It’s time for another GIF breakdown! Today we’re going to be looking at the MLB debut of Cleveland Guardians prospect Tanner Bibee, a prospect who has gotten a lot of hype over the past year or so, and certainly over the past few weeks.
Before we dive into his start, here’s the scouting report on Bibee that we had coming into the game today.
Bibee was selected in the fifth round of the 2021 MLB Draft out of Cal State Fullerton, and ever since he joined the minor leagues, he’s been pretty awesome.
Last year, between High-A and Double-A, Bibee started 25 games and posted a 2.17 ERA through 132.2 innings with 167 strikeouts and a 0.96 WHIP. He started this year in Triple-A and has continued his success so far, pitching to a 1.76 ERA through 15.1 innings and three starts with 19 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP. With that amount of success, it’s no wonder the Guardians decided to call him up.
The scouting report has Bibee throwing four pitches: a fastball that can hit 99 MPH, a slider that hits around the mid-80s, a changeup that floats around the same velocity, and a curveball that hits around the upper-70s.
So anyways, let’s dive into Tanner Bibee’s debut!
As you may or may not know, when I do GIF breakdowns, I always love to see what a pitcher throws as their first pitch in the majors, so here’s Bibee’s to Charlie Blackmon:
It’s a fastball right in the dirt. It’s always a fastball! (Not always but most of the time it’s a fastball). It’s understandable why rookies tend to go with a fastball as their first pitch, it’s the pitch you know, the one you feel you can control, and that’s what Bibee did here.
Next up was another fastball that was almost a base hit:
If that’s straightened out just a bit, that’s easily a base hit for Blackmon, but luckily for Bibee, it’s just a strike.
Next up, we get our first look at Bibee’s curveball:
He actually backdoors this curveball really nicely for a called strike. It’s more a vertical, 12-6 type curveball, which can be a bit harder to backdoor than a more horizontal curveball, but Bibee did it well here.
Then, Bibee cranked up the heat and we get a 99 MPH fastball:
…directly into Charlie Blackmon’s thigh, putting Blackmon on first base. But hey, it’s your first batter in the majors, no biggie.
Next up was Jurickson Profar, who started off the at-bat watching a high fastball for a ball, but then got a mistake pitch.
That’s a fastball essentially down the middle of the plate, and Bibee is very fortunate that ended up as a popout to third base because that could’ve easily been launched.
Next up was Kris Bryant and we got our first look at Bibee’s slider (one of many looks to come).
It’s not a great look at the pitch because it was so high, but I promise we’ll get a better look at it very soon.
After two fastballs outside, both for balls, we get another slider, and another pitch that easily could’ve been bad news.
That’s a slider down the middle of the plate which, you know, generally speaking, is not the place you want to throw pitches. Luckily, that just ends up as a lineout to left field, and Bibee’s got two outs through his first inning.
Next up is C.J. Cron who starts off the at-bat with a fastball low and away that’s a borderline pitch called for a ball. Then, we get another slider.
It’s a nice one too, well done by Bibee to front-door that slider, which, similar to the curveball, is a more vertically-focused slider than a horizontal one.
Then, we get another slider, and it’s a beauty of a pitch:
Right on the edge of the strike zone, just plops in there and there’s nothing Cron can do with it. Even if he hits it, that’s probably a groundball. Instead, it’s a perfectly-placed slider for strike two.
Bibee then went to a high fastball at 97 MPH that was way out of the zone, then tried to front-door another slider that missed, before tossing this slider that would’ve been a beautiful strikeout pitch had Cron missed it:
That would’ve been a fabulous first MLB strikeout for Bibee, but instead, it ends up a popout to the catcher, and Bibee’s first MLB inning is in the books with no damage done.
Leading off the second inning was Ryan McMahon who gets a 92 MPH fastball right down the heart of the plate that he takes for a strike (very luckily for Bibee). Then, Bibee tosses two curveballs, the first for a ball, and the second here:
That was hit quite hard and, had that been straightened out, that might’ve been a good hit for McMahon, but luckily for Bibee it’s a long strike.
Bibee then tossed a high inside fastball that was a borderline pitch but called for a ball, then two 97 MPH fastballs both fouled off by McMahon.
And finally, we get a look at Bibee’s changeup:
And it’s his first Major League strikeout. It’s a nice changeup with some good fading action and works well as a complement to his other pitches.
