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What's Wrong With Shane Bieber?

Bieber's advanced analytics suggest he's not been performing near his potential. Saturday's outing vs. Toronto was among the worst of his career.

Shane Bieber has been Cleveland's unquestioned leader on the pitching staff the last few years. He's been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last several seasons, so you really don't want to jump to conclusions after a few starts. 

But something isn't quite right with Cleveland's ace.

Saturday was pretty ugly. The California-kid lasted 3.1 innings, gave up seven earned runs on eight hits and walked three. It marked the first time in his Major League career that he didn't strike out a batter.

Until Saturday, his performances this year have been fine. But his advanced statistics would suggest that Bieber is under-performing based on his standards.

Bieber's average fastball velocity this afternoon was 89 mph and his hardest fastball came in at 90.9. He's averaging about 91 mph on the season, which is significantly below the Major League average this year.

To his credit, his chase rate is still quite good, his whiff rate is well above average and he's in the top 10 percent of pitchers missing barrels. In other words, even without his best stuff, he's finding ways to be effective.

But his spin rates across the board are down substantially and that hurt him on Saturday. The Blue Jays put nine balls in play with exit velocities of at least 97 mph, including five that were at least 106 mph off the bat.

He really wasn't fooling anyone today.

Will this be a long term problem for Bieber? Guardians fans sure hope not, but time will tell.

What's particularly alarming about all of this is the fact that offensive numbers across baseball are at historically low rates. ESPN published a terrific story earlier this week detailing why offensive production has been so low across the game - specifically, what's going on with the ball itself that may be leading to some lower offensive numbers.

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Again - Bieber has largely had a successful year so far, but his personal data would seem to indicate he's living on borrowed time. If the baseball somehow has materially changed, several of his hard-throwing teammates haven't had the same problem.

He told us postgame that he doesn't really feel any different in terms of his overall strength or stamina compared to where he is at this point of the season in previous years, so hopefully whatever he is dealing with will be behind him soon.


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