Mention his name and the conversation may turn divisive quickly. You usually either support him or you don’t – for better or for worse.
The differing opinions may never go away, but it’s time we show some appreciation for this curiously divisive figure.
Bryan Shaw needs to appear in just 1 ⅔ innings in the Indians final six games to set a new career high in innings pitched (currently his career high is 76 ⅓). He’s appeared in no less than 70 games as a member of the Indians. This year he’s 12th in baseball in innings pitched by a reliever. His 3.24 ERA is eighth among that group of 12 and his 2.82 FIP is second.
Since 2013, no reliever has pitched more innings than Shaw (357 innings) and his 3.05 ERA since 2013. 22 relievers have thrown 300 or more innings in that span and only 14 have a lower ERA than Shaw. His 128 shutdown innings in that time are 23rd as well.
That explains how good Shaw has been in the last almost four seasons, despite the constant outrage at hm. But as Shaw near free agency this offseason, he’s stepping up his game to a new level.
For the third time this year and in his career, Shaw’s fastball is averaging a robust 98 degrees in both August and September. He also averaged 98 in May well.
With those increases, Shaw is also running some of the highest simultaneous whiff rates on his slider and cutter over one month.
This of course all comes after his disastrous month of July where he struck out just three of 45 batters he faced and ran a 5.06 ERA. He’s allowed 14 runs in the second half and six of them came in July as his velocity noticeable dipped.
Possibly not coincidentally, Shaw’s velocity and results started turning upwards again after the addition of Joe Smith.
Shaw’s numbers since August 1st: 25.1 IP (103 batters faced) 31.1% strikeout rate, 2.9% walk rate,1.14 WHIP, 1.49 FIP, .260/.282/.320 with a .262 wOBA.
His 0.97 WPA (win probability added, which measures how much a player’s performance contributes to a win – i.e a solo home run down 9-1 is worth less WPA than a solo home run that breaks a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning, so they’re weighted differently) is the third highest of his career
His second half FIP of 2.55 is good for 22nd among all relievers in baseball and has 16 shutdown innings (based on WPA – keeping the team’s chances of winning a game intact or improved), which is eighth best in that stand.
As Shaw heads to free agency, consider that he is in the company with some of the most reliable relievers in the last four years – guys who are either hated by their fan base or loved because of how often they pitch (sound familiar?). Shaw’s durability and velocity spike (and subsequently his results) make him as reliable as ever. Bullpen’s can often fluctuate in performance year to year even if you have the exact same relievers each year.. That’s just the nature of almost any team’s bullpen coming out of spring training. Shaw will be quite missed if he decides to move on because relievers who can throw as often and effective as he can be is rare. He even earned his first career two out save last week that incuded a strikeout vs.Mike Trout.
There aren’t many relievers in baseball than Shaw when it comes to being his team’s third best reliever. Not every reliever is a Kenley Jansesn, Andrew Miller or Mariano Rivera. Every bullpen needs a consistent, healthy performer to solidify a role or spot in it and the Indians have had one of the most reliable and effective of that type. He’ll play an important role in October and will hopefully carry one of the best stretches of his solid Indians career into the postseason.