CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – You will, and probably have, read a lot about Trevor Bauer’s curveball in the coming weeks. As the 26-year old has begun to simplify his arsenal, he has seen success, largely predicated on his best pitch.
Bauer has strung together a beautiful stretch of four starts, the latest in which he worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits, and walking one.
Things almost crumbled in his final full inning of work, the 6th inning, when former Tribesman Shin-Soo Choo and Indians killer Elvis Andrus strung together consecutive singles.
With future hall of famer Adrian Beltre at the dish, Bauer led with a curveball for a strike before a two-seam fastball was racked to third base at 94 mph. Jose Ramirez speared the ball with a diving stop at the hot corner, gunning down Beltre at first, while both runners advanced into scoring position.
An out away from escaping unscathed, Bauer welcomed Rangers RBI leader Nomar Mazara into the box with a chance to tie or even take the lead. The welcome was not kind as the right-hander peppered the left fielder with his best pitch, six straight times.
The final curve was in the zone, and bounced to Jason Kipnis weakly to retire the side, leaving Bauer victorious by virtue of his own research.
“That’s my best pitch and he performs poorly traditionally on it,” Bauer said. “Also, in that situation, if I walk him, I’m not concerned about it, given that I have Lucroy on-deck and I know I can make pitches to Lucroy. I’ve had that situation a couple times this year and I ended up walking the guy. I think I had it against the Dodgers. I walked — it was a lefty, I forget which one of the lefties was up. Thankfully, it worked out.”
Bauer’s approach was well-founded. Outside of the low-AVG% and high-Whiff% you see above, Mazara’s -5.0 rating against curveballs is his worst mark over 216 career games. The emerging 22-year old is 17-for-92 on curveballs in play, with 38 strikeouts, good enough for a wRC+ of 40 (100 is league average).
The idea to go to the curveball more often was born out of discussions with Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway and Bauer’s personal catcher at the moment, Roberto Perez. The conversations really heated up in May, when Bauer’s struggles began to become palpable.
Perez says his job as a catcher is to make sure he does not call for the pitch to often, but to use the curve as often as necessary without over-using it.
“If he throws it early for strikes, then guys are going to chase with two strikes,” the catcher said. “We’ve been talking a lot, trying to get on the same page every time. I mean, we’ve been using it a lot. They don’t do a lot of damage on his curve ball. It’s been working. It’s good for him.”
The main necessity to throw more curves, other than that it is unanimously Bauer’s best offering, was that his secondary and tertiary pitches were both consistent in speed and consistently being hit out of the park.
Bauer said he needed a speed differential, and figured, ‘Why not the best pitch?’
“I’ve always felt like I was most effective when I throw like 40-50 percent fastballs and use more off-speed stuff,” he said. “But, when I was doing that early in the year, my cutter and my changeup are hard. So, they’re just kind of like slightly slower fastballs.”