Cleveland (92.3 The Fan) – Trevor Bauer is having the worst season of his career, on the mound.
The right-hander is striking out hitters at a clip higher than any other year of his career, but his home runs numbers are through the roof.
The metrics are bad. His FIP (4.88) is higher than any season he has started over four games, average against (.282), WHIP (1.58), batting average on balls in play (.345) and hard-hit percentage (37.2).
Those things are easy to see, and as always in mid-May, it must be said that the sample size is small and the numbers will stabilize.
Regardless, the issue with Bauer may be that unlike years prior, he is not fooling anybody.
Opposing hitters are swinging at just 21.1 percent of Bauer’s pitches out of the strike zone, which is the second lowest in baseball among qualified pitchers. It is also the lowest of his career, even his debut season in Arizona. His swinging-strike rate is 8.6%, 28th-lowest in baseball, though not far off what Bauer is accustomed to.
That thought could be dismissed by the heightened strikeout rate, but it could also be explained by the opposition sitting on his fastball.
Bauer is throwing more fastballs than any other point in his career, at 74.9% of his pitches. His four-seamer is close to his 26.1% mark from last season at 30.8%, while his two-seamer is up from 24.7% to 28%.
His best pitch has been the cut fastball, with a .9 value, garnering 17 swinging strikes on 85 pitches. For comparison, Bauer has picked up 17 swinging strikes on two- and for-seam fastballs on 313 pitches.
With heightened usage of the fastball, the pitch value is down at a career-worst -6.2. Bauer has never had a positive fastball value over a full season, but the stat is cumulative, so the fact that his fastball is already at the worst through six starts could be alarming.
Otherwise, Bauer’s pitch values are up across the board outside of his changeup, which he has dropped usage of down to 4.8 percent.
That could also indicate that hitters are waiting out Bauer’s secondary pitches and waiting on the fastball.
All seven home runs allowed by Bauer on the year have come on fastballs.
Bauer is also pitching behind in the count 48.6 percent of at-bats, carrying his lowest first-pitch strike rate of his career, something pitching coach Mickey Calloway harps on.
For a pitcher who obviously makes his money on his fastball, judging by his usage of it ¾ of the time, Bauer must be able to use his other pitches effectively in order to best utilize the pitch.
Calloway has spoken to the need for Bauer to increase his pace and simplify his repertoire, something he had success with when paired for now-Twins catcher Chris Gimenez.
Bauer’s pace is now at the second-highest of his career.