The Detroit Tigers swung at 48 Shane Bieber pitches tonight. They missed 23 times.
The average exit velocity on all of Shane Bieber’s pitches put in play was just 89.2 — only two hit over 100 mph.
The Tigers put fewer balls in play (13) than they watched go by for a called strike (16).
There are limitless fun Bieber facts from tonight’s total dismantling of the Tigers offense, and they all lead to one conclusion: He’s really, really good. Tonight he struck out 11 for his third double-digit strikeout start in five outings. He’s gone at least 6.0 innings with eight strikeouts in every outing.
Tonight he relied heavily on his curveball and that mutant curvy moving thing that Statcast classifies as a cutter. Tigers batters whiffed on the two pitches a combined 13 times and only put it into play four. The pitch chart for the two helps you see just how confusing it can be. The ball comes out of his hand at basically the same angle, with the same horizontal movement until the last second when it either snaps in or out. You have no way of knowing one it’ll be. Good luck.
Tigers batters did not, in fact, have good luck tonight. At one point Bieber was on a run of striking out seven of eight batters before remembering that he was supposed to keep his superhuman abilities hidden until the time is right. He let Cameron Maybin ground out in the bottom of the fifth, and bestowed a single upon Austin Romine to fool the mortals into thinking he was one of them.
The Indians offense also played a game resembling baseball tonight. José Ramírez led the way with two hits, two walks, and two of the team’s three runs batted in. Carlos Santana took his arbitrary walk on the night, but the Tigers also chose to challenge him, which is something he hasn’t seen much this season. Though, honestly, it’s difficult to tell with Tigers pitchers if they are intentionally challenging someone or just can’t do anything but float pitches over the heart of the plate.
Regardless, Santana hit a double, his first since Aug. 11, and only his third extra-base hit of the season. It wasn’t a terrible pitch — a fastball from Spencer Turnbull on the outside corner of the zone — but it leaked just a bit too far over the plate and Santana slapped it 105.2 mph into the outfield for an RBI double. I’m fully on board for Santana walking 30% of the time, no matter how long it lasts, but it’s also nice to see him hit balls over the plate, too.
The same cannot be said for Oscar Mercado, who was up with the bases loaded, one out, and looked lost at the plate. This was Mercado’s first start since Aug. 7 and he didn’t do much to force his way back into the everyday starter discussion. He drew a walk and eventually came around to score, but he hasn’t registered a base hit for over a week now and all of his Statcast peripherals show a batter who is not hitting into bad luck. He’s just not hitting.
Francisco Lindor looked similarly lost at the plate, though his playing time isn’t exactly in jeopardy. Looking at the pitch chart, it didn’t even look like the Tigers had a particular plan against Frankie. Just throw him whatever and he’ll probably miss. And right now, that’s exactly what happens.
Lindor stranded a total of six runners tonight. It’s becoming painfully apparent how much the Indians offense relies on him being able to get a few of these hits with runners in scoring position but right now they just aren’t coming. When that happens you end up having games where you can only score three against the Tigers and need an otherworldly start from your pitcher to win.
I don’t want to end this recap on a down note, because Bieber’s domination outshines any downsides of the Indians offense (as his 4-0 record might suggest with a lineup this ineffective), and after all they did win a Major League Baseball game which is hard to. So here’s a montage of Bieber strikeouts courtesy of the Indians Twitter account.