Cleveland Indians

Shane Bieber makes an early case for the AL Cy Young Award

Cleveland Indians RHP Shane Bieber shut out the Minnesota Twins.

Facing a lineup that set a Major League record for home runs a season ago and was the second-highest scoring offense in the league? No problem for Cleveland Indians starter Shane Bieber.

Bieber breezed through the Minnesota Twins on Thursday at Target Field. His fastball was overpowering; his curveball, a variant of a knuckle-curve, devastating. Bieber struck out 13 and allowed only three hits in his eight shutout innings. He’s yet to allow an earned run this season and improved to 2-0 as the Indians defeated the Twins 2-0.

The season is just a week in, but Bieber is making a case that he’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. On Opening Day against Kansas City, he struck out 14 in just six innings. He’s faced 50 batters this season and has struck out 27 of them, giving up seven hits and walking only one. He’s the first starting pitcher in MLB history with back-to-back starts to begin a season with at least 13 strikeouts. His 27 strikeouts through two starts within the first week of the season is also a new record, one more than Curt Schilling in 2002. And he became the first Indians starter since Jack Kralick in 1964 with consecutive shutouts of at least six innings to begin the year.

Shane Bieber is making a strong Cy Young argument

Bieber’s knuckle-curve was his biggest weapon against the powerful Twins lineup that hit 307 home runs last season and added former AL MVP Josh Donaldson in the offseason. Of his 13 strikeouts, eight of them came off curveballs, including six swinging. His final strikeout of the night came on a filthy curveball to Byron Buxton that started at the knees before precipitously dropping into the dirt. Buxton could only wave at it weakly before heading back to the dugout.

Bieber threw 34 curveballs on Thursday and 43 fastballs as part of his 102 total pitches. He’s given up just two hits off his curveball this season in 20 at-bats that ended with the pitch, good for a .100 batting average against it. He’s striking out 17.4 batters per nine innings in his first two starts, a mark which would be nearly four points higher than any other starting pitcher in history.

It’s easy to believe that Bieber’s historic start came out of nowhere. After all, through his first two seasons in the big leagues, he was overshadowed in the Indians’ rotation by Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. He was most known for having the same name as a certain pop star. But Bieber is just building off his performance from 2019.

Bieber earned his first All-Star selection last season and won game MVP honors at home in Progressive Field. He then had a 2.81 ERA in his first 12 starts immediately after the break, including a one-hit, complete-game shutout in Toronto in July. He struck out 15 in a start against the Orioles last July and finished 10th in the league with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. His 259 strikeouts in 2019 were the most by an Indians pitcher within his first two seasons since Herb Score struck out 263 in 1956.

Bieber will have some competition for the Cy Young Award eventually from the likes of Gerrit Cole of the Yankees and the Rays’ Charlie Morton. But he and Lance Lynn of the Rangers are the only pitchers to make two starts this season without allowing a run yet.

The season is still too young to predict how he’ll finish it, but with how he’s pitching so far, Bieber won’t be known just as the player with a famous last name for much longer.

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