It's hard to be much better than Shane Bieber was in 2020. After all, even though the shortened 2020 season only allowed for a limited display from Cleveland's third-year stud, he significantly distanced himself from the rest of the pack in what should be an easily-won AL Cy Young race.
With an 8-1 record, 122 strikeouts, and a 1.63 ERA, Bieber took home the pitching Triple Crown and led Cleveland to a playoff berth. But Indians general manager Mike Chernoff doesn't think that this is the best he'll be in his career. Chernoff joined WFAN's "Moose and Maggie" to discuss his Indians' upcoming playoff series against the Yankees and touched on Bieber's amazing development.
"He has been tremendous," Chernoff said on the New York-based radio show. "I mean, for a lot of your listeners who don't get to see the Indians play every day or over the years, this is a pitcher that, when we first drafted him, was a fourth-round pick, somewhat unheralded. (He) obviously had a good college career... but wasn't a superstar first-round standout."
Bieber went 23-12 in his career at UC Santa Barbara, with a solid 2.73 ERA and 7/1 SO/9 figure throughout his three-year stint. As Chernoff mentioned, it was good enough for a fourth-round draft selection. As a side note: no player selected within the first 10 rounds of the 2016 MLB Draft has posted a higher WAR than Bieber's figure of 8.8.
His development in the minors indicated that he was going to be much better than his college statistics may have suggested.
"He just kind of put his head down and progressed through the minor league system," Chernoff said. "Extremely coachable guy, came up really quickly, flew through the system, made it on to our major league team. And from that day on, (he) continued his development."
Bieber's ascension to the majors was as rapid as it gets. In eight starts at the lowest level, A- ball, Bieber allowed one earned run in 24 innings pitched. In 2017, playing on multiple minor league teams at different levels, Bieber went 10-5 with a 2.86 ERA. The results in 2018 were even better, as Bieber completely overwhelmed opposing bats at the highest tier of competition yet, going 6-1 with a 1.47 ERA.
Chernoff prides his organization on its ability to develop pitchers like Bieber, calling it a real strength of the club and recognizing that pitchers have been able to transition easily to the highest level of professional baseball through the Indians' system.
The development we saw in the minor leagues was crazy, but it might not compare to what we've seen so far in his MLB career. After all, the difference between his stellar 2019 campaign and his Triple Crown 2020 season is staggering.
"This is a pitcher who had a great year last year and went out and worked his tail off this offseason to become even better," Chernoff said. "So, as good of a season as he had -- and it really was amazing when you look at the numbers -- it wouldn't surprise me, with how young and how coachable he is, if he ends up being even better in the future."
After what we saw from Bieber this year, that's a really scary thought for the rest of baseball. Extending his stat line to a typical 34-start slate, you get the following, slightly terrifying totals: a 23-3 record with 346 strikeouts.
He's downright nasty, he's setting MLB records, and it's truly hard to imagine how his pitching can get any harder to hit.
Listen to the full interview with Chernoff below.