Spring Training/Summer Camp cannot end soon enough for Indians pitcher Adam Cimber. Prior to the suspension of Spring Training, he had a 6.75 ERA. Further, in his first action against another team, the Pirates were able to tag Cimber for three runs on three hits and a walk during his one-third of an inning. Although these are small sample sizes, they continue a worrying trend in his development.
As part of the trade package the Padres sent to the Indians in exchange for top prospect Francisco Meija, Adam Cimber had been considered a big part of the Tribe’s bullpen plans moving forward. The right-handed reliever arrived in Cleveland for the second half of the 2018 season carrying a 3.17 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 48.1 innings of work. His K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) was 9.5 while his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was 1.076, both respectable numbers. However, over the remainder of the 2018 season with the Indians, Cimber’s K/9 rate plummeted to 3.2, matching his walks per nine, and his WHIP increased to 1.650. Those struggles followed him into the postseason. Over two innings, admittedly a small sample size, Cimber had a 4.50 ERA, allowing a run on two hits in two innings of work. He also walked one, striking out none.
Coming into the 2019 season, the Tribe looked for an improvement in those numbers. In the first half of the season, he delivered. Cimber went 4-2 with a 3.06 ERA while holding hitters to a .210 average with a .623 OPS. These were solid numbers. Unfortunately for the Cimber and the Indians, the wheels fell off. His ERA for the second half was 6.29, raising his ERA for the season to 4.45. Hitters teed off on Cimber to the tune of a .313 batting average and a .836 OPS. Over the course of the season, Lefties especially feasted on his pitching, batting .296 with an OPS of .943. These struggles against left-handed hitters are consistent with his career numbers. Because of his submarine-style delivery, lefties have more time to see the pitch before deciding when and where to swing.
With the three-batter minimum rule going into effect in 2020, a reliever like Cimber could face increased difficulties. According to cleveland.com, Carl Willis, the Indians pitching coach, believes that “situational” relievers are going to need to develop another pitch or find an area of the strike zone where their pitching repertoire can be more effective. With his submarine style, Cimber relies on movement. This becomes apparent when examining the breakdown of his pitching arsenal. Per Baseball Savant, Cimber threw a sinker 50.8% of the time and his slider 32.2%. He used his fastball for roughly 17 % of his pitches, which was a big drop from the 28.3% he posted in 2018. This may have been due in large part because of his decrease in average velocity, losing 1.3 MPH on his fastball. However, it can be argued that this is not the case seeing as how his slider dropped by over 3 MPH, while his usage of it increased over 7% from 2018 to 2019.
Cimber believes his struggles in the second half of the season were a result of a drop in his delivery. He told cleveland.com, “From about August on, it was a grind. I’d have a few good ones and a bad one or two, just a little inconsistent. We made some mechanical adjustments this offseason. I looked at side-by-side videos and photos and saw that my release point was nine inches lower in September than it was in April.” Although the adjustments have not paid dividends for Cimber and the Indians thus far, the hope is that the regular season sees him become the pitcher they thought they were acquiring back in 2018.