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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Bryan Shaw

Despite the heavy workload he has shouldered the last few seasons, Bryan Shaw has been able to maintain a high level of effectiveness as the Tribe's setup man. Will he get more of a breather in 2017 with the Indians' deeper bullpen that includes a full season of Andrew Miller?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Bryan Shaw, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Switch -- Entering his age-29 season -- Contract: Avoided arbitration with a 1-year/$4.6 million deal (Free agent in 2018)

2016 In Review: Prior to the 2016 season, the projections for Bryan Shaw indicated possible regression. Considering that the right-hander has averaged close to 75 appearances a year and now has led the league twice in that category, it's reasonable to expect him to lose a step and have his arm get a little tired. Well, some of that regression did come to fruition last year as his WHIP (1.260) and walk rate (3.8 per nine innings) reached career highs. However, the right-hander still managed to put up solid numbers overall going 2-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 75 outings with 28 walks and 69 strikeouts in 66.2 innings, with his strikeout rate also marking an all-time high for the Tribe setup man at 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Obviously for a guy who's closing in on 30, that kind of workload is not going to be sustained forever. The good news is the Indians and manager Terry Francona have a few more options to go to in the bullpen in the late innings in 2017, including new super-reliever Andrew Miller.

Versus Right-handers: Like most pitchers of the right-handed variety, most of their success comes against hitters who bat from the right side of the plate. Outside of his rookie season with Arizona in 2011 and in 2015, Shaw has been considerably more effective against right-handed hitters as they posted a .214/.286/.352 slash line against the 29-year-old last season. In his career, right-handers have hit .280 with a .280 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage. Typically, Shaw has had a much higher strikeout-to-walk ratio against righties at 3.07 versus a 1.90 mark against southpaws. Last year, the discrepancy between those two ratios was a bit smaller at 2.87 and 2.00, respectively.

Versus Left-handers: After the tables were turned in 2015 with Shaw's splits where left-handed hitters batted just .226 while right-handers hit .252, things returned to his career norms as lefties slashed .255/.348/.408 last season. Even with those superior numbers, Shaw still managed to eclipse a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least two against lefties for just the third time in his career as his career mark sits at just 1.90. That elevated strikeout rate against southpaws played a big part in Shaw's overall increased strikeout rate last year.

Pitch Mix: Shaw's entire pitching arsenal is centered around movement as his three primary pitches are a cutter, slider and changeup. The right-hander abandoned his four-seam fastball last season and hasn't thrown his curveball since 2014. his cutter is capable of topping out in the mid-to-upper 90s and has been his most effective pitch over the last couple seasons. Last year, the value of his cutter hit a new career high at 9.0 runs above average according to PITCHf/x. His slider also improved slightly after the career low -2.2 mark he had in 2015, but was still below average at -1.9. His changeup has remained steady at -0,4 for two consecutive seasons. Along the lines of possible regression, Shaw did have a career high home run to fly ball percentage of 16.7%. Then again, his groundball rate was also higher at 53.7% last year, thus fewer balls hit in the air without leaving the yard.

Fantasy Impact: Fangraphs' projection models once again are anticipating a decline in Shaw's effectiveness in the coming season with Steamer and Depth Charts both predicting a 3-3 record and 3.71 ERA, which would be the highest of his career. His FIP is expected to improve somewhat at 3.84, however, from the 3.94 and 4.01 numbers he had over the last two seasons, respectively. Another decline they predict for the right-hander that could have a positive impact on his game is the 55 appearances they anticipate for him in 2017. With Andrew Miller and Boone Logan (unofficially) aboard, a lightening of Shaw's workload could, indeed, be in order.

Summary: While Bryan Shaw has logged a number of innings and appearances in his time with Cleveland, he is also entering his free agent year, so while regression is reasonable to expect, the motivation of a contract season can also play a role in how he pitches in 2017. Plus, if the projections are accurate and he does appear in fewer games, that could benefit his pitching as well. Another factor that could not only affect how Shaw pitches, but the other key Tribe relievers is the implementation of Terry Francona's progressive new bullpen management philosophy over a full season. Shaw won't always pitch in the eighth inning, nor will Cody Allen always pitch in the ninth and so on. Also, Francona could intentionally limit the innings of his top guys early in the season to keep them fresh for the stretch run and into the postseason. Whatever factors come into play this season, expect Shaw to continue to work as one of the Indians' late-inning relievers until he shows otherwise.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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