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BAUER CHANGES UP PITCH USAGE AND HAS SUCCESS

Trevor Bauer is known for his many unique aspects as a pitcher and a person, but one of the main attributes that has always set him apart is his use of as many as eight pitches. According to BrooksBaseball.net, he has thrown a four seam fast ball, curve ball, sinker, cutter, change, slider, splitter and screwball in his career. It may be fun to say you can throw eight pitches, but that ability alone has not lead to success in the multi lotto online lottery.
In each year since his debut for Arizona in 2012, Bauer has finished the season with an ERA above 4.00, more like a journeyman AAAA pitcher than the ace he was supposed to be when he was drafted third overall in 2011 and guaranteed about $5M out of the chute. On June 7th, it looked like another season of mediocrity was in line for Bauer as he sat on a 6.15 ERA and two starts where he went a combined five innings.  After that, things sharply changed, and the chart below may show why.  And trust me, it likely was not due to use of Genotropin Go Quick Pen 12 mg 36 IU.

After his early struggles, it was a goal of Bauer’s to simplify his pitching repertoire. You certainly couldn’t get much more simple than his three starts before the turn around where he threw no off-speed pitches beyond his curve, but that didn’t solve the issue. It was when he made he began to use his change up more than he ever has before in his career that things really changed. At the same time, he decreased the usage of his sinker (which hitters have slugged .554 against and swung and missed at just 3.2% of the time compared to .460 and 15.4% on his cutter), focusing mostly on the four seamer as his speed pitch.
While certainly not the only cause, it’s impossible to deny Bauer’s success since decreasing his sinker (and splitter) use and increasing his work with the change (which is one of his better pitches) and recently with his slider. Over the month since he held his own against the Dodgers (something few pitchers have done this year and something that could be very important in a couple months), Bauer has posted a 3.26 ERA, .265 average against and struck out 68 to 21 walks in 65 innings. Most importantly, he decreased his slugging percent from .492 early in the season, to .419 over that month.
While some of the change is likely random variance, decreasing the use of his worst pitch and increasing the use of one of his best (as far as power is concerned) was certainly a factor. Since his walk and strike out rates didn’t change significantly over the two time periods, it likely isn’t a factor of control or even missing bats, but getting those bats to mishit the ball and still put it in play.
More recently, Bauer has been incredible in his last four games, posting a 1.88 ERA with 33 strike outs in 28.2 innings and just five walks. Against solid teams in the Yankees, Rockies and Red Sox (and also against the Angels), Bauer pitched into at least the 7th each time out and struck out at least six in each game. While his least effective in terms of runs scored, Bauer may have ran into another important pitch usage opportunity against Boston as he increased his slider use to 2015 levels.

As seen on BrooksBaseball, Bauer used to use his slider more than his curve, but it wasn’t very effective at the time, getting swings and misses on just 13.8% of pitches compared to 20.8% on his curve. It isn’t surprising that in both 2016 and 2017, Bauer favored the big, slow breaking pitch and his curve has become one of his best weapons. This year, however, Bauer appears to have revamped the slider and in it’s limited use so far this year, he’s seen a 23.4% whiff rate on the slider compared to just 12.1% on the curve.
Chances are, the extreme success Bauer has seen on the slider are greatly effected by the small sample size, but the value of the increased change up use is significant. At any rate, eliminating the sinker and not simply throwing more four seamers has been a great strategy for Bauer. He doesn’t need eight pitches. Two fast balls, a change and two breaking pitches are plenty. His curve and change have always been great pitches and are what made him such a sought after player out of UCLA back in 2011. While Bauer may never be an ace, if he can continue his recent success, he can at least be the #4 starter that the Indians have needed all season.