What Trevor Bauer Throws in 2017

The last time we covered Trevor Bauer was prior to Game 2 of the 2016 World Series, where the righty was dealing with an injury after cutting his pinky on a drone propeller. He appeared in three games in that World Series — two starts and one relief appearance — taking the loss in both his starts. Pitchers who start two World Series games are generally at least competent, and that was the best that can be said about Bauer in 2016; he ended the regular season with an ERA of 4.26 (ERA+ of 108) and a 1.311 WHIP. That was slightly better than his career numbers (career ERA+ of 95), but so far his 2017 has featured numbers slightly worse than his career averages. His ERA – 5.25; ERA+ of 89 – is his worst since he was a rookie in 2014, as is his 1.458 WHIP. On the other hand, his FIP (3.90), xFIP (3.73), and BABIP (0.345, fourth-highest among qualified pitchers) suggest he may have had some bad luck, and his strikeout rate (9.9 SO/9; good for 11th-best) is also a career high.

What he throws. His 2017 repertoire is the same as in 2016: Four-seam fastball (“FF”), two-seam fastball (“FT”), changeup (“CH”), cutter (“FC”), and curve (“CU”). His fastballs blend into each other, but the two-seam – as well as being slightly slower, 93.5 mph on average, vs. 94.3 mph for the four-seam – does have more horizontal movement and slightly less vertical movement than the four-seamer. His curve is mainly vertical, without much horizontal movement on average:

Pitch usage and trends. Bauer has changed his pitch usage somewhat compared to 2016. Although he uses the same pitch types in roughly the same way, he has increased the use of his curve significantly – from 19.3% of pitches in 2016, to 29.1% in 2017 – with the difference being that he no longer shies away from the pitch when behind in the count. He has also cut back on his slider usage to left-handed batters, using his curve instead. He still preferentially uses his curve when ahead in the count – nearly half his 0-2 and 1-2 pitches this season have been curves (48.6%, to be precise).

In 2016 his pitch usage evolved over the course of the season, with the curve gradually becoming more common and the cutter less so. The same trend has continued this year; in his last 10 games, he has used his curve very aggressively. He also seems to be reducing his two-seam fastball use in the same period. This change in pitch usage has only helped his ERA a little though: 4.38 over his last ten starts, 5.25 for the season:

Bauer started the season throwing his cutter quite a bit slower than he has in the past, but the pitch’s velocity has crept up over the course of the season and in his past few games has been closer to previous seasons.

Pitch value. In 2016, all of Bauer’s pitches were adequate but unexceptional in terms of both total bases yielded per 100 pitches, and balls per 100 pitches. His best pitch was his curve, with both his four- and two-seam fastballs being slightly worse than average by TB/100:

Although his 2017 four-seam fastball and curve look similar to 2016, his other pitches look much worse. His two-seam, in particular, has been awful against left-handed batters – 18.7 TB/100, compared to the average of 11.0 TB/100 for the pitch –  which probably explains why he is using that pitch less and his curve more in recent games.

Pitch location. Bauer’s pitch locations haven’t changed much from 2016. As with last year, his four- and two-seam fastballs tend to be fairly high in the strike zone (the grey polygon in the center of each chart), while his changeup targets the bottom of the zone. In 2017, his changeup to right-handed batters is less likely to be a strike than it was in 2016, as it often drops out of the bottom of the zone. In 2016 his curve was often below the strike zone, while this season it is more likely to be a strike. His cutter targets the sides of the strike zone – inside to a left-handed batter, outside to a righty.

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Ian is an immunologist and virologist who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. Most of his time is spent driving his kids to baseball and soccer games, during which he indoctrinates his children on the glories of Pedro Martinez, the many virtues of the Montreal Expos, and other important information.