Since the Cy Young Award began in 1967, 11 pitchers have won both the Cy Young and MVP in the same year, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Shane Bieber might be No.12.
There’s little to argue about the dominance on the mound that Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Shane Bieber has been able to exhibit this season. He currently is leading all of Major League Baseball in ERA (1.20), strikeouts (84), wins (6), innings pitched (52.2) and strikeouts per nine innings pitched (14.4).
Last season, Bieber finished fourth in the American League Cy Young voting, but is now the clear front-runner in 2020 given his stats. However, considering how commanding he is on the bump this year, Bieber could take home not only the Cy Young, but the AL MVP award as well.
We’ll start with Bieber’s season compared across the league. His 1.20 ERA is leading all of baseball, and by a steady margin with the next closest mark being 1.47 by Yu Darvish followed by Max Fried‘s 1.60.
The same story can be written about Bieber’s strikeouts, coming in at an astounding 84. Not only has no other pitcher hit 80 strikeouts, no one has even hit 70. The next highest total is 66 from Lucas Giolito. This goes back to Bieber’s electric start to the season, placing his name with the likes of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson for strikeouts to start a season.
Even in Bieber’s two starts that didn’t result in wins, it wasn’t always his fault. He just didn’t get any run support. His most recent start was the only one that the Indians lost. In that appearance he allowed just one hit and no runs in a 2-1 loss to Kansas City. The other start he didn’t win was a no-decision on Aug. 9 against the White Sox when he allowed a season-high three runs in what would be a 5-4 Indians win.
It becomes quickly obvious that Bieber is well ahead of his counterparts across the league, but will that be enough to warrant the MVP Award on top of the Cy Young? Let’s take a look at past pitchers to accomplish the feat.
The last pitcher to collect both awards was the 2014 edition of Clayton Kershaw. His second of back-to-back Cy Young Awards, Kershaw led the majors in at least nine statistics, including wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings.
That season Kershaw logged 21 wins over 27 games started, meaning he won about 78% of his starts. This year, Shane Bieber has six wins over eight starts for a 75% winning percentage. Similarly, Kershaw’s league-leading ERA was 1.77 while Bieber’s is currently 1.20.
Now, those numbers can be skewed by the shortened season, so here’s one that is a better representation of the body of work, strikeouts per nine innings. In 2014, Kershaw averaged a league-leading 10.8 strikeouts per nine. Bieber is currently averaging 14.4.
That’s only one example though, so let’s backtrack to the next pitcher to accomplish both, the 2011 version of Justin Verlander. In that season, Verlander led the majors in seven statistics and the American League in two more.
Again, we’ll start with wins. Verlander logged an MLB-high 24 wins over 34 starts in 2011, bringing his win percentage to about 71%. He also led the AL in ERA with 2.20 and the MLB in strikeouts with 250. Despite this, he still averaged just 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings since he also pitched a league-high 251.0 innings, meaning Bieber has better numbers in all three of these categories when broken down to reflect the shortened season.
To go beyond Verlander and Kershaw would take us back to 1992 Dennis Eckersley who was a closer at the time, which shows just how rare this accomplishment is, yet somehow Shane Bieber is making it seem like a cake walk.
Over the last 15 years, the Cleveland Indians have had four Cy Young Award winners, but the club’s last MVP winner was Al Rosen in 1953, being joined by only Lou Boudreau in 1948 as the Cleveland Indians’ only MVP winners in franchise history.
Given his statistics on the season, it seems clear that Shane Bieber should be a candidate for not only the Cy Young, but the MVP as well. In an odd year he has proven to be the most dominant pitcher in baseball and his stats are in many ways better than some of the best seasons we’ve seen put together in recent memory.