Cleveland Guardians: Shane Bieber checks in low on ranking of top MLB aces
Opening Day is just around the corner, and with it comes the final preseason analysis of all 30 MLB teams. That includes lists and rankings, and this one in particular, appearing on Bleacher Report, is a ranking of the aces of every team.
The top 10 features the usual names one would expect, with the best arms in baseball taking their rightful place in the list. While Shane Bieber does not appear in the top 10, it can be argued he should appear higher than his actual spot on the list.
Where does Bieber rank exactly? The Guardians ace checks in as the lowest-ranked ace with a sub 3.00 ERA at 18th overall. Bieber's 2.88 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, and 198 strikeouts in 200 innings last season was apparently just good enough to be ranked closer to 20 than 10.
"Bieber was everything you could want in an ace when he won the AL Cy Young Award in 2020. Since then, a shoulder injury that cost him half of 2021 and decreases to his velocity and strikeout rate in 2022 have dinged his stock. But as long as he has his excellent command and that stellar knuckle-curveball, he won't be in danger of a total downfall."- Zachary D. Rymer on Shane Bieber
The reasoning, while truthful, seems rather flimsy in the grand scheme of things. Mentioning an injury from two years ago that impacted last season at the same time not acknowledging any possible rebound is an interesting choice.
Have Bieber's strikeouts and velocity dropped? Sure. But spoiler alert, this is not something only experienced by Bieber. The crackdown on sticky stuff, due to return this season, and increased tempo in games will lead to widespread velocity drops. This seems to just be a convenient talking point specifically when discussing Bieber.
In his final spring training start, Bieber looked a lot better than 18th, striking out 11 in 6.2 innings. Plenty of Rockies regulars were in the lineup, so any excuse of pitching against scrubs in a spring start can be rightfully thrown in the garbage.
Bieber has been lights out this spring, allowing just four runs in 23.1 innings while striking out 25 across five games. This has been the best spring to date in Bieber's career (excluding 7.2 innings in 2020). While spring stats mean exactly nothing in regards to regular-season performance, pairing his best spring since taking Cy Young honors with his Opening Day tune-up Saturday seems to be a good sign for the Guardians ace. Maybe next year he will be ranked a bit higher.