Player to Watch: Regardless Of His Game 1 Performance, Trevor Bauer Is What He Is…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It’s intriguing that the Indians have tabbed Trevor Bauer as their Game 1 starter, despite having Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco available to them.  We all know Bauer isn’t the team’s top option, though the opportunity is certainly going to grab the attention of the masses.  Once considered one of the top prospects in the game, the question is if a strong start will be enough to get people buying the “potential” as opposed to reality.

Bauer continues to be nothing more than pedestrian in the Majors, having posted a 4.19 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in ’17.  It would be easy to point towards his strikeout rate (10.00 K/9) and poor luck (.337 BABIP) as a reason to believe, but you need to dig a little bit deeper before jumping to that conclusion.

While the strikeout rate was impressive, the underlying marks don’t seem to support it:

  • 9.2% SwStr%
  • 25.1% O-Swing%

It’s impossible to expect him to maintain the elevated mark, despite his extensive repertoire (he threw seven different pitches in ’17) and consistency.  Even if he goes out there and strikes out a ton of batters today with the spotlight shining brightly, it is not going to change that opinion.

Then you have the consistently elevated line drive rate, at 21.5% in ’17 (21.3% for his career).  Sure the BABIP is still higher than we’d expect but he owns a career .301 mark and that has helped to a 1.36 WHIP.  Maybe he can get the mark down into the 1.28 type range, but it’s a long shot and not a sexy number regardless.

Throw in some home run issues, with a 1.28 HR/9 (1.18 or higher in two of the past three seasons) and it’s easy to say that the outlook isn’t all that impressive.  It’s intriguing that the Indians have trusted him in Game 1, but regardless of his performance nothing is going to change:

  • His strikeout rate is likely to regress
  • He has proven to be a lackluster WHIP producer
  • He has struggled with home runs

Does that sound like a pitcher to invest in?  One start shouldn’t change things, and Bauer is at best a back-end option but more of a late round flier for your bench and little more.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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  1. Bbboston says:

    As far as I can tell, he shouldn’t be starting ahead of Clevinger either?

  2. Tony says:

    The narrative I’ve seen is that he’s simplified his pitch mix in the second half, and his Brooks page confirms that — change, cutter, splitter are all barely in the “show me” category, and he’s basically four-seam, curve, and slider now. The slider is getting decent results, but it’s more addition by subtraction — his change, cutter, and splitter are all horrible, so citing career / 2017 stats with them included doesn’t capture the improvement.

    I know these narratives are sometimes reverse-engineered from the results, but I think if he can stick to those three pitches, his August/September results could be sustainable. I’m just hoping he has an awful postseason so the draft price can get more reasonable — don’t want to see him creeping up into SP3 range.

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