Shaw Exceeded Expectations—Earned Improved 2014 Role

After a surprising 2013 Cleveland Indians season the organization has higher expectations for 2014 than any season dating back to 2008. The Indians and their fans will expect a playoff team and World Series contender. For the month of October, we’ll look at the how the Indians became a contender, but most importantly, How Do the Indians Reach the Next Level?

When the Indians traded Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp and Jason Donald last winter, the expected good return was supposed to be from Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs or both.  The other players involved—relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw—were simply seen as throw ins and were not even guaranteed to make the Major League roster out of camp.

It’s funny how things have turned out so differently than expected.        

Bauer had a nightmare of a season in 2013 and calling Stubbs’ season ‘average’ may even be pushing it.  Bauer pitched in only four games for the Tribe and had a 5.29 ERA, while Stubbs struck out in 33% of his at bats and saw his playing time diminish down the stretch.  Even with those two playing so far below expectations, the Choo trade still doesn’t seem so bad considering that Shin-Soo is hoping to command $100 million this winter.

The real reason that nobody is complaining about this deal 10 months after it happened is because Shaw completely exceeded his expectations and made it worthwhile.  Yes, trading your number three hitter and starting right fielder for a set-up man seems like a lot, but the Tribe also got a nice piece in Albers and got a warm body to fill right field in Stubbs.  It is Shaw, however, that has Indians fans the most excited heading into next season.

In just his second full season, Shaw proved to be a consistent, reliable piece of the bullpen puzzle that was a huge question mark for so much of the season.  Shaw posted solid numbers with a 7-3 record, a 3.24 ERA and a 1.173 WHIP in a team high 75.0 relief innings in 2013.  Shaw allowed only four homeruns and 28 walks while striking out 73 batters.  His seven wins out of the bullpen that has not been topped by a Tribe pitcher since the turn of the last century, when Paul Shuey won eight and Steve Karsay won nine.  Shaw’s performance was a pleasant surprise for the Indians, although it followed up one and one half decent seasons in Arizona as well (1-0, 2.54 in 2011, 1-6, 3.49 in 2012).

Because of Shaw’s strong showing in his Cleveland debut, he has more than put himself on the map for the 2014 bullpen mix.  Shaw could fill any number of roles in what could be a very different looking Indians ‘pen.  He could keep his role of middle reliever, or some people think Shaw could even take over as the team’s closer.  The reality of the situation is that Shaw, who will turn 26 in November, could possibly fill either of those roles or he could fit anywhere in between.

Shaw’s role with the club will largely depend on the offseason decisions made on others as well as his performance in Spring Training.  If 2013 closer Chris Perez is headed out of town, which most people think he will be, then there could be an open competition between Shaw, Cody Allen, Joe Smith (if he’s back), Vinnie Pestano and even possibly Carlos Carrasco to be the Indians’ next stopper.  This of course is under the assumption that Perez is gone and no other closer is acquired to fill the void.

If the closer competition does not happen, then Shaw will likely battle for the spot as Terry Francona’s primary right handed setup man with Allen, Pestano and Smith (again, if he’s still there).  Once again, this is all depending on what kind of offseason that the Indians have and any new faces that may show up in Goodyear next February.

No matter what happens, Shaw did plenty in 2013 to ensure a spot in the 2014 bullpen.  He will join Allen, Marc Rzepczynski and possibly Pestano as the only locks to be guaranteed a spot at this point in time. 

 Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

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