Swinging for the Fences: Bryan Shaw – The next Tribe closer?
Crafty young right-hander could be key candidate for Indians closer role in 2014
In all honesty, I wanted to like Chris Perez and believe in him being a dominant closer. I defended him all through 2012 even after his controversial comments turned off a lot of fans. I defended him through much of this season as well giving him the benefit of the doubt due to early-season injury issues.
Then came that horrific night on August 5th against the Tigers, a night many Tribe faithful would like to or have already wiped from their memories, where the pitcher formerly known as Pure Rage blew a key game for the Tribe which some could argue was the deciding factor in the division race. That was the night I lost faith and his subsequent poor outings after that only served to confirm my newfound doubts.
Well, needless to say, Chris Antonetti and the Indians organization drew the same conclusion as they parted ways with the former All-Star closer last week via unconditional release. So now the question is, who will be the Tribe’s lockdown man moving forward and where will they find him?
Thanks to an abundance of relief pitching depth in their minor league system their choices are not limited. You’ve got Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Allen and his heat and hook, former setup man Vinnie Pestano looking for a rebound as well as Joe Smith and his submarine slider should the Indians see fit to bring him back.
Nice list of candidates. However, I’d like to take a look at an in-house option who may be one of the frontrunners for the job if it ends up being an open audition. Enter Bryan Shaw, the young right-hander who made a solid impression in his first year with the Featherheads after being traded by Arizona in the offseason. Were this an election, consider this my official endorsement.
Bryan Anthony Shaw was born November 8th, 1987 in Livermore, California. A lifetime athlete, Shaw attended Livermore High School where he lettered in baseball, basketball and football. Shaw was named to the All-East Bay Athletic League in football as a wide-receiver in 2004 and in baseball as a pitcher in 2005.
Shaw graduated in 2005 and attended college at Long Beach State University where he majored in economics. His focus shifted primarily to baseball in college as he pitched for the 49ers as a reliever/closer. Over his three-year career at LBSU, Shaw compiled a 9-5 record with a 2.20 ERA (second-best in school history) and 23 saves over 80 appearances. Shaw joins noted MLB stars Evan Longoria, Jered Weaver, Troy Tulowitzki and teammate Jason Giambi among others as LBSU alumni to make it to the big leagues.
The Diamondbacks selected Shaw in the second round of the 2008 amateur draft. Splitting time between rookie league and single-A South Bend, Shaw struggled going 0-2 with a 5.22 ERA in 21 appearances. Between 2009 and 2010, Shaw’s struggles continued as he posted a combined 7-16 record with a 4.48 ERA in 63 games.
After being promoted to AA Mobile in 2010, Shaw began the 2011 season there where he saw a dramatic improvement going 3-1 with an 0.87 ERA, which earned him a trip to AAA Reno and Phoenix to join the D-Backs in June. Shaw started 2012 in the majors before being sent down to AAA for a brief period and finishing out the year back up with Arizona. Over his minor league career, Shaw appeared as a closer in 26 games and converted 22 saves.
In his budding major league career with Arizona, Shaw put up solid numbers going 2-6 with a 3.02 ERA over the course of two seasons. He also has two big league saves in four opportunities. Small sample size, yes, but that in addition to his minor league and collegiate experience as a closer make him far from unfamiliar to the role.
In the 2012-2013 offseason, Shaw was included in a three-team mega-trade between the Diamondbacks, Reds and Indians which sent him in addition to teammates Matt Albers and Trevor Bauer along with former Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs to Cleveland. Arizona received reliever Tony Sipp and first base prospect Lars Anderson from the Indians and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorious from the Reds. Cincinnati was awarded long-time Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and utility man Jason Donald.
I have to be honest, when that deal was first announced, I was almost as excited about getting Shaw as I was about getting top starting pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. After watching film on the right-handed reliever, I knew the Tribe would be getting something special for the bullpen. His performance in 2013 as an Indian only reinforced those beliefs.
Shaw’s 2013 season could be best described like this: Midseason struggles bookended by dominance. Coming to a new team, let alone a new league posed some challenges, but nothing he wasn’t up for. In spring training, the right-hander posted an 0.82 ERA in 10 appearances, thus earning him a spot in the bullpen.
Shaw came out of the gates with more of the same putting up an 0.87 ERA in April. It was when the season wore on and the league made adjustments to him. It was a rough stretch for him until he made counter-adjustments and finished the season without allowing a run through all of September averaging nearly a strikeout per inning.
Shaw is no Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman with the heat, but he can throw as high as 96 mph on the gun. Over the course of his career, Shaw has been known for the deceptive movement on his pitches. He can throw a fastball, cutter, slider and changeup, although the cut-fastball and slider are his go-to pitches. His cutter/cut-fastball is the primary weapon in his arsenal as he generated 48 of his 76 strikeouts in 2013 with it, according to Fangraphs.
