Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57

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 – 57 days

One of the most exciting things to watch in Cleveland during the 2019 Major League Baseball season was the continued development of right-hander Shane Bieber, the team’s number 57 wearer.

Bieber took any notion of a sophomore slump and chucked it out the Indians’ cracked open window of opportunity as he became one of the more valuable members of the 25-man roster. With a 20-game sample size during his rookie season in 2018, Bieber went 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP, but he took all of his numbers to the next level during a magical season for the 24-year-old.

The righty entered the year as the fifth starter on the staff, trailing veteran mainstays Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger. Being the fifth starter was hardly a reflection on Bieber’s talent, but far more specific to the depth of talent that was already ahead of him on the every day roster.

After initially debuting out of the bullpen on March 31, Bieber got his first turn in the rotation on April 5 against Toronto. He limited the Blue Jays to just two runs on two hits in six innings of work while striking out nine. He followed it up with back-to-back wins over Detroit and Seattle on the road, blanking the Tigers on three hits in seven innings before allowing just a run on four hits against the Mariners in six innings for his third straight quality start.

The month ended a little poorly for Bieber in a pair of tough starts against Atlanta and Houston. He lasted just seven outs on April 21 against the Braves, giving up seven runs (five earned) while surrendering a pair of homers. The Astros got just three hits in six innings, but Bieber walked an uncharacteristic four batters in the no-decision.

One of the highlights of Bieber’s special season came on May 19 in his first start after giving up five runs (and four home runs) to the Chicago White Sox in his second loss of the season. Making his fifth home start of the year, he went the distance in a 107-pitch masterpiece against Baltimore, limiting the Orioles to just five hits while striking out 15 and issuing no walks in a complete game 10-0 shutout. He followed it with ten more strikeouts over five innings on May 24 against Tampa Bay in a no-decision.

Bieber – Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Bieber continued to dominate on the mound, outside of a pair of rough showings against Boston and New York. In the nine starts that followed his shutout through the end of the first half, he made five quality starts and seven of those games included two earned runs allowed or less. The selection included a 12-strikeout performance in Detroit on June 15 and eleven more on June 30 against Baltimore, when he blanked the O’s for eight more scoreless innings of three-hit baseball.

Prior to his final start before the Indians were to host the 90th Midsummer Classic at Progressive Field, Bieber got the kind of news any player in pro sports can get excited about – he was named to the American League All-Star team. With a 7-3 mark and a 3.54 ERA through his first 18 games, Bieber got the nod as a replacement when Tampa’s Charlie Morton and Texas’ Mike Minor both bowed out of the exhibition as the pair were scheduled to pitch on the final day of the first half. And with a chance to shine on the biggest stage, Bieber did just that when he entered the game in the fifth inning and struck out the side on the way to a special Most Valuable Player nod for his individual performance in the AL’s 4-3 win over the National League from Cleveland.

Bieber’s lack of rest over the break was not an issue the rest of the way. He made a quality start against the Twins in a no-decision on July 14 before surviving a five-run showing from Kansas City in a win over the Royals on July 19. He systematically dismantled the Toronto Blue Jays on July 24, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out ten in his second complete game shutout of the season. He closed July by striking out eight Astros in a tough quality start 2-0 loss to Houston.

Run support hurt Bieber in a strong August. He made six starts and provided quality outings in each while throwing his third complete game of the season in his first start of the month against the Los Angeles Angels. In 41 1/3 innings over the month, he posted a 2.83 ERA with a .224 batting average against, but came away with a 2-3 record as the Indians scored just 23 runs combined in those games (including six each in a pair of wins to open the month and eight in his no-decision versus KC on August 25). He continued the quality start streak with two more to open September before Minnesota scored four (via three home runs) on eleven hits in five and two-thirds on September 15 (Cleveland won the game, 7-5). He won his 15th game with an interleague victory over Philadelphia on September 20, but dropped his final start of the year after giving up five runs (three earned) on ten hits in five and two-thirds innings against the White Sox on September 25.

Bieber ended the campaign with a 15-8 record in his 34 games with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while finishing third in the AL with 259 strikeouts, trailing only Houston’s Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. He proved effective regardless of the handedness of the hitter, as righties posted a .231/.271/.374 slash with 20 walks and 132 strikeouts (in 451 plate appearances) while lefties slashed .228/.271/.414 with 20 walks and 127 strikeouts (in 408 plate appearances). He was better on the road than at home, posting a 2.88 ERA, a .199 batting average against, and a 0.87 WHIP away from Progressive Field.

Just a year removed from serving as the Indians’ number five starter, Bieber will be cast into a far more prominent role in manager Terry Francona’s starting rotation in 2020. With the trades of Bauer and Kluber since the end of July, Bieber will now find himself pitching out of the two or three spot in the rotation as one of the faces to fear in the American League on an ever-evolving Indians staff that remains one of the more formidable in the game today.

Cleveland will be counting on Bieber’s continued development to help account for some of the lacking offensive production expected from the lineup. His limited, but successful, experience will no doubt prove beneficial to some of the youth pitching behind him as part of the starting staff. If the first two years have proven anything, Bieber should be a sight to see pitching every fifth day for the Tribe for many years to come.

Other players to wear #57 in Indians history:

Joe Hauser (1929; the first to do so in MLB history), Billy Harrell (1955), Rod Nichols (1988), Jeff Shaw (1990-92), John Smiley (1997), Brian Williams (2000), Ryan Drese (2001-02), Jason Boyd (2003), Lou Pote (2004), Kyle Denney (2004), Jeremy Guthrie (2006), Zach Jackson (2008-09), Hector Ambriz (2010), Zach McAllister (2011), Jeremy Accardo (2012), Scott Maine (2012), Clay Rapada (2013), Joe Martinez (2013), Kyle Crockett (2014-17)

Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)

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