A few years ago, Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber hoisted an officially licensed, full-sized bat featuring the reproduced work of noted artist Jolene Jessie. In other words, he took home the MVP of the 90th annual MLB All-Star Game.
Most people who watched the game that night didn’t even know who Bieber was.
A lot has changed in two years.
Bieber has arguably been the best pitcher in all of baseball since midway through the 2019 season, and early in 2021, he’s off to another amazing start.
The pitcher did have a hiccup on Opening Day against the Detroit Tigers, suffering a rare loss in the snow at Comerica Park. He allowed three runs on five hits in the game.
The big blow in the contest was a two-run homer by future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. The shot just made it over the yellow line in right field in the first inning and gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t lose.
Since then, Bieber’s been back to his old self, including against the upstart Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Bieber threw eight impressive innings, giving up three runs on six hits, two walks, 13 strikeouts on 104 pitches, 73 of which were strikes. He came away with the win.
After his performance on Sunday, the Indians pitcher is on the verge of history:
Most strikeouts in 1st 4 appearances of season, since at least 1906:
1978 Nolan Ryan: 48
1973 Nolan Ryan: 46
2021 Shane Bieber: 45
Bieber has been UNBELIEVABLE
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 18, 2021
Last season, in the home opener against the Kansas City Royals, Bieber struck out 14 batters.
Six days later against the Minnesota Twins, he struck out 13 more batters.
His numbers by season’s end were staggering: a record of 8-1, 122 strikeouts (AL high, average of 10.1 Ks per start), and a 1.63 ERA.
The Cy Young on Bieber’s mantle was a no-brainer, and now the 25-year-old seems to be getting even better – if that’s possible.
In the 6-3 win over the Reds on Sunday, Bieber struck out 13 and showed off a variety of pitches to do so.
Shane Bieber doing Shane Bieber things.
K'ing the side. 8th, 9th & 10th Ks. pic.twitter.com/Vk1nPdDT0d
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 18, 2021
In eight starts in 2020, Bieber struck out double digit batters, and he already has four double-digit strikeout games in 2021.
Shane Bieber becomes the first pitcher to ever record at least 10 strikeouts in each of his first four starts of a season.
I'm out of adjectives to describe this guy. Wow.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) April 18, 2021
Bieber is the most important player on the Cleveland roster. As he goes, the team goes.
A second straight Cy Young is still a ways away, but based on his start so far, it’s hard to bet against Bieber or the Tribe.