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Game of Stones: Shane Bieber Stifles Orioles

You remember rushing home from Game Stop to throw that sports video game in, flip the difficulty to ‘Easy’, and seeing what kind of statistics you could accrue? Maybe it was a Madden game where you jumped on and adjusted all of the sliders so that you could throw for 782 yards in one game with Drew Brees. That was Shane Bieber against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

If you aren’t a millennial or otherwise video game inclined, the object was simple — pile up statistics at an inordinate rate because it was at its worst an amusing endeavor and at its best a scintillating one. At the end of the game, satisfaction materialized despite contextual gray areas. Shane Bieber didn’t care that it was the lousy Baltimore Orioles that aided and abetted his immaculate 15 strikeout and zero walk complete game — he just cared that it happened. Trudging through the contextual qualifiers of any accomplishment is often a verse reserved for those with a vested interest in detracting said accomplishment.

Qualifiers be damned, it is important not to overlook just how special Bieber was on this given Sunday. With a 1:10 pm start time, it was readily apparent precisely at 1:10 pm that he was in the zone. Every first inning offering had purpose and was backed by location. In fact, he only threw one ball in that inning, leading to two strikeouts and a groundout. Three swings and misses, three called strikes, and a fastball to an off balance Trey Mancini that found a date with the ground a few feet in front of home plate.

While the first inning was an efficient blur, the most interesting developments occurred in the back half of the game. Racking up strikeout after strikeout, Bieber honed in on the edges after a dangerous fifth inning which saw a lot of middle-middle. After that, though, he didn’t venture middle-middle again.

In the last four innings, Bieber lived low and on the black. Find a mistake pitch in the following graphics… Judging by sheer location, you simply cannot.

6th Inning
(Courtesy of Baseball Savant)
7th Inning
(Courtesy of Baseball Savant)
8th Inning
(Courtesy of Baseball Savant)
9th Inning
(Courtesy of Baseball Savant)

For a command aficionado like Shane Bieber, those four charts are everything you could want… Pitches in spots that are only remotely hittable while being difficult to square up if sequenced properly. But Bieber had more in the tank than command yesterday afternoon. He flashed movement and stuff, to boot.

Bieber was pinpointing nearly everything and missing bats at an alarming clip in the process. In the Statcast Era (since 2015), his pure whiff total (meaning hitter attempts a swing and misses completely, excluding foul tips) of 27 has only been surpassed on nine occasions, by five different pitchers:

Pitcher (Number of starts with more than 27 pure whiffs since 2015)

  • Max Scherzer (3)
  • Clayton Kershaw (3)
  • Danny Duffy (1)
  • Yu Darvish (1)
  • Carlos Carrasco (1)

Bieber pounded the strike zone for a few hours and made more than a handful of hitters look silly. He flashed that peak that led him to being a highly regarded breakout candidate before the year began. Without regard for the skill level of his opponent, it was a downright impressive display.

Props to Carl Willis

The Indians veteran pitching coach could’ve easily adhered to strict, yet arbitrary pitch count limits in yesterday’s game. Especially in a 10-0 affair, it would’ve been easy to rationalize pulling him… But Carl Willis went to Shane Bieber and left the decision in his hands.

Obligatory PitchingNinja Embed

Because who doesn’t want to see 15 strikeouts in 23 seconds? Well, aside from the Baltimore Orioles’ hitting coach.

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