Trevor Bauer has been an enigma to all baseball fans ever since word got out about his unorthodox warm-up routine. The Diamondbacks selected Bauer, and his tremendous package of tools, third overall in the 2011 draft. He managed to make his major league debut the following summer. Although the hype around him dominated that of any other prospect in the league, his results were underwhelming and he lacked the character and maturity the organization had expected of him. These circumstances culminated in a trade to the Cleveland Indians before the 2013 season. It was a blockbuster move that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius, who earned Derek Jeter comparisons from Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, to the desert. The 2013 season was disappointing for Bauer, both at the major league and Triple A levels. It was a year that saw Bauer lose complete control over all his pitches (19.8% walk rate in the majors) and it appeared that he was nearing the end of his rope. For Trevor Bauer to come close to the ace ceiling he once flashed, he was going to need to make some adjustments.
Many people were critical of his poor 2013 campaign but it was Bauer who was the first to point out how bad it was. Jim Ingraham reported him saying,
“It was my worst year ever in baseball.”
He set out over the off-season to strip down his mechanics and recreate them. His hope was to stay in the mid-90s, while also improving the control that scouts had once lauded. He said his groin injury had thrown off his timing, but really there had been issues with his mechanics ever since he debuted in 2012.
The motion of his delivery in 2012 was wild and it jerks his body around. Here he uses a big Lincecum-esque twist to gain momentum but it comes at the expense of his balance and control. His spine is so contorted during his release that his head is almost parallel with the ground.
To make an improvement from 2012 the Indians worked with Bauer, helping him to remain balanced throughout his delivery. They took away some of the noise before the leg lift and also cut down the wild leg swing he showed with Arizona. Despite the improvements his momentum suffered, causing him to overthrow in an effort to reach his usual velocity. This lead to issues in locating his fastball and commanding his breaking pitches. His attempt to overthrow the ball was a key contributor to his groin injury.
In 2014 his leg kick is now much more direct and helps bring his body forward. His body remains stable because of the generic plane his leg stays on. The added momentum has helped him actually increase his velocity. He doesn’t have to worry about overthrowing or cheating on his mechanics. In his start against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday he sat comfortably at 97 MPH and topped out at 99. Not only has his velocity improved, his zone percentage is up to 45.5% which is a career high and above the major league average.
Bauer has also made adjustments to his release point. Prior to 2014 he would shift to different sides of the mound depending on the situation and batter, resulting in two very distinct release points. In an effort to keep everything as simple as possible he now pitches only from the first base side of the rubber, something he hasn’t done since college.
The new adjustments are paying off handsomely for the 23-year old Bauer. He’s been as effective as ever, getting elite swinging strike rates on his fastball (8.65%), slider (26.92%) and curveball (18.18%). He’s maximizing the pure filth he’s been throwing to reach a 26% strikeout rate on the year, which is a career best. His 10% walk rate is still a little higher than the 8% league average, but it is trending in the right direction for someone who in the past had such extreme control issues. This is all leading up to a sparkling 2.25 ERA with an even prettier 1.25 FIP. There’s still a lot for Trevor Bauer to prove at the Show, but he’s well on his way to becoming the frontline starter that so many people envisioned.