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CLE 2, MIN 0: Shane Bieber is a Cheat Code

A marquee pitching matchup and a nationally televised game with Minnesota’s biggest threat for the division, what else could you ask for? A win I suppose, but it wasn’t meant to be, as Cleveland starter Shane Bieber dominated one of baseball’s top lineups and Cleveland took the opener 2-0.Box Score

Berrios: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Home Runs: None

Bottom 3 WPA: Donaldson -.154, Polanco -.118, Sano -.110

Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):

Download attachment: Winchart.png


With Jose Berrios and Shane Bieber taking the hill, a low scoring affair could be expected, and that’s exactly what we got. Berrios’s stuff looked good early as he was maintaining his opening day velocity jump and getting plenty of swings and misses on his curve ball, but he ran into trouble in the third inning. After giving up a single to Jose Ramirez with two outs in a 1-2 count, Berrios got up on Francisco Lindor 0-2 but left a fastball over the plate that Lindor demolished for a 2-0 Cleveland lead. He came back to pitch scoreless forth and fifth innings but with his pitch count at 96 his day was done.


Meanwhile Bieber was absolutely filthy as Twins hitters looked helpless against him. He struck out 14 Kansas City Royals on opening day and didn’t forget how to pitch in the last five days. Six of Minnesota’s first 10 batters fanned against Bieber and his curve ball was absolutely unhittable. He went on to pitch eight scoreless innings and strikeout 13 Minnesota batters without issuing a single walk. That gives him 27 Ks through his first two starts which ties him with Karl Spooner for the all-time MLB record.


With Zack Littell taking over for Berrios in the 6th it looked like Cleveland would put more runs on the board. After a Franmil Reyes single with one out the speedy Bradley Zimmer hit a high chopper that Miguel Sano handled but threw over Littell’s head at first, putting runners on second and third. Domingo Santana should have been called out on a 2-2 slider that clearly got the bottom of the strike zone but instead walked to load the bases. However, Sandy Leon ended the threat by hitting a comebacker to Littell for a home-to-first inning ending double play.


The Twins got a little something cooking off Bieber in the bottom of the inning as Byron Buxton and Max Kepler both singled to put runners on first and second with one out. However, Bieber would continue to do his thing as he struck Josh Donaldson out for the third time and then got Jorge Polanco to fly out to end the threat.


With Bieber finally done after eight magnificent innings and closer Brad Hand unavailable, rookie James Karinchak came in to earn his first MLB save. It might not get much easier for Twins bats tomorrow as they will face Bieber’s ace-mate, Mike Clevinger.


Sano’s inexperience at first shows


After making the aforementioned throwing error that he should have put in his pocket, Sano would make another awkward play in the bottom of the ninth. A Sandy Leon ground ball was cleanly fielded by Luis Arraez. The only problem was Miguel Sano also went after the ball and desperately raced back to first while Arraez’s throw sailed over his head. Neither misplays ultimately led to runs being scored and hopefully have provided learning experiences for Sano.


Thoughts on the Fox Broadcast


While it’s nice to see the Twins get some national attention and listen to AJ Pierzynski in the booth, there were some peculiarities in the broadcast. The camara work was all over the place. Multiple flyballs were lost by the camara crew but they even managed to lose a ground ball. I felt drunk. I felt even drunker when a foul ball was hit down the third base line and suddenly several fans momentarily appeared in the stands. I did a doubletake before realizing they were virtual fans. Definitely gave off a creepy vibe. Max Kepler even appeared headless as he ran in after catching the final out of the fifth inning and got too close to the wall, where the fans overlapped his noggin.


Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

Download attachment: Bullpen.png


Postgame Pint

John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Jeremy Nygaard and Ted Schwerzler react to a 2-0 loss and a historically good pitching performance by Shane Bieber. Watch below, or check out the audio-only podcast.




