It is pretty safe to say that the 2023 season did not go as planned for Shane Bieber. There has been a certain standard expected of Bieber, and unfortunately, it was not met last season. Injuries were the primary culprit, as this was a clear contributor to his drop in velocity paired with a career-low strikeout rate of 7.5 per nine innings. With this in mind, a recent workout with Driveline that was posted to X (formerly Twitter) displayed an encouraging development.
Bieber's average fastball velocity during this session was 93.2 miles per hour, nearly two miles per hour faster than his average in 2023. The 28-year-old has never been a flamethrower by any means, which increases the impact of any lost velocity. Two miles per hour may not seem like all that much, but it means exponentially more to someone who lives in the low 90s when compared to mid to upper 90s and beyond. Additionally, Bieber threw 10 fastballs that eclipsed the 93-mile-per-hour barrier, two more than his entire total from last season.
While it must be said that this was a workout and not an actual game, seeing the increase in average fastball velocity should bode well for his future performance. Being able to possess a little more separation in the speed of different pitches will ultimately make all of them more effective. The problem in recent years is that they have all been much closer than anyone would prefer, which has led to some frustrating outings on the mound.
Ideally, Bieber will be able to carry this over into Spring Training and into the regular season, which is not that far away as things stand currently. Bieber returning to his former self would provide a much-needed anchor in the Guardians' rotation, and that should allow the younger arms (Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams, and Logan Allen) to operate with a little less pressure on them to do everything themselves. While their efforts were more than admirable last season, taking unnecessary extra pressure off of them early in their careers should lead to better results down the line.
There is one more potential benefit for the Guardians here that must be mentioned. In the event that this season does not go to plan and they have to alter their competitive strategy, the hopeful improvement in performance via increased velocity should lead to widespread interest of any and all competitive teams should Cleveland be in a position to sell. One way or the other, a healthy Bieber will pay dividends for the Guardians this season.