez, Bieber, and Brad Keller rank in the top 18 and are under 28 years old. In 2018, Kyle Freeland and Aaron Nola were the only two hurlers under 27 to surpass 200 innings. In 2017, Carlos Martinez, Gerrit Cole, and Marcus Stroman were the only pitchers under 28 to do so. In the two years, there were only seven of the 28 pitchers, 28 or younger to toss 200 innings.

Teams are so caught up in limiting younger pitchers innings because the belief that it saves their arms from injury. This said, the season that Bieber is having in unicorn level in a couple of different aspects.

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