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Good news is that we saved our bullpen, and the bottom 2 of 3 didn't allow a run. Arraez looked good at the plate (this is expected by now), and our defense was good. Our lineup has been struggling, and we saw that in the Cardinals series other than a few good innings. Doesn't help when Bieber has what he has. Tomorrow doesn't get any easier as Clevinger is only a halfstep below Bieber. At least Cleveland's bats didn't look too great either.

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Berrios has as good of stuff as Bieber. The difference is command and it is huge

If Berrios could get that low curveball over for strikes the way Bieber did all night tonight he'd be a 20-game winning monster.


Here's a prescription for this loss:

  • Tip your cap while reminding yourself he can't throw every day
  • Enjoy some family time and sleep on it
  • Watch the video in the morning and work on takeaways in BP
  • Tomorrow's game is a new opportunity - different lineup, different pitcher and plenty of ways to obtain a better result; play hard, have fun
  • Always believe you can stick him in your next at bat
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I missed bits and pieces, unfortunately, but thought Berrios was just fine except for one really bad pitch that cost the game. Nobody should panic at this point, especially with such a short training period to get ready. Jose seemed to have some nasty stuff 1st game, but was overthrowing. Again, he made one really bad pitch tonight. Would you rather have an injury like those that have plagued so many top hurlers already? Or a talented pitcher who overthrew one game and made that bad throw against a potential Cy Young candidate? Abbreviated season or not, it's still early. We really haven't seen anything to cause concern at this point.


Tip of the cap to Bieber for pitching a fantastic game. Like it or not, he appears to be developing in to stud SP. Not sure anyone could have beaten him his first 2 times out.


We can, if you want, argue all day long about Sano's defense at 1B after 6 games, a short training schedule, and an even shorter one for him. OR, we can acknowledge he has mostly looked good at 1B, has all the talent in the world to be a good defensive 1B, and is still developing there and feeling his way. (Something we all knew would be true).


The lineup is deep and dangerous but in no way, despite some early outbursts, are our hitters performing to expectation. Yet! But nobody should hit any panic button. I don't care it's a short season, 4-2 is good and it's still early.


I trust Rocco. I think he's awfully smart. He seems to have a feel for the pulse of the team and his players, and knowing when to play guys and when to rest them. I also think he's smart enough, even after ONLY 6 games to know if someone is pressing. I think Donaldson is pressing. Sano and Buxton had almost zero time to get ready. I want him to do what he does, and has done, and keep the lineup fresh. And you don't get in a groove by sitting. But I do hope he mixes the lineup up a bit tomorrow for giggles sake. Guys often respond by a little shake up.

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Berrios was fine enough to throw virtually the same amount of pitches in 5 that Bieber threw in 8. And giving up the earned runs on meat with 1-2 and 0-2 counts is not that fine..... but way way way better than opening day. We got real lucky with Littell on the mound. Nice to see a pitcher field the ball these days.

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Can't really blame the hitters when Bieber was on his game like that - the '27 Yankees would struggle when seeing that breaking ball.  Another commenter has the right attitude - tip your cap, be glad that he doesn't pitch ever game and get ready for the next one. 

Fine, but the next one is Clevinger.

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If there is a star of the game in a loss it has to be Arraez.  I want him higher in the lineup.  He was the only one who really challenged Bieber.  Bieber looks great with that amazing pitch ability against guys swinging from their heels, but Arraez could have had three hits.  He is patient, he looks over the field and he puts the ball in play.  I will take this kind of batter any day.  Challenge the fielders, understand what the pitcher is doing.  It may not last but right now he is channeling Carew, Gwynn, and Brett.  And by the way, his defense is up a notch too. 

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Batting average basement dwellers:


Sano .059 (1 hit, 8 Ks)

Donaldson .143 (3 hits, 7 Ks)

Garver .154 (2 hits, 8Ks)


A total of 2 extra base hits between them. And they're not really having tough luck, their ABs and situational awareness at the plate has been awful.


