Cleveland Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase has been named the American League Reliever of the Month for August 2021.
The last month — honestly, the last six weeks — have been kind to Clase, to say the least. The 23-year-old has not allowed a run since July 16 and carried a 10.66 K/9 in August along with a 0.71 BB/9 and 1.72 FIP in 12.2 innings. Making him the league’s top reliever for the month was probably an easy call.
So, how did he do it? Sliders, baby.
Once a pitcher who threw 100 mph cutters but nothing else to compliment them, Clase has turned up his slider usage as the 2021 season progressed and the result has been nothing short of amazing. Here is how his slider usage breaks down month by month. See if you can spot a pattern here, keeping in mind that he became an otherwordly closer in mid-July.
- April: 22.5%
- May: 19.8%
- June: 21.1%
- July: 38.5%
- August: 33.5%
Paired with his cutter that routinely sits at triple digits, it’s not hard to see why opposing batters are having so much trouble with this new look Emmanuel Clase. Tuning up for his cutter and waiting for the heater is no longer an option. They are now left with a split-second decision between a fastball that is going to be right on them in a blink of an eye, or a slider that is going to look exactly the same but break away slightly more and come to an imperceptible amount slower.
Frankly, it’s not fair. But until they deem him too good to be allowed to play baseball and immediately put him in the Hall of Fame, Clase will have to settle with being recognized as the league’s best reliever — probably not for the last time.