Major League Baseball will kick off the 2019 season with its earliest start ever (excluding international openers) as all 30 teams will take the field on March 28. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 90 days
When you are part of the return for a team’s top overall prospect, the expectations on you are going to be a little bigger than normal. That will again be the case for submariner Adam Cimber, the first player in Tribe history to suit up in a regular season game in the number 90 and one half of the trade that sent number one prospect Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres last July 31st.
While Cimber was hardly the big name in the trade (that honor goes to two-time All-Star left-handed reliever Brad Hand), the 28-year-old will be counted on in a significant way to help plug one of many holes left in the Indians’ bullpen after the exits of Cody Allen (still on the market) and Andrew Miller (now a St. Louis Cardinal) via free agency after the completion of the disappointing 2018 campaign.
With two of the biggest arms in the American League likely gone from the Tribe’s ‘pen, Cimber will be needed as a specialist with a funky delivery in the late innings. A late bloomer hitting the big league stage at the age of 27 in his rookie campaign a season ago with the Padres, the controllable sidewinder could give the Indians some needed innings moving forward.
Cleveland skipper Terry Francona used him more in a matchup role in his first real exposure to AL hitters, which was a different experience for Cimber compared to his time with San Diego.
Cimber took the mound 28 times for the Tribe and pitched just 20 innings with some bumps and bruises along the way. He gave up 26 hits and walked seven more, leading to a 1.65 WHIP and a .325 batting average against over the course of the Indians portion of his year. He also surrendered three home runs and nine runs in total for a 4.05 ERA.
It marked a stark contrast to his numbers with the Padres in the first four months of the year. There, he had appeared in 42 games and tallied 48 1/3 innings of work, posting a 3.17 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. His base traffic rates jumped dramatically in Cleveland as he averaged nearly four more hits and 1.3 walks per nine innings more than his time in the National League. His strikeout rate was shredded – after averaging 9.5 per nine with the Padres, he averaged just 3.2 with the Indians, as he struck out just one more batter than he walked.
Were Cimber’s difficulties with the Tribe just a product of swapping leagues in the middle of a debut season? That remains to be seen. Francona looked wise to keep him away from left-handed hitters during his time in Cleveland, given the early splits provided by Cimber in his first year in the Majors (some of which followed his career trends in the minors). Prior to joining the Indians, he was shutting down right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .210 batting average with an eye-popping 28.0 strikeout-to-walk rate over 123 plate appearances (28 K, 1 BB). Lefties had shown better results against him overall, as while they struck out 23 times in 69 plate appearances (33% of their trips), they also rapped eleven of their 17 hits for extra bases while drawing nine walks (13% of their plate appearances), reducing his SO/W rate against them to just 2.56.
With Cleveland, he saw lefties in the box just 19 times. He walked four (21%) while striking out just three (15.8%). Of his seven hits allowed, four fell for extra bases and led to a .467/.579/.867 slash in that small sample. Comparatively, righties (over a 73-plate appearance sample) had just eight extra base hits among their 19 total knocks with four strikeouts (5.5%) and three walks (4.1%) and a triple slash of .292/.361/.477.
The tough times against left-handed hitters have not always been the case, but they have tended to be. His splits in the minors in 2017 were nearly identical, but lefties took him deep five more times in nine fewer plate appearances. But in previous efforts in 2014 and 2016, they hit him hard with a general tendency to strike out less and walk more frequently in those spans.
The career trends may very well explain the Tribe’s attempts to limit his exposure to left-handers, something that will very likely play out in his future time with the club as he serves as more of a specialist to limit right-handers. Working in the Indians’ favor, Cimber has five more years of control remaining (he is not due to hit free agency until after the 2023 season), so there is plenty of time to maximize on his abilities to shut down right-handers in bulk when he is on his game on the mound. He also has options remaining, so if he continues to struggle in adapting to life in the junior circuit, a trip to Columbus to get things sorted out would not be out of the question.
In the meantime, the 2019 season will be a great opportunity for Cimber to cement his place in Cleveland while helping to stabilize a bullpen that, at least for now, appears anything but settled.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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