The Indians solved their big, dumb issue in the bullpen. Though the departure of Francisco Mejia is quite sad, Brad Hand is en route to Cleveland and bolsters the bullpen. But the Indians were able to nab another man, another relief arm that could prove to be a huge difference maker in Adam Cimber. This is more than a throw-in. Cimber is one of the most unique pitchers in the game.
With just 48 Major League innings — and in the pitcher's paradise of Petco Park no less — it’s hard to get too firm a grasp of who and what Cimber is. But he does have one superlative attribute.
As FanGraphs’ Travis Sawchik noted back in May, Cimber’s release point is the second lowest in all of baseball. So, not quite a superlative, but close enough. Here’s an example:
This motion, and this release point, means that Cimber literally has a pitch that rises. Yes, it does succumb to gravity in some respect, but between his hand and the catcher’s glove, it climbs in elevation. Which has to absolutely freak hitters out the first time they see it. It’s not natural.
So having this attribute alone is, if nothing else, a very neat little piece for the bullpen. But in these 48 innings, and in all but one of his minor league seasons, Cimber forced batted balls into the ground more than half the time. This year he holds a 52.3 percent ground ball rate, which would be second highest on the Indians. In this era of fly ball mania and home runs everywhere, suppressing the fly ball is a vital attribute for a reliever. That, combined with a solid 26.3 percent K rate and a 21.3 percent K-BB%, immediately places him among the best arms the Indians have.
Now, there is some bad. While he does suppress the fly ball — his 23.4 percent fly ball rate is 14th among all qualified relievers – he’s also benefited in his home runs rates by playing not just in Petco, but also regularly in three other large parks in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Colorado (though that is off-set some, huh). So here’s all the non-ground balls he’s allowed, laid over Progressive Field:
This is a quick and dirty way of analyzing how he’ll perform in a less pitcher-friendly park, though it is a bit disheartening. But the real problem is his track record against lefties. As freaky as that release point is to right-handed hitters , it simply opens him up more to be annihilated by southpaws. They get a lovely view of the ball out of his hand. He’s faced 69 of them so far and they’re hitting .288/.391/.569 off him, compared to .207/.221/.261 for righties. So at least he’s got a role, right? And the good news there is, between Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Mookie Betts J.D. Martinez and most of the Astros, he’s going to be able to get some work in when the moments get big. In fact, considering the Indians will likely have at least three left-handed pitchers in the bullpen now with Hand, Miller and Oliver Perez (plus maybe Tyler Olson?), have they invented by sheer accident the role of the ROOGY? They’re always breaking ground.
This is a great pickup by itself — though he wouldn’t cost Mejia — but as an extra piece to get the deal done it’s a major win. Learning a third pitch to help him knock down lefties would be an incredible development, but even without that Cimber has a shot to be a surprisingly key piece in the Indians lefty-heavy bullpen. He’s unique and pretty darn good. You can’t ask for much more from a reliever.