Brian Shaw Cements His Place in Indians Lore
The Indians had a lot of ups and downs during the 2014 season. In fact, there were so many ups and downs that when describing this version of the Cleveland Indians, consistent would be one of the last adjectives that would come to mind. Defensive lapses, inefficient offense, and questionable lineup after questionable lineup marred what many hoped to be a promising season.
However, despite all of that the bad that popped up along the way, there was one reliable and, dare I say, consistent piece in 2014. That, of course, was one Bryan Anthony Shaw.
Up until 2014, the record for most appearances by an Indians relief pitcher was 79 set by Bobby Howry all the way back in 2005. You may not remember, but in that season for the Indians, Howry appeared in 79 games and posted a 7-4 record with a 2.47 ERA and 171 ERA+. That career year led to a healthy pay raise the following season from the Cubs. Nearly 10 years later, Shaw would one up Howry on the way to a career year of his own.
Sep 4, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Bryan Shaw (27) delivers in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
In 80 appearances, Shaw was as close to dominant as they come for a reliever. In 76.1 innings of work, he posted a 5-5 record (if you’re still into that type of thing) along with a 2.59 ERA, 7.5 K/9, and 144 ERA+. In every sense, Shaw continued the work previously done by Vinnie Pestano; helping bridge the gap between the eighth and ninth innings before giving way to Cody Allen.
This was nothing new though for Bryan Shaw. He was nearly as dominant in 2013 and over the past two seasons he has appeared in the second most games of any reliever at 150 and second most innings pitched, 151.3. Among the Indians core group of relievers, Shaw once again proved to be the most reliable of the bunch, with maybe the exception of the aforementioned Allen, who ascended to the role of closer after the first few months of the season.
The real question, though, is can Shaw keep up this pace? It’s clear that Terry Francona has come to rely on him to get the Indians through the most difficult stretches of games, whether it be one or two batters or one or two innings, Shaw has been called on more than any other Indians reliever over the past two seasons. At what point does his arm finally say enough is enough? When do the overworked ligaments in his elbow finally snap like an old, dried out rubber band? No one can say for sure, but that possibility is all too real.
Chances are Francona will once again rely heavily on Bryan Shaw in 2015. He’s proven himself to be among the most reliable options out of the pen in the past two seasons. But does that mean we will see Shaw make the jog out from center field 80 more times in 2015?
Logic would tell us that the odds of seeing Shaw break his own record are highly unlikely. At 80 appearances Shaw pitched in half of the Indians 162 games. Most of the time it wasn’t because the situation dictated that it was time to bring in Shaw. It was more out of necessity as the best possible option each and every single time the pitcher before him got into trouble. It seems likely that with the off-season and an improved roster, Shaw’s appearances should be lessened moving forward.
But then again, injuries and poor performances happen. So while it’s easy to say that Shaw won’t appear in nearly as many games in 2015 as he did in 2014, you just never know.
Regardless of how things play out in the coming weeks and months, the fact remains that Terry Francona will need Bryan Shaw to continue to be one of the best relief options in all of baseball. If history is any indicator, that shouldn’t be a problem.