The Cleveland Indians finished last year’s season 35-25 behind premier pitching and subpar offense. You can thank Shane Bieber who led the AL in pitching and won the AL Cy Young award in 2020 after accumulating 8 wins with a 1.63 ERA. Bieber struck out 122 batters in 77.1 innings while only walking 21 and striking out 14.2 batters per nine innings.
Of course, if he can keep that up, Bieber will do what Jacob deGrom did in the NL. He’d win the AL Cy Young award for a second straight season. But let’s not forget that this was a shortened season and sustaining that kind of success that Bieber had for a full season seems almost impossible. However, that goes for all pitchers and not just Bieber. Bieber allowed just 14 earned runs throughout the entire season with over 50 percent of those runs coming via home runs.
That’s how good he was when runners were on base. He allowed just 46 hits in the entire regular season, producing 10 quality starts in 12 games started. In the shortened season, Bieber was also able to have a wins above replacement of 3.2. Again, he only started 12 games all season long. Plus, it wasn’t like Bieber was pitching in low leverage situations. The Indians offense was so inept that Bieber was pitching in tight contests, keeping the game close and tight to give his team a chance at winning.
The Indians hit .228 on the season, getting just 234 runs batted in all season, which was good for 27th in the league. On top of that, the offense couldn’t hit for power, knocking just 59 home runs in 60 games, which was also 27th in the league, tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yet Bieber still found a way to win eight games in 12 starts. That’s clear Cy Young material. But by the look of things, Bieber might have to mimic this 2020 season because the offense surely isn’t getting better.
Indians star infielder Francisco Lindor has been involved in trade talks since the beginning of the off-season. If Lindor is let go from this Indians team, it would be hard to view this team as a contender for a playoff spot or worthy of your MLB picks with the offense they’ve got. Sure, the pitching will dominate but the offense isn’t good enough to win enough games. Obviously, looking back to the NL, Jacob deGrom was able to win the Cy Young award with a very low amount of wins behind an offense that always seemed to struggle when he was on the mound.
The thing most people don’t realize is that Shane Bieber made his MLB debut in 2018 as a 23 year old. He’s now 25 years old and will turn 26 in May next season. He’s combined for a 34-14 record with a 3.32 ERA. Each year he’s gotten better with his strikeouts increasing and hits per nine and home runs per nine decreasing. In 2019, he went 15-7 with a 3.28 ERA along with three complete games and two complete game shutouts. He was fourth in voting for the AL Cy Young in his second season in the league. Bieber is in the prime of his career and hasn’t shown any struggle in the big leagues throughout his first three seasons.
There are currently no odds out yet for the AL Cy Young but so far it looks like the NL is starting to snag the top tier free agent pitchers. Of course, we’ll have to see where Trevor Bauer winds up as he won last year’s NL Cy Young award and can also repeat.
In conclusion, there’s absolutely reason to believe Bieber can dominate in 2021 and be the AL Cy Young for back-to-back seasons. It’s going to be hard behind an offense that hasn’t given him much support. He’ll need to be that much better in a longer season. For most pitchers, getting no run support takes a toll on them. For Bieber, it hasn’t necessarily affected him yet but could eventually in a longer season.
This year’s offense could project to be the worst offense the Indians have had since Bieber started pitching for the Indians. Again, there are no MLB odds out at this time but Bieber will likely be near the top when odds come out. There’s likely value in other pitchers but Bieber will absolutely give you a shot to win that futures ticket at top sportsbooks.