Shakespeare once said, “But no perfection is so absolute, that some impurity doth not pollute.”

Enter stage right, one Trevor Bauer. Bauer is a tinkerer always looking to improve. You have to admire someone so obsessed with their craft that the process is never over in the pursuit of perfection. After a successful run you’d expect a repeat performance, that he had found the winning formula; not so. After putting up stellar numbers in 2018 to swoon the hardest of souls, Bauer followed that performance with a painful journey of frustration in 2019 that crescendoed with the famous launching of the game ball over the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium. Soon after Cleveland traded him to Cincinnati where he continued to labor through the remainder of the season. Now in 2020, he’s tinkered again, and chasing the white whale once more.

Because if how knowledgeable he is about pitching and the desire to improve, he’s struggled to find consistency across his career, filled with many ups and downs. He has a career ERA of 3.67 but only registering a season under 4 once, that being his dominant 2018. There are times he looks completely unhittable and others like during last year he’d get hit really had and was unable to command the zone well. So, what’s working for him this year you say; let’s dive in.

2018 11.34 2.93 0.46 2.21 1.09 .206 2.44
2019 10.69 3.46 1.44 4.48 1.25 .227 4.34
2020 14.01 2.39 0.68 0.68 0.57 .093 1.95

Bauer has been so dominant thus far this year, even besting his previous career marks set in 2018. Yes, it’s a small sample, yet he has been so strong. His K-rate is as high as its ever been and inversely his BB-rate as low as ever. So what is going on with him, is he doing something different? Is there a secret sauce—lets first make a stop at his pitch usage.

2018 36.9% 5.2% 10.5% 26.7% 13.7% 7.0%
2019 38.5% 3.8% 16.6% 19.6% 13.9% 7.6%
2020 50.7% 6.7% 18.8% 11.5% 11.8% 0.5%

Hmmmm. Do you see that? Bolded for your convenience, you’ll see his fastball usage is up above 50%, up over 10% to account for half along with another nearly 19% usage with the cutter. He’s using the fastball much more than before to set up his other pitches more effectively. Before, last year his fastball was merely average and was hammered often, but something is different now that has given him the confidence to pound the zone with 4-seamers and cutters. Let’s look at the distribution charts.

Take a look at these two statcast pitch distributions; he is mixing speeds more effectively this year compared to last year. Not only that but so far looks like he’s adjusted the velocity of his pitches so they are more spread out across his offerings. Especially between his secondary pitches and specifically the curve and slider. The dotted line indicating all pitches totaled together shows a more balanced line across the lower end. This means not only is he changing movement and location but the velocities are more spread across the spectrum; therein, making it harder for hitters to time their swing.

His fastball was arguably his worst pitch last year, so where is the confidence coming from to play off of it as the foundation for his strikeouts? His fastball in 2019 was getting hammered with a .273 AVG, .578 SLG and now he’s holding opponents to .050 AVG, .125 SLG (only 2 hits) in these first 4 starts. Something is different. And then when I was looking at film, it hit me.

Watch the fastball on these. Though the velocity on his heater is down a tick; it seems to be moreso on a line and batters seem to be having an issue catching up to it. Its the spin! Bauer has increased the spin-rate on his fastball which adds some deception as well as reduces the drag. This gives the fastball more perceived rise and his cutter more dive, shown HERE, aided by a appears to be higher release point akin to where it was in 2018, shown HERE.

FB rpm SI rpm CT rpm CU rpm SL rpm CH rpm
2018 2322 2316 2611 2601 2666 1852
2019 2412 2353 2640 2549 2736 1697
2020 2767 2745 2903 2819 2923 1432*

Not only his fastball, but Bauer has increased the RPMs on all his pitches except maybe the change. Although his velocity is slightly down a tick, the spin on all his pitchers is up, save the change. And even that could be a stretch as he’s only thrown 2 change-ups.

So what does this all mean? Spin-rate has become his quest for the golden fleece. This season Trevor Bauer is spinning his pitches like a top and despite the small tick down in velo, his pitches are actually performing better than they ever have. This has made them harder to identity thus gaining the jump on batters as though he were throwing much harder allowing him to manipulate his pitch mix at will with everything working off the fastball.

Since he can rely on his fastballs more, including the gyro-cutter (with nearly 3000 rpm) he’s able to command the strike zone better and get batters to chase the slider more off the table, as you can see HERE, including more chase and misses you can see HERE. A great fastball makes everything else better. If Trevor can keep up this new spin-rate and continue to diversify the speeds of his pitches we could be seeing the resurgence of the ace that we saw in 2018 (in a contract year no less) that would easily make him a top 5-10 SP the rest of the way. Spinning is winning.

  1. Player X says:

    Spinning is winning! Great stuff

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:


  2. pflip says:

    Amazeballs. Top notch analysis.

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:

      thanks! amazeballs indeed.

  3. Dave D says:

    Good read. Is he on the waiver wire?

    Btw, Canning is worthless. He’s staked a 4 run lead and cant last 5 innings? Im dropping him and moving on…

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:

      haha thanks Dave. Yeah looks like the lamb chop needs to go back in the oven a bit longer, not quite done… but def feels like our season is. I’m about to shift my “cheering” energy for the year to the (former) local team, #SlamDiego Padres. At least there’s something to be excited about there, like a homerun Conga Line against the Asterisks.

  4. Coolwhip

    Coolwhip says:

    Forgot to mention above… Bauer’s FB has the highest spin-rate of all FB in MLB, so he’s definitely blazing a trail.

  5. fausto

    fausto says:

    Nothing to do with bauer however wanted to say I’m loving the graphics you pump out lol. My question with our trade deadline coming quickly trying to swing a deal to win it all….
    question currently in 1st in a deep keeper league but just lost lugo and pomeranz and there isn’t anything on the wire. padres seem to think pom will be back as soon as eligible but I don’t want to count on it and not trade for a closer.
    Do you like any of these for a 2020 title?

    -Send My K.Hiura($4) for his R.Pressly and Cano?

    Send My B. Rodgers ($1) for Pressly

    Send Christian Walker($9) and Willie calhoun( $4) for Pressly

    Send BRodgers ($1) and Calhoun($4) for Gallegos

    Trade Hiura For Kenley and try to schmotato my MI?

    Currently am left with Brad Hand and O.Drake(DL) as my only closer with CEstevez( a Colorado sagnof yikes) and JStaumont as my only other remote possibilities to get a save. Currently in 1st place 2nd in saves but fading fast.

    Appreciate it. Always enjoy your content

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:

      Thanks, glad you enjoy it.

      You certainly are in a pickle, haha. I’m a Hiura stan, so it’s hard to warrant selling him for a closer. Especially in a keeper league. Hmmm the other options a tough… it might be year or so or trade until Rodgers does anything worthwhile. So I’d more likely sell him for Someone like Jansen caliber… maybe deal walker if you are solid at 1B and CI.

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