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Adam Cimber, a year or so later

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We’ve seen a year’s worth of appearances out of the young reliever. What do we make of him so far?

Cleveland Indians v Miami Marlins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

In any trade, it’s rare the extra piece elicits any kind of immediate excitement. Carlos Carrasco was one of many names for Cliff Lee, and he wasn’t much of anything for years. But when Brad Hand came over for Francisco Mejia, we knew what we were getting — a very good relief pitcher. Along with that was this strange rookie, a submariner supreme (or almost, he has the second lowest release point in baseball) in Adam Cimber that could be, well, anything. That’s the magic of the unknown, of the oddity and the rookie. They can be a cipher. Well, we’re a year into the Adam Cimber experience for Major League Baseball, so let’s take stock.

It’s hard to grasp what the hope was for Cimber when he came to Cleveland last season. He’d had a great stint in San Diego, albeit short, and was murder on righties. Then things went south in Cleveland and he was one of the worst arms in a bad ‘pen for a while.

Adam Cimber career stats

Season Team IP ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP BABIP LOB% wOBA
Season Team IP ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP BABIP LOB% wOBA
2018 SDP 27.2 3.25 2.98 3.41 23.2 4.5 1.05 .286 67.4 .261
2018 CLE 20 4.05 6.06 5.18 7.6 7.6 1.65 .324 85.4 .391
2019 CLE 13.2 3.95 3.14 3.55 20.8 5.7 0.8 .184 41.7 .196
61.1. 3.67 4.02 4.02 17.1 5.8 1.19 0.28 72.2 0.292
Rather than just describe his awful time in Cleveland last season, here are the stats.

In all, it’s something, though not quite something spectacular. Sixty-one and change innings is about a season for a relief pitcher, give or take an appearance or two, and this gives us a glance at some hot and cold runs that any reliever would go through. So if this is who Cimber is, that’s just fine.

But what he really is, and like I mentioned before and wrote about last year, is something of a savage ROOGY, a killer of right-handed power. In facing the Twins in-division and any other contender, that’s vitally important. With Hand, Oliver Pérez and Tyler Olson, the Indians have a lot of lefty pitching in the bullpen, combined with intensely unimpressive righties in Neil Ramírez and Dan Otero. So having someone who can get at least a couple outs late in games, to play the platoon game, is why Cimber is so needed for them.

Cimber vs. righties, career

Season Team IP ERA GB% K% BB% WHIP BABIP LOB% FIP xFIP
Season Team IP ERA GB% K% BB% WHIP BABIP LOB% FIP xFIP
Total 2 Tms 47 2.68 67.6% 14.6% 3.2% 0.96 .250 72.0% 3.54 3.5
Cimber has killed right-handed batters this season and last.

Is this a player that has a role in the modern game? It’s hard to say. In 2020, relievers will have to face at least least three batters as MLB works to juice offense and speed up games, and if when comes to pass then a ROOGY is as useless as the classic LOOGY. He could catch a stretch of right-handed hitters in a late game situation, or just walk a left-handed batter to get to the righty behind him, but that is a lot of hopes and worries to inject into a game. Especially a playoff game.

Which is why many silently prayed that Cimber would learn some kind of changeup in effort to get left-handed hitters out. He hasn’t thrown a single one this year though, and how much can you expect a second year pitcher to learn and perfect a new pitch in an off-season, especially when he spent half his rookie year getting absolutely blasted? He probably didn’t even trust the stuff he already had for a while.

As much of an oddity as he is, Cimber will be around for a while simply because he’s effective in some way — and cheap, of course. Over the last calendar year, he’s shown he can at least get guys out a decent amount of the time, and probably has some room to grow and find a real role. Whether that role is ace setup man — a place he’s kind of been press ganged into — or something more specialized, he’s at least a good tool for Terry Francona to fiddle with. We’ll just have to see what happens when the rules change.