Bieber Becomes Tribe’s First Unanimous Cy Young Winner
Bob Toth | On 11, Nov 2020
If there was one award up for grabs this offseason that looked to be a done deal before the results of the voting were tallied, it was the American League’s Cy Young Award. What little suspense remained in the race ended Wednesday night when Cleveland’s Shane Bieber was announced as the unanimous winner of baseball’s top pitching honor.
Bieber earned first place votes on all 30 ballots submitted by the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, announced Wednesday night on MLB Network. Bieber’s historic efforts in 2020 brought the Cy Young Award back to Cleveland for the third time in the last seven years, following Corey Kluber’s wins in 2014 and 2017.
“That’s pretty special,” Bieber shared with the media following another big victory for the third-year right-hander. “I appreciate them for casting their votes for me. It means the world, it really does. I’m just happy.”
Bieber won in a landslide, receiving the maximum 210 points possible in the balloting process by claiming seven points each for his 30 first place votes. Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda finished second in the voting with 92 points, including 18 second place votes, and Toronto’s Hyun Jin Ryu placed third with 51 points, one ahead of New York’s Gerrit Cole.
Votes were submitted by two writers from each city in the league prior to the start of postseason play.
The 25-year-old Bieber erased all doubts with an incredible regular season performance that was only marred by the pandemic shortened schedule implemented for the 2020 campaign. The ace of the Indians staff made 12 starts, posting an 8-1 record with a 1.63 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, and 122 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. He led all of baseball in wins (tied with Chicago’s Yu Darvish), ERA, and strikeouts (including an incredible MLB-best 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings), making him not only the winner of the American League’s Pitching Triple Crown Award, but the Major League’s Pitching Triple Crown. He was the first player to lead his league in all three key pitching stats since Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander both did so in 2014 and he was the first to lead all MLB pitchers in the marks since Johan Santana in 2006.
Bieber drew his first career Opening Day start for the Indians against the Kansas City Royals and showed no ill effects from the late start to the 2020 slate. He whiffed 14 Royals over six shutout innings in the 2-0 win. He closed his brief July with another masterful performance, blanking the Minnesota Twins over eight innings of three-hit baseball while striking out 13.
The righty earned his third straight win to start the season in his second road start of the year on August 4 in Cincinnati. He was tagged for a pair of solo home runs, but struck out eight while giving the Indians seven and two-thirds innings of work in the 4-2 win. He surrendered two more long balls in his next outing on August 9 in Chicago against the White Sox, leaving with a quality six innings worked with three runs allowed on four hits in a no-decision.
Bieber got back into the win column on August 15 in Detroit. For the third time in five starts, he made a scoreless quality appearance, limiting the Tigers to just three hits and a walk in seven innings of work while striking out 11, his third double-digit K game of the year. He put up comparable numbers his next time out in Pittsburgh against the Pirates on August 20, moving to 5-0 on the season in six starts with six shutout innings of six-hit baseball with eleven more Ks tacked on to his league-leading tally.
He made it six wins in seven tries with another strong performance against Minnesota on August 25. He worked six innings for his seventh straight quality start, giving up a pair of runs on four hits with ten strikeouts in a 4-2 win. He was in line for a win in his final start of August after giving up just one Royals hit over six innings of work, but the bullpen allowed two runs late in the first Bieber start lost by Cleveland on the year. With a 4-0 record, a 1.63 ERA, and a 0.91 WHIP with 57 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings of work, he was named the American League’s Pitcher of the Month for August, the first such honor of his career.
His streak of eight straight quality starts ended against Milwaukee on September 6, but he took home win number seven in a 4-1 victory, striking out ten over five innings of one-run baseball. The offense was lacking in his support during his tenth start (as was the case for much of the season), as he made his ninth quality start and surpassed 100 strikeouts on the year, the quickest pitcher to do so in baseball history, but he suffered his first loss of the year in a 3-1 loss to Minnesota. He got back into the win column on September 17 against Detroit, striking out ten for his seventh double-digit strikeout performance of the campaign in a 10-3 onslaught. He added ten more Ks in his final start of the regular season on September 23, but he took his third no-decision despite allowing only one unearned run over five innings against the White Sox.
Bieber became just the fifth different hurler in Indians history to win the award, presented to the best pitcher in the Majors beginning in 1956 (one year after Young’s death) and later shifting to individual league honors in 1967. Gaylord Perry earned the first for Cleveland in 1972 before a long drought that ended with CC Sabathia’s dominant 2007 season that helped push the club deep into October. Left-hander Cliff Lee followed Sabathia’s season with a stunner of his own in 2008 and Kluber earned a pair during his nine years with the Tribe.
The Indians’ ties to pitching hardware were strong on Wednesday. Former Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in July of 2019, was named the National League’s Cy Young winner after going 5-4 in eleven starts with NL-bests in ERA (1.73) and WHIP (0.80), an even 100 strikeouts in 73 innings of work, and two complete game shutouts. His 5.1 hit per nine inning rate was the best in MLB. The 29-year-old free agent received first place votes on 27 of the 30 ballots submitted to beat Chicago’s Darvish and New York’s Jacob deGrom.
Bauer is the first Reds player ever to receive the honor as the state of Ohio swept MLB’s treasured pitching prizes.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images