Next up, it’s Alan Trejo who works to a 2-2 count before we get an amazing pitch from Bibee:
Now that is a beautiful slider. Just an absolute killer of a pitch, drops down at the last minute, big whiff from Trejo and that’s another strikeout for Bibee.
Next up was Brenton Doyle who gets a slider in the dirt followed by a 95 MPH fastball outside before this pitch:
Just like the pitch to C.J. Cron, a beautifully-placed slider right at the bottom of the zone for a called strike, really well done, I love the command Bibee is showing of his slider so far.
Speaking of slider command, the next pitch:
Not the best location as it ends up mostly over the middle of the plate, but it’s enough to buckle Doyle for the strikeout, and Bibee strikes out the side to finish off the second inning.
Leading off the third inning we’ve got Ezequiel Tovar who gets a fastball high fouled off before this pitch:
Yet another absolutely gorgeous slider from Bibee. I mean, if that’s a strikeout, it’s all over Twitter as a nasty strikeout. Either way, it’s a killer pitch and really shows off the potential of that slider, that thing is filthy.
And you know what? If it works, why change it?
That’s another slider away, but this time it clips enough of the zone for a called strike three, and if you’re keeping track, that’s now four-straight strikeouts for Tanner Bibee in his MLB debut.
Next up we’ve got Brian Serven who gets, you guessed it, a slider:
Yet again, perfectly placed right on the edge of the zone. Bibee’s command of that pitch has been just top-notch, seriously. The movement on the pitch alone is great, but top that with the ability to bloop that thing in there for strikes on the edge of the strike zone and you’re making life very hard for opposing hitters.
Bibee tossed a high curveball for a ball followed by a low fastball that was fouled off and a fastball outside for a ball. Then, he goes right back to the slider:
I mean, sweet baby jeez, that’s disgusting. That’s filth. That’s…just all of the adjectives. It’s beautiful, and that’s now five straight strikeouts for Bibee. Amazing.
Next up is Charlie Blackmon who decides he’s not gonna wait around for a bunch of pitches.
He gets a curveball low and away on the first pitch and reaches out and pokes that into the outfield for a base hit.
All things considered, it’s not a bad pitch at all. It’s located well, Blackmon just did a really good job of reaching out and turning that into a base hit.
Next up we get Jurickson Profar who works to a 1-2 count after a backdoor slider called a strike, a fastball away for a ball, and an inside slider Profar fouled off.
And then, it’s back to the changeup:
Called strike three, add that to the strikeout tally, and Bibee is out of the third.
Starting off the fourth it’s Kris Bryant who gets a check swing strike on a low slider before Bibee lays in a hanger:
Luckily for Bibee, Bryant topped that a little bit and it wasn’t launched into outer space as hanging breaking balls often are.
C.J. Cron comes up next and on the first pitch swings at a low slider that ends up in a popout. Then, Ryan McMahon comes up and works to a 1-2 count after a couple outside fastballs (one for a ball, one for poorly-called strike), and a high curveball he fouled off.
Then, Bibee pumps in some heat.
And that’s yet another strikeout for Tanner Bibee, and McMahon’s second strikeout of the day.
Next up, it’s Alan Trejo who gets a low and outside slider for a borderline pitch that’s called a ball. Then, Trejo lays off the best pitch he’s going to see the entire at-bat:
Right over the heart of the plate and Trejo takes it for a called strike. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t take a hack at that, but the slider must have fooled him or something (or he was waiting until Bibee threw his first strike of the at-bat).
Trejo then got a way high curveball for a ball, a fastball outside he fouled off, then a couple of low sliders (one of which was fouled off) before finally smacking a high and away fastball to right field for the third out of the inning.
Four innings down for Tanner Bibee.
It’s the fifth inning! And leading off it’s Brenton Doyle who works a 2-0 count before smacking a groundball right to José Ramírez at third base.
That was a bullet and I’m sure Bibee was thinking “man, it’s nice having José Ramírez at third base behind me.” One out down in the fifth.
Next up was Ezequiel Tovar who gets a low slider for a called strike before this:
A fastball middle-high, not horrible location, but not bad, and a fly ball to center field that Will Brennan almost made an awesome catch on. But unfortunately for Bibee, that ends up a double by Tovar.
Next up it’s Brian Serven who works a 1-1 count before we get yet another gorgeous slider from Bibee.
Swing and a miss, absolutely nothing you can do with that, right off the plate and into the dirt.
And hey, why not do it again?
Slider off the plate that gets Serven on a check swing strike for strike three and yet another strikeout for Tanner Bibee.
