Looking at this game, you might not know that the Minnesota Twins are one of the deadliest offenses in baseball.
Looking at this picture you might not know that Josh Donaldson is a former MVP who still has a lot left in the tank.
Shane Bieber, a human-buzzsaw hybrid, made everyone in the Twins dugout look lost at the plate, and quite a few — like our dear friend Josh Donaldson — look downright silly.
If there is anyone on Earth left who doesn’t know about Bieber, they sure as hell do now. The mild-mannered 25-year-old put his name on the map during last year’s All-Star Game, and his last two performances have made it impossible to not consider him a Cy Young candidate.
He followed his stellar season debut against the Royals with an even better performance against an ever better opponent tonight: 8.0 IP, 13 SO, 0 BB, 3 H.
It’s not like Bieber did anything new, either. His four-seam fastball was just so well located and his curveball (classified as a knuckle curve by Baseball Savant) threw the Twins off balance just enough that they could not figure him out.
Early on, the formula was simple: Get ahead with a fastball, then throw some curves or whatever until they walk away with their heads down. When you can use your fastball to paint the edges like this (please note that there are three pitches in this graphic), it really doesn’t matter what else you do.
By the fifth inning, the Twins thought they had a beat on Bieber and started to attack his fastballs early. No problem — he switched it up and went heavier curveballs early in the count. Nineteen of his 34 curves came from the fifth inning onward, and five of those came on the first pitch. Only four in total were put in play all game.
With another outstanding start under his belt, Bieber tied the Major League Baseball record for strikeouts through the first two starts of a season. He surpassed Nolan Ryan in the same category and now sits atop the mountain with Karl Spooner.
The Opening Day starter for the Dodgers in 1954, Karl Spooner struck out 27 batters in his first two starts as well. Unfortunately, those were the only strikeouts — and starts — he had that year and he was out of baseball a little over a year later. Bieber is on track to have a bit more luck than ‘ole Spooner.
Twitter was aflutter with Shane Bieber tidbits tonight, but this is probably my favorite:
Shane Bieber has faced 50 batters in two starts this season. He has struck out 27 of them, walking just 1.— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) July 31, 2020
That is a 54 K% and a 2 BB%.
Bieber has a -0.36 FIP. He has not allowed a run.
He has a negative FIP. HE HAS A NEGATIVE FIP. Unbelievable.
We’re able to celebrate Bieber’s accomplishment tonight thanks in part to Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez. Without the latter getting on base and former hitting a ball 409 feet out of Target Field to give the Indians their only runs, we might be headed for the 12th inning right now. Or worse, have already lost thanks to the new extra-innings rule.
Luckily, with lead in hand, Terry Francona turned to James Karinchak to close out the game, and he did so with Bieber-like effeciency. Three fastballs, three curves, and a Twins offense that just looked ready to go home got their wish.