The victories by Bauer and Bieber, both right-handers and first-time winners, underscored the work of the smaller-market Indians’ envied pitching development factory.
During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Cleveland counted Bauer, Bieber and the two-time A.L. Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber — plus standouts like Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco — among its starters. The Indians traded away Bauer, Clevinger and Kluber in a span of 13 months, and still reached the playoffs this year.
Bieber, who eventually earned a scholarship and starred for his college team, was selected by Cleveland in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Unlike Bauer, 29, who has thrown hard since high school, Bieber, 25, added velocity over time.
In the Indians’ farm system, Bieber tweaked his repertoire and blossomed. In 2020, he threw his mid-90s fastball only 38 percent of the time, one of the lowest rates in the major leagues among starting pitchers, because he expertly mixed it with sliders, cutters, curveballs and changeups.
“His journey has been quite spectacular,” Bauer said.
Bieber’s biggest blemish of the year: He allowed seven runs in his lone playoff start, a loss to the Yankees in the first round of this year’s expanded postseason. The vote for the Cy Young Award, though, is taken before the playoffs. (The New York Times does not permit its reporters to vote for awards.)
Following a trend across baseball over recent years, Bieber set a major league record last season by striking out 14.2 batters per nine innings. He did that, however, over only 77⅓ innings. The previous record-holder was Gerrit Cole, now with the Yankees, whose strikeout rate of 13.8 per nine innings was accomplished over 212⅓ innings in 2019 with the Houston Astros.
Continuing a steady upward trend, Bauer finished third in strikeout rate (a career-high 12.3 per nine innings) in 2020 behind Bieber and deGrom. Bauer said he used to tease Bieber a lot for being the only member 2018 Indians’ rotation who failed to notch 200 strikeouts.