Indians

Can a return to where he lost blood help Bauer find his groove?

There is nothing neutral about rooting for Trevor Bauer. To follow the ongoings of Bauer leads one to take up a stance on a wide variety of issues inside and outside of the ballpark. The mere mention of his name will strike animosity with someone in your group. The particular blend of animosity will be determined by whoever happens to constitute your friends. Bauer’s adherence to slowly- but now widely- embraced advanced player development methods for pitchers has drawn him the praise of those proctors, and the scorn of the old school baseball brethren. His willingness in the past to troll the trolls on social media drew him praise from many on the platform- until his political views were shown to be in stark contrast with many. On the mound, Bauer’s obsession with tinkering with his ever-expanding pitch arsenal has left some questioning if it has led to his inability to command the strikezone, while others wonder if his curious mind is a huge reason he has success in the first place.1 There is nothing easy or simple or relaxed about rooting for Trevor Bauer; let alone neutral.

As WFNY’s Jim Pete posed:

But when you alcohol swab Trevor Bauer’s career; who in the hell is Trevor Bauer, anyways?

Is he truly a pitcher? Is he an intellectual who is just interested in the physics of baseball? Is he so mature in his approach that the trivialities of life are beneath him? Is he so immature that he can’t avoid the conflict and Jerry Springer-like battles that present themselves via Twitter?

The 2016 ALCS brought about yet another philosophical sports debate to light because Bauer seemingly is incapable of not making everyone question each dark recess of their mind even when all we want to focus on is October baseball. Not even the Cleveland faithful buying up every present on Ryan Merritt’s wedding registry could top the narrative of Bauer. You see, he has a bit of a drone habit. He builds drones, he races drones, he flies drones around ballparks- providing some fantastic video and pictures as a result. Sure, he almost crashed one into the Chicago White Sox scoreboard and has had MLB create specific drone guidelines due to his obsession.

Part of following Bauer’s career is one in which you must create a strong stance on a topic you might have only been tepid before. Players are people who deserve to live full lives, yet they are also athletes who have a certain amount of responsibility to uphold to keep their bodies in condition to compete. Many careers have been ruined to speed boating, motorcycles, and other various accidents to the point where many- most?- teams have contractual language to forbid most endeavors deemed dangerous. Building drones might not have been on many such lists before the 2016 ALCS, but that might be different after Bauer sliced his finger on an errant blade, which could have changed the course of the entire Indians postseason. Such craziness should only be confined to fan fiction, but it almost seems natural within the surreal state of his world.

WFNY’s Jon Steiner had the honor of detailing this particular event.

8:21 p.m. – The Duncan shirsey bodes well? Bauer strikes out Jose Bautista looking to start the game. Probably some “circumstances” going on; will wait for post-game interviews.

Meanwhile, Bauer is mixing the hook with his heater and seems to have adequate control over both.

8:22 p.m. – DRONE TALK. Scouring the house for alcohol.

8:26 p.m. – After getting two outs, Bauer walks two and his finger is bleeding like a geyser. This is not good. He’ll be out of the game after this inning, if he can make it that far. SCOURING THE HOUSE.

Bauer would not make it out of the inning as Dan Otero started off a train of six relief pitchers to navigate Game 3 in order for the Indians to win, 4-2.

The 2017 season has not gone as planned. His 7.67 ERA might not be as horrific as it seems due to some somewhat positive peripheral numbers (4.92 FIP, 25.6% K%, 15.7% K-BB%, .347 BABIP) though his batted ball profile indicates things are awry (ground ball rate is way down, hard hit rate is way up). His only positive outing on the year was nearly three weeks ago in Minnesota whereas the most recent time he was handed the ball he walked five, gave up seven, and only pitched four.

Even Monday’s start against Toronto has some added intrigue. With Corey Kluber hitting the 10-Day DL, Mike Clevinger was called up for a spot-start (or two). Instead of taking Kluber’s normal spot on Monday, manager Terry Francona elected to slot him in against the Kansas City Royals.

