Let's all try to remain calm about Shane Bieber's troubling numbers

Miami Marlins v Cleveland Guardians - Game One
Miami Marlins v Cleveland Guardians - Game One / Jason Miller/GettyImages

There isn't a ton to like right now in the Cleveland Guardians' rotation, aside from the promising debuts of guys like Peyton Battenfield and Logan Allen.

With Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie on the shelf a little while longer, the onus falls on ace Shane Bieber to carry the rotation, but he's been having his own struggles to start the year.

And despite a 3.23 ERA, 3.71 FIP, and 134 ERA+ in his first five starts, the underlying numbers aren't especially pretty.

Let's start with the velocity, a topic that has haunted Bieber ever since his Cy Young season in 2020 and shoulder injury that kept him out for much of 2021. It's been discussed with good reason, because his four-seamer has gone down in velocity every year since 2020, and currently clocks in just a shade under 91 mph, down from 91.3 mph in 2022. You could say it has something to do with the weather, but at this point, it's hard to use that as much of an excuse.

As you might expect from the decreased velocity, Bieber is getting fewer swings and misses from his fastball than ever before. Swings and misses from the four-seamer are at 6.8%, down from 25% back in 2020 and even 15% in 2022.

Bieber is also getting hit harder than ever. The average exit velocity off him is up to 92.5 mph, his hard-hit rate is now over 46%, and the xBA of batters against him is up to .295, by far the worst of his career. He's only striking batters out at a 17% clip, but the most alarming thing of all is that Bieber's xERA is a whopping 5.12.

Not exactly encouraging stuff from your ace. Of course, we're only five starts into the year, so this could all even out and we could all be laughing about this article by June. But it is incredibly difficult to be a dominant right-handed pitcher if you're only throwing 90 mph, no matter how good your location is or how many great secondary pitches you might have. There's simply no room for error in Bieber's case, and right now, he's not totally locked in and opposing hitters are making him pay the price.

Given his pedigree, we should all give Bieber the benefit of the doubt and assume he'll be able to ramp things up as the season progresses. He's certainly done it before. The rest of the Guardians' beleaguered rotation will just need to hang on in the meantime.