Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians
In what’s become a yearly occurrence during their recent run of success, the Indians once again have a top-10 starting rotation when using fWAR as the barometer. However, it’s happened despite Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco both missed significant time on the injured list, along with Trevor Bauer getting dealt at the trade deadline.
The man who leads the starting staff in starts (31), innings pitched (201.1), and fWAR (5.1), is — you guessed it — Shane Bieber. He’s also added in a 30.6% strikeout rate, 4.9% walk rate, and 3.26 ERA in the process. This is a huge step forward from last year’s rookie campaign, which included a 2.7 fWAR, 4.55 ERA, 24.3% strikeout rate, and 4.7% walk rate in 114.2 frames.
While Bieber’s batted-ball profile didn’t change a ton and his hard-hit rate allowed is still above 40.0%, he’s made huge strides in the placement of his pitches. His 65.6% first-pitch strike rate is close to what he did last year (66.4%), but the percentage of his pitches in the strike zone has gone down from 48.0% to 40.1%. It’s impressive to see this happen while not experiencing a huge spike in walks, too.
Both the 24-year-old’s slider (44.5% to 35.3%) and curveball (35.3% to 28.9%) saw the largest changes in zone percentage.