The move pushed Bauer to travel back to the hill in Toronto where the last was seen needing to be saved from bleeding out of Game 3 of the ALCS. Perhaps a return to the scene of blood lost will help reinvigorate his 2017 campaign. If not, Clevinger appears ready to hold onto possession of the starting pitcher with insane potential but not enough control. But, that debate is for another day.

  1. Note: the author of this article is on both sides of that particular fence. Rooting for Bauer is complicated. []

  • woofersus

    I think people mostly overthink the Bauer thing due to the narrative that launched his MLB career with him shaking off Miguel Montero (GASP!) and clashing with the super old school approaches to training within the Diamondbacks organization at the time. But for the most part those things that launched the narrative fall away with closer inspection. The Indians are not an old-school organization, and have instituted a good number of the training methods Bauer came to the league with throughout their farm system. Other than it being noted he’s stubborn, there haven’t really been any issues with him getting along with any of his teammates or coaches. In fact, his vast arsenal of pitches has been mostly whittled down to 5 other than the very occasional outlier. He’s been focused pretty hard on throwing to more contact and walking fewer batters for like a year and half. All good things, right?

    It really boils down to the fact that his maddening inconsistency is accompanied by seemingly constant tweaking, and the perception is that he’s unwilling to focus on consistency and just be the pitcher he can be. While there may be some truth to that, I mostly blame the whole thing on him being rushed to the big leagues. I know he pitched in college and therefore should have been closer to ready, but the way it sequenced for him wasn’t good.

    He flew through the minors and pitches in his first big league game before the first calendar year of his professional career had elapsed. He got hurt, and then traded amid scrutiny and criticism from a team staffed by baseball neanderthals, then he gets to Cleveland and they put him in AAA. He should have started 2013 in AA and spent most of the year there. He wasn’t exactly setting fire to International league batters, but when his 7 games in Cleveland that year were successful, his fate was sealed. We were to be contenders in 2014 and they needed Bauer to be what was promised. But he had recognized that his delivery needed to be reworked during 2013 – only his second year as a professional – and started 2014 just debuting it against live hitters for the first time. He should have been doing that in the minors and been brought up late that year. This kind of tinkering is normal in the course of a pitcher’s development. You just don’t see it as much in the majors.

    It feels like Bauer has been around forever now, but as I’ve said many times before, he’s younger than Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson still. (just turned 26) We’ve seen flashes of brilliance to go with the frustrations. Kluber and Carrasco both didn’t break out until they were 27. Even Cliff Lee only really had one good year at age 27 before breaking out as an ace at the age of 29. They can’t all be CC Sabathia. I remain confident Bauer will improve and become at least a quality 2-3 level guy in a good rotation if not better, because he has great stuff and he’s durable. (drone accidents notwithstanding)

    As an aside, while he’s clearly off to a rough start this year, his peripherals suggest he’s been better than his ERA of 7.67. His FIP is 4.92 and his xFIP is 3.88. Despite career high K/9 numbers, his LOB% is a somewhat ludicrous 57.8%, his HR/FB ratio is 20%, and his BABIP against is .347.

  • mgbode
  • JM85

    A trip to the bullpen would help him.

  • Chris

    Shhh!!!

    We don’t want them giving up a run.

  • NankirPhelge

    Good stuff, woof, and rightly chosen as a Featured Comment.

    I just hope Bauer won’t try to throw the split-finger anymore. (Split finger? Get it? I’ll show myself out.)

  • mgbode

    Oh, stop screwballing around. We might need to changeup our puns.

  • NankirPhelge

    How’s his cutter?

  • mgbode

    It’s got a nice curve in it

  • Simcha Tamkin

    I still maintain that the tribe won the bloody finger game BECAUSE Bauer left, not despite. Not a fan of his control issues, and I think his personality and cerebral way of life overshadows his constant pitching issues.

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  • jpftribe

    Fantastic comment. I didn’t follow them much in ’12-’14, so that is not a perspective I had. Thanks for that.