Bryan Shaw has been a lightning rod for controversy over many years. He somehow tears at the fabric of even the most ardent Cleveland Indians fan. Bryan’s outings are overall solid with many great and memorable performances. His overall statistics are good, which is the most common defense made on his behalf. Despite this he generates the highest level of anger and harsh commentary of any Indians player. This primarily comes from fans, rarely from the media, and never from the team.
With some help from other contributors to ClevelandWins, we will explore briefly why this might be happening. In contrast to many relievers who receive such disdain, he doesn’t walk a ton of batters as his 21 walks in 76 innings translates to only 2.5 per 9 innings. His ERA of 3.55 is solid but not great. None of this adds up to the raging, fire breathing vitriol piled on Shaw.
On a personal level this negativity seems unfair toward a loyal Indian player who has dynamic stuff and pitched successfully in some high leverage situations. It seems even more unfortunate knowing that Bryan is aware of all this negativity. Knowing how unfair this is on the surface made us want to dig further down and look for reasons. Generally, baseball fans and Indian’s fans in particular are highly supportive of their players.
Under that good pitcher facade lies some ominous stats that might explain the emotional reaction of fans. In spite of his dynamic stuff, in high leverage situations his ball often moves right over the heart of the plate, especially when he pitches inside to right handed hitters. This results in statistics that paint a scary picture for the post-season. We are all aware that Tito supports Shaw 100% and isn’t afraid to pitch him with the game on the line and/or in back to back games.
In those same high leverage situations Shaw has allowed 4 HRs and a .273 BA against in 106 plate appearances. In medium leverage situations he has allowed 0 HRs with a .213 BA against in 87 plate appearances. On only 1 day of rest, his ERA is a whopping 7.2 with a WHIP of 1.525 while allowing 17 runs in 20.1 innings. I suspect that these types of issues are what scare fans when Shaw enters the game.
I love Tito but I would strongly advise based on these facts to put Shaw on a short leash in high leverage situations and never pitch him in back to back nights in the playoffs. Will Tito listen to me … hardly. Should he … I think so.