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What Went Wrong With Shane Bieber?

Written by: Jake Tillinghast
Follow him on Twitter: @JTillinghast27
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW

Shane Bieber’s post season debut was not what he hoped it would be. And I am sure we can all agree we expected a big performance from Bieber matching up with Gerrit Cole.

In a battle of the 2 past AL CY Young winners after Bieber takes home the award soon for his historic 2020 Performance that saw him take home the Pitching Triple Crown (Wins, ERA, Strikeouts) and also breaking Cole’s K/9 MLB Record he set last season. It was a historic season for Bieber throughout the regular season. But that all came to a screeching halt here in the AL Wild Card Series.

You cant deny that Bieber clearly was feeling some nerves and the pressure that comes with being tabbed as the CY Young, and leagues best pitcher, then having to face the pitcher who you virtually “stole” that title from.

Cole wasn’t going to go easy. He is a gamer, and will use anything as motivation to give him the edge, more then what comes with any other Postseason start. This was personal for Cole. He is built for postseason success and showed why he’s still one of the best in the league and a few “Non Cole-like starts” to begin his Yankee career didn’t change that.

This wasn’t the first time the Yankees roughed up Bieber however…. in 2019 when Bieber was allowed to face teams outside of the Central divisions, he had one of his worst career starts and that came against…….Yup, these same Yankees.

6/9/19: 1.2 IP – 5 Hits – 5 ER – 1 HRs – 2 Walks – 4 Strikeouts

Bieber was missing middle-middle often tonight. Take a look at the images below of each specific pitch breakdown from Baseball Savant. Consistently leaking over the middle. Especially the Fastball. A place that he has always showed elite command throughout his young career.

That didn’t take long…… On the 4th pitch, Aaron Judge launched a 399 ft HR at 108 MPH off the bat. On a fastball that I couldn’t have placed on a tee for Judge. Obviously missing his location. Theme of the night.

So much for a pitchers duel huh?

That wasn’t the only HR Bieber allowed, Gleybar put a charge into one on once again, a Fastball that leaked over the middle of the plate.

You will hear that a lot in this write up, “Leaked over the middle of the plate” cause that ultimately is what was what led to Biebers problems.

A powerful lineup like the Yankees, and really any lineup will do tons of damage with out locating pitches efficiently. Bieber knows that. Command is his #1 calling card and the best we have in the game. So this all just feels so wrong to even be writing about… But here we are. Baseball folks.

Let’s take a bit deeper dive into the command issues and where it all lead to Bieber’s disaster Playoff debut. Below are breakdowns of each pitch of Biebers arsenal with locations, and it doesn’t take much from me to tell you, all that color in the middle of the zone, generally isn’t a good sign. But it is also not what we are accustom from seeing with Bieber.

The Yankees were not chasing his curveball like he was getting other hitters all season with a 51% rate on that nasty spiked curve. The fastball command he had allowed the Yankees to simply lay off the offspeed as best they could, and attack the fastball the Bieber was showing some clear early trouble with the locating and having his Fastball leak over the middle of the plate more then he was accustom to. Look at all the “Meatballs”, or middle middle, heart of the plate whatever you want to call it, Bieber was not living on the black with that pinpoint command we are all used to seeing.

The cutter was a pitch Bieber consistently pounded the outer half to RH, inside to LH, again missed middle not getting that pitch edge of the plate like he is shooting for. And the Cutters that found their way to that side of the plat, mostly ended up as “non competitive pitches” low and out of the zone where hitters didn’t have much trouble laying off.

Bieber mostly stayed away from his Changeup due to not many Lefties in the lineup, but I am a bit shocked he stayed so much away from the Slider that was an effective pitch for him throughout the season, and could have gave him an extra pitch to find some strikes with, and maybe get some more chase then he was, but he ultimately. Throwing just 7 Sliders all night.

No doubt nerves were an issue tonight for Shane in his 1st playoff outing. Uncharacteristically missing over the middle for the plate, something he really didn’t do at all over the course of the season with his incredible command and ability to spot up consistently, making the game looks so easy at times. Not last night.

Something to note, and this is no knock on Bieber who I think is clearly one of the games best Pitchers at this stage, but he had the luxury of facing off against some of the leagues worst offense all season that reside in the AL Central. And again… this is no knock on Bieber. You pitch the games your are scheduled for. Teams like the Royals, Tigers, Pirates for 5 of your 12 starts will make even my statistics look good.

That’s something we need to look at heading into 2021, not just for Bieber, but for all pitchers, facing 1/3 of the league can skew your stats a bit depending on park factors or just simply levels of talent you face. Bieber still dominated the other teams he faced along the way, and again its not his decision who he faces from start to start, but it makes you wonder if he had this same historic season if this was, a full 162 game season, had to make 30+ starts facing off against teams all around the league. Still would have turned in an elite season with his talent and the way he was pitching, but one of the best of All-Time? Maybe not.

Bieber is still every bit the Ace he was prior to this game, and has a lengthy and successful career ahead of him, and I believe will find his postseason success in due time. Call me a Bieliber? Maybe he lucks out and the Indians can battle back and get him a start in the ALDS and get some redemption, if not, he will be marinating in that start all offseason itching to get back on the mound and take that next step and have that postseason success that he has yet to taste.

I picked the Indians to represent the AL in the World Series this season, (You can find that article here) if they will want to get there, clearly will need some magic, and Bieber to return to form in the coming rounds if they want to reach that peak.

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