Based on ZiPS projections, Shane Bieber is expected to finish 2023 with the following stats:
28 GS, 176.0 IP, 27.0% K%, 5.3% BB%, 3.22 ERA, 3.7 fWAR
Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Covering the Corner Discord.
Matt Lyons’s prediction: OVER
I wavered back and forth on this one a bit but ultimately landed on Shane Bieber being worth slightly more than 3.7 fWAR, which would be the third-best season of his career.
Looking at the projections, I think Bieber beats them, but not in the way that ZiPS seems to think. ZiPS saw Bieber’s strikeout rate plummet from 41.1% in 2020 to 33.1% in 2021 to 25% in 2022 and sees it bouncing back up to 27.0% — I don’t think that’ll be the case. ZiPs also sees him walking more than he did last year (4.6%), but I think he’ll maintain that microscopic walk rate, as well.
Bieber’s strikeout and walk rates declining weren’t just a fluke season thing. Anyone who has watched him pitch last year knows his velocity was down. Under the hood, the curveball on his spin rate was also dropping and he wasn’t missing the bats the way he did during his Cy Young campaign. It was a nightmare at first, then it just kind of settled into him reinventing himself as a guy who sits around 91 mph instead of 93.
Luckily, Bieber adapted quickly in 2022, going from a guy who threw as many as 45.7% four-seamers all over the place in 2019, to a more refined approach with the fastball — mostly up in the zone to set up his other pitches, and only 34.4% of the time. His curveball, which he still used 17% of the time last season, has more ride to it as opposed to a straight 12-6 drop of the past, and his cutter and slider have morphed into almost the same pitch, as far as ride is concerned. There is less than an inch difference in the average horizontal break of his cutter (2.0 inches) and slider (2.8 inches), but the slider has a bit more drop to it (35.1 inches, compared to 27.3). The result is two pitches that look almost identical until it’s far too late to figure out which is which.
Like in the previous post with Josh Naylor, health will be a big factor in how effective Bieber is. He pitched a full 200 innings last year after missing a big chunk of 2021 with shoulder issues, but I can understand if projections put him lower. Though, for what it’s worth, Steamer has him at 203 innings (but with the same fWAR thanks to a 3.47 ERA).
My over prediction here essentially comes down to thinking he’ll pitch the innings that Steamer has him at — again, assuming health — with fewer strikeouts and walks than either system projects. I’m a believer in the reinvented Bieber until he proves us wrong.
Will Shane Bieber finish 2023 with an fWAR over or under 3.7?
This poll is closed
Tomorrow’s player: Steven Kwan