It's unanimous: Bieber wins 1st AL Cy Young

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CLEVELAND -- Once again, Shane Bieber has done what no other Indians pitcher has before.

Bieber brought home the American League Cy Young Award unanimously, a first in club history, as announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on MLB Network on Wednesday night. He’s the ninth Major League pitcher to be named the recipient unanimously since 2000 and the first since Clayton Kershaw in '14. Justin Verlander in '11 was the last AL pitcher to receive every first-place vote.

All-time Cy Young Award winners

“That's pretty special,” Bieber said. “I appreciate them for casting their votes for me. It means the world, it really does. I'm just happy. … It just makes it that much better that we were able to take this thing home and that it was unanimous.”

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Bieber joins a short list of Indians players who have won the coveted award, including Corey Kluber (2014 and '17), Cliff Lee ('08), CC Sabathia ('07) and Gaylord Perry (1972). The Tribe’s four Cy Young Award winners since 2007 are the most in the big leagues in that span. And with Bieber’s win, Indians pitching coach Carl Willis has now coached five Cy Young Award winners, including Sabathia, Lee, Félix Hernández and Rick Porcello.

Ranking every Cy Young Award season

On the National League side, Bieber’s former teammate and good friend, Trevor Bauer, won the Reds’ first NL Cy Young Award, giving the state of Ohio both Cy Youngs. The two have stayed in close communication since Bauer was traded at the 2019 Trade Deadline and texted about the idea of both of them winning Cy Youngs before the 2020 season got underway. Now that the mission is accomplished, the two become just the third pair of Cy Young winners who were previously teammates, and the first to win it the season after being teammates, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bieber, Bauer connected in 3 notable ways

“At the beginning of the year, he texted me that we had the same Vegas odds to win the Cy Young,” Bieber said. “I said, ‘Why don’t we go 2-for-2?’ Or something like that. … Just thinking about that is extremely special. Nobody is more deserving of it than him. He knows what he wants and he knows how to go out and get it. We keep in touch and I was truly pulling for him. So is my family, and I know he feels the same way. It’s special.”

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There was little debate whether Bieber would bring home the hardware after his stellar season. The only question was whether he’d be unanimous in the decision, but even that seemed probable. His numbers topped every pitcher in the Majors: The 25-year-old took home the MLB Pitching Triple Crown at the end of the regular season with eight wins, 122 strikeouts and a 1.63 ERA. He was the first to lead all Major League pitchers (not just those in his league) in those categories since Minnesota’s Johan Santana in 2006.

Bieber dominated the AL, leading pitchers in wins, strikeouts, ERA, batting average allowed (.167), slugging percentage allowed (.265) and strikeouts per nine innings (14.2), and he was second in innings pitched (77 1/3).

2020 Cy Young Award voting breakdown

The 25-year-old is the youngest Tribe pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in franchise history. It’s just another addition to a long list of Cleveland firsts that Bieber set this year. His 122 strikeouts were a club record over a pitcher’s first 12 starts and the sixth most in MLB history over such a span. He also recorded at least eight strikeouts in all 12 starts, which is the longest streak to start a season in Cleveland history, surpassing Bob Feller’s 1946 club record (nine starts).

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Bieber’s efforts were historic, as he reached 100 strikeouts in the fewest number of innings in Major League history (62 1/3 frames), outpacing Max Scherzer’s 63-inning record set in 2018. Eight of those outings were double-digit strikeout performances, which marked the most 10-plus strikeout games of all hurlers in 2020.

While his success in 2020 was indisputable, the right-hander started to show what he was capable of in '19. Bieber's 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts in 214 1/3 innings last year earned him a fourth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award voting. Over his last 25 starts dating back to July 24, 2019, Bieber has gone 14-6 with a 2.21 ERA and 225 strikeouts in 167 1/3 innings, but he constantly notes that he has plenty of room left to improve.

“I feel like I showed flashes this year,” Bieber said, “but at certain points in the year my slider was better than my curveball or my curveball was better than my cutter or my cutter was better than my slider or whatever it may have been. So for me, I want to consistently develop those pitches and continue to develop them to throw them when I want. I feel that’s the next step along with potentially adding a changeup. I think that would allow me to make strides. … It’s a steady climb, and I look to continue that climb.”

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