I’m not saying he’s the next Mariano Rivera, but a great deal of the success in Mo’s historic career came courtesy of that cutter. The key for Shaw is to continually make adjustments and not allow his cutter and slider to go flat, as they did for a period of time during last season. His movement and deception on his pitches are dominant as long as he can maintain it and not become predictable.
Chris Antonetti said in the press conference to announce the signing of Jason Giambi and release of Chris Perez that Shaw and Cody Allen would be the primary internal candidates for the vacant closer role. Allen’s emergence as a dominant late-inning setup man would certainly make him a viable option, but don’t sleep on Bryan Shaw and what he brings to the table.
Indians re-sign Jason Giambi to minor league deal…
I doubt Chris Antonetti read my piece last week about why the Tribe should re-sign Giambi, but it’s good to see that “Papa G” or “Big G” will be in Cleveland sports lingo for another season. It’s interesting that they made the same offer as last season with a spring training invite. No guarantee of making the roster out of camp, although his chances do look pretty good at this point.
However, Giambi did not hesitate for he knew his situation (age, etc.) and that he is not likely to get a guaranteed contract even from a team who loves him as much as Cleveland. Plus, he was and is perfectly happy in his role. Like I said before, in the late innings where the Tribe needs a big hit, there aren’t very many guys I would rather see coming off the bench to pinch-hit.
Tigers hire Brad Ausmus as new manager…
Not a whole lot to say about this since Ausmus hasn’t had any prior managing experience. In fact, he isn’t that far removed from being a player as he retired in 2010. He’s had two brief stints with the Tigers in his career, so he’s not unfamiliar with the organization. It just seems a bit odd that they would take a gamble on a greenhorn skipper in the middle of such a dominant era for Detroit baseball as they continue to try and make a push for a World Series ring.
This isn’t a new strategy in baseball, however. Hiring former catchers with little to no managing or coaching experience is becoming a trend among MLB teams today. Take a look at the Marlins with Mike Redmond or the Cardinals with Mike Matheny. Obviously the Tigers are hoping for an outcome similar to the latter, but we’ll see.
Rumor Mill Rumblings
- Indians interested in veteran starter Tim Hudson… To be honest, I’m undecided on how I feel about this possibility. Obviously the upside is getting a veteran leader who has had a successful career to anchor the rotation. However, that’s what we thought we were getting with Derek Lowe and Brett Myers, too. I guess it would depend on what his asking price was and what the Indians were offering. On a side note, Hudson has familiarity with Terry Francona as they were both on the Oakland A’s together as pitcher and bench coach, respectively, back in 2003.
- Tribe makes qualifying offer to Ubaldo Jimenez… Just hours prior to the 5pm deadline on Monday, the Indians announced they had extended a $14 million qualifying offer to right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who is coming off his best season in a few years. He now has until November 11th to decide whether or not to accept it. Basically, the team did all they could do. Now it’s up to the big guy to decide if he wants to stay in Cleveland or negotiate somewhere else. It will be painful losing him after such a great rebound season, but at least they’ll get something in return in the form of draft pick compensation.
- Corey Hart does not receive qualifying offer from Brewers… Hart is one of the more intriguing options that has been linked to the Tribe so far this offseason. The power and run-producing potential is obvious as he was a two-time All-Star in Milwaukee, but the million dollar question is can he come back strong from last year’s injury and stay healthy? That being said, he seems to fit the mold of injured or rejected players on the rebound that the Indians seemed to seek out last season (i.e. Ryan Raburn, Scott Kazmir, etc.).
The Indians have several choices to consider at closer and also have the option of finding someone externally to do the job. However, I think the team has what they need to fill the role internally and should save their limited resources for improving the offense and bolstering the rotation. Bryan Shaw will get a long look at closer as will Cody Allen, but there are other viable candidates on the roster who could also make an impression. I’m casting my vote for Shaw, but I’ll trust Tito to make the final call.
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May 5.06 ERA
Those are bad numbers for a one-inning matchup guy out of the bullpen. I think people remember his dominating performance in September (15.1 innings, 15 K's, 2 BB's, 0 earned runs), but forget that he was a below average pitcher for most of the season.
Also, he has no major league closing experience that I'm aware of.
But neither did Jose Mesa when he got the closer's job, so you never know.
My reason for choosing Shaw was because I like his stuff and think he has a lot of potential. While a lot of people like to see a power fastball from pitchers today, I enjoy watching a guy who has a nasty slider or cutter. Of course Shaw is young and untested in that role and will need more experience before we can form an intelligent opinion, but I liked what I saw from him both before and after he came to Cleveland.