Yes it's early - does that mean we can't be disappointed?


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The Twins hitters just couldn't tell if\when the ball was going to break or not and he often didn't throw strikes when they were lucky enough to work the count 3-2.  He was going to bury the ball and not throw strikes in that situation until they figured it out.  They never did.  He was definitely a mind reader last night sensing the Twins would be aggressive when they were and throwing down the middle when he felt they would take.  


Honestly I think they solve him the next time out.  At least draw more walks and bring his pitch count up.  I don't see him ever giving up a ton of runs but I think they can make him work even harder and get him out of the game earlier.  He had a great night and is going to be good pitcher for a long time.  


Here's hoping we can find pitchers that are just as good and soon.

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Didn't see much of the game out here in Colorado as the tv went to a fixed message every time the Twins came to bat....weird. Saw the last couple innings and will only say that Bieber looks like he may be as good as anyone in the game.


Did see the problems with Sano and will give the big man a break as it is unfortunate that the year he makes the move to first baseball didn't have much of a spring training. Expect he will be fine come opening day 2021 and believe it is unreasonable for any of us to complain before then.


Was glad to see Littell back on the hill. Thought he pitched well and circumstances beyond his control got him into the jam. Also was on edge with Thorpe who seems to go too deep into counts way more than I would like. But his results were ok, which is most important.


Time for the Dobber to step up and give us five shutout innings today. Other than Ramirez and Lindor, the Cleveland lineup isn't all that tough...well maybe add Santana to that pair.  

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Command AND consistency. Berios is not an Ace. He has had Ace like games but to call him an Ace now would be lunacy. 

2019 stats:

  • Berrios started 32 games, tied for 3rd in the American League.
  • Berrios had 200 IP which was good for 8th in the AL.
  • Berrios ranked 4th in the AL with 21 Quality Starts (behind Verlander, Cole, and Bieber)
  • Ranked 11th in the AL with 195 strikeouts.


Do you know how many teams would KILL for a guy like that? Do you know how many teams in the American League even have a pitcher like this on their roster? If he were traded to any of the other 29 teams in the league, he'd be the #1 starter on like 75% of those teams.


Is he Verlander? Cole? Kershaw? No, he's not. But those guys are Hall of Famers and only come along once in a lifetime. For all the Berrios bashers out there - what can he do to make you happy? Back-to-back complete game no-hitters? Look back at the numbers above, what's not to like?

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We can, if you want, argue all day long about Sano's defense at 1B after 6 games, a short training schedule, and an even shorter one for him. OR, we can acknowledge he has mostly looked good at 1B, has all the talent in the world to be a good defensive 1B, and is still developing there and feeling his way. (Something we all knew would be true).
I think in that play he was caught in between, but also Thorpe was late in going to first base. Sano made the first movement to go for the ball. Right there Thorpe should have gone to first base. It was not all Sano's fault

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Bieber was absurd. Legitimately one of the best pitching performances I've seen in a long, long time (especially against such a strong lineup).


Just gotta tip your cap and move on. It's baseball after all, we're gonna lose some games and sometimes you run into a buzzsaw of a starting pitcher.

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One Bad Pitch.
Bieber threw right down the heart of the plate. Ask Garver who watched them go by.


Well, at least 2 (1-2 single before the 0-2 homer). Funny how it is only a bad pitch/mistake if the batter hits it. Same pitch is a take, and it is not a bad pitch......

The toughest part of watching the game for me was the stuff that had no movement right down the middle from Bieber, and the batters (not just Garver) watched them. Over and over and over. But kept swing at pitches not even close to the strike zone, like the last two Donaldson swung at with Buxton and Kepler on base.  Ouch.

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Bieber was dealing last night.  Dude was hitting his spots got some borderline calls and had Twins chasing late in the game.  He really seemed to mix speed an location well.  Only a couple balls were hit hard off of him.  Lets hope the bats come around tonight. 

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