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Maybe It’s Better To Never Swing at Shane Bieber’s Pitches

You don’t need me to tell you how effective Shane Bieber was in 2020. He led the majors in ERA, FIP, K/9, overall strikeouts, and of course was the unanimous winner of the AL Cy Young Award. The underlying pitch-tracking data all back up the quality of his skillset. He’s very good. So you’re probably wondering how this all jibes with a title suggesting it may be better for hitters to not swing at Bieber’s pitches, right?

I’ll start with this: Bieber’s 34% zone rate ranks 316th out of 323 pitchers who threw a minimum of 20 innings in 2020. That’s dead last among qualified starters. How is this possible? The simple answer is that, once again, he’s very good. The slightly less simple answer is that batters swing at unhittable pitches and don’t swing at hittable pitches. Bieber throws almost twice as many pitches out of the zone as he throws in the zone, so what if hitters just stopped swinging at his offerings? Surely he would just change his approach if a batter didn’t swing at his pitches, right? Read the rest of this entry »