Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90
Bob Toth | On 27, Dec 2019
Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 90 Days
Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred continues to tinker with the game of baseball in an attempt to shorten the length of nine-inning marathons in a sizeable 162-game schedule and this year, the spotlight will be on the relief game.
Effective for the 2020 season, a “three-batter minimum” has been implemented for pitchers, with the exceptions of illness, injury, or pitching to the end of a half-inning in relief.
Initially, the primary pile of players appearing to be drastically affected by Manfred’s tinkering were the LOOGYs, the left-handed one-out guys who oftentimes come in for that lefty-lefty matchup playing to the splits before heading quickly to the showers. But baseball has seen some bullpens deploy some right-handers in similar fashion and, in Cleveland, that was the case more than a few times under manager Terry Francona’s decision-making in 2019.
Adam Cimber, who remains the only player in franchise history to wear the number 90 on the diamond, was one of those guys used by Francona with the matchup numbers in mind.
In his rookie season in 2018 (split between San Diego and Cleveland), left-handed hitters posted a batting average 90 points higher than right-handers and an on-base percentage nearly 160 points plumper. More than half of lefties’ hits accumulated (15 of 24) went for extra bases while they drew more than three times as many walks as right-handed hitters in 108 fewer plate appearances.
With that in mind, Cimber was used nearly three times as often against right-handed hitters than left-handed ones in 2019. He gave up a .244/.304/.341 slash to them, as opposed to a .296/.387/.556 mark to left-handers (an improved line nonetheless against them). Twenty-six different times in 2019, Cimber threw nine pitches or less in an outing and in 19 appearances he faced two batters or less, showing some short outings on the ledger for the 29-year-old submariner.
Francona loves bunting, but Francona also loves to play his pitching matchups, meaning the coming rule change for 2020 is going to force the baseball mastermind out of his comfort zone a little bit as he acclimates to new expectations for time management. Cimber, whose overall season numbers left a little something to be desired, showed the necessary improvements in 2019 against left-handers that Francona may be able to take the risk to have him on the mound in formerly unfavorable matchups. He is more than used to it with plenty of lengthier outings last season, but Francona will be counting on him even more if he is unable to hook his sidewinder for the likes of Tyler Olson, Oliver Perez, Brad Hand, or any other southpaws who may come through the outfield gates over the coming 162.
Cimber appeared 68 times in 2019, posting a 6-3 record with a save, a 4.45 ERA, and a 1.32 WHIP over 56 2/3 innings.
After time at Puyallup High School in Washington and stints at both the University of Washington and the University of San Francisco, Cimber was a ninth round selection in the 2013 draft by the San Diego Padres. He posted steady numbers throughout five minor league seasons and made the Padres’ 25-man roster to open the 2018 season.
Cimber arrived in Cleveland ahead of the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, when he was shipped by San Diego with the All-Star reliever Hand for the Indians’ top prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia. After working 42 times for the Padres with a 3-5 record, a 3.17 ERA, and a 1.08 WHIP in the National League, Cimber went 0-3 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 28 appearances in his first work in the American League with the Indians.
The Indians will be counting on Cimber to provide some consistency and stability to a bullpen that has undergone a lot of transformation over the last few seasons. He is under contract through the 2023 season, with the coming 2020 campaign his final prior to arbitration.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images
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