Charlie Blackmon was the next up and after getting a changeup in the dirt for a ball, he gets another changeup low-middle that he pops out to the shortstop, five innings in the books for Tanner Bibee.
The sixth inning! Not bad for a rookie making his debut getting into the sixth. First up in the inning, we’ve got Jurickson Profar who hits a slider low and in for a long foul ball, swings and misses at a fastball outside, and then gets this slider:
A bit of a mistake but not a horrible location. And honestly, that was nearly another foul ball, but Profar is able to leg that out into a double to start off the inning.
Next up it’s Kris Bryant and Bibee starts him off with a slider:
And gets a big ol’ whiff to start off 0-1.
Bibee then throws another slider, low and inside, and we get this:
Good location! And nearly a fantastic catch from Oscar Gonzalez, but it was not to be, and between the missed catch and Gonzalez bobbling the ball a little bit, Tovar is able to score while Bryant stays on first base.
Next up it’s C.J. Cron who works to a 3-1 count. Now, in a 3-1 count, typically I’d expect a pitcher to go with the pitch they have the most confidence they can control. Oftentimes that’s a fastball, but that wasn’t the case here.
Bibee drops in a beautiful slider right on the corner of the plate to get to the full count. I love the confidence he has in the slider to throw it 3-1 when he’s got a runner on first base. He knows he can command that pitch, and he showed it right there.
With a 3-2 count, Bibee threw another slider low and it did exactly what you’d hope a low slider would do, which is lead to a double play, and suddenly Bibee’s got two outs.
Next up it’s Ryan McMahon who’s not about to McMiss another pitch for another strikeout, and works Bibee to a full count in eight pitches, bringing Bibee up to 90 pitches before he gets a low-middle fastball he’s able to work with:
That’s a base hit, and Tanner Bibee’s day is over.
Final line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 8 K, 91 pitches
I mean, when it comes to a Major League debut, could you ask for a much better line? Eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings with just one run given up? And honestly, it’s a run that could’ve easily not happened had Gonzalez made that catch.
Tanner Bibee looked pretty excellent. That slider is an elite pitch and the Rockies had no idea what to do with it. Bibee was able to command it around the strike zone beautifully and the pitch ultimately produced an absolutely ridiculous 50% CSW. Yep, that’s 13 called strikes and seven whiffs over 40 pitches. That is absolutely bonkers.
Now, I think the important thing to ask is, did Bibee do well because he’s great, or because the Rockies are bad? I think it’s a mix of both.
As I said, that slider is a killer pitch. But what about the rest of his repertoire? The fastball is fine, it works, but a 17% CSW is not exactly what you want to see. It topped out at 98.5 MPH and averaged 95, which again, is fine. The changeup looks like it could be a pretty legit pitch, I just would’ve liked to see more of it. He only threw it eight times, but on those eight pitches, he did get a 38% CSW.
As for the curveball, again, I think we need to see more of it. He tended to throw the pitch high when he did throw it, which I thought was either an interesting choice or just Bibee not really having a feel for the pitch.
Either way, Bibee essentially went with a two-pitch approach, throwing his slider 44% of the time and his fastball 40% of the time. That worries me a little, because you don’t often get too many two-pitch starting pitchers who have sustained success in the majors.
That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, it does. It worked for Chris Archer for years, and it’s working right now for Kevin Gausman, so it can absolutely work, especially when one of those two pitches is an elite-level pitch, and Bibee’s slider looks exactly that.
I’m hopeful we’ll get to see more from Bibee and if we do, I’m hopeful we’ll get to see more of his repertoire. If that changeup is the legit third pitch I think it can be and that fastball is able to get a few more called strikes and/or whiffs, I think we’re looking at a guy who could really turn in some beautiful starts.
For fantasy purposes, he’s someone I hope you already snagged for his debut. If not, I’d snag him, stash him, see what the Guardians do, and if he gets more starts, pay close attention to those starts. I’d be very interested to see what would happen if he went up against an offense better than the Rockies, who coming into today’s game had the 10th-worst team wOBA and the ninth-worst team slugging percentage in all of baseball.
But I will say this: Tanner Bibee is fun to watch, and I really hope we get to watch a lot more of him very soon (and it sounds like we will).
Awesome write-up Ben!
He was very fun to watch! I usually hate holding onto starting pitchers if I am going to be scared to use them against average/above average linueps – so I’m excited to see what he can do against the Yankees next!