Throughout spring training I’ll be highlighting “things to work on” for certain key players this year.
Trevor Bauer’s thing to work on is pretty simple: throw strikes.
Bauer finished dead last in all of baseball with a rate of 4.0 walks per nine innings in 2015,
Aside from allowing walks, his inaccuracy also forced him to give in to hitters after falling behind.
In at-bats that ended in a hitter’s count, Bauer allowed a 1.039 opponents OPS—basically an MVP-type offensive performance. But when he got hitters to chase in a pitcher’s count, he slashed that number in half to a .504 opponents OPS.
The issue for Bauer, of course, was getting into those pitcher’s counts. Of the 744 batters he faced in 2015, only 328 (32 percent) finished their at-bat on a pitcher’s count.
The most simplistic way for Bauer to remedy this issue is to throw more first-pitch strikes.
In 2015, Bauer threw a first-pitch strike 59 percent of the time—well below the league average of 64 percent for starting pitchers.
In at-bats when Bauer threw a first-pitch strike, his opponents OPS was just .655 and his walk rate was a manageable 7.2 percent. After throwing a first-pitch ball, however, his OPS rose to .792 with a walk rate of 17.4 percent.
The advice “throw more strikes” sounds simple, and it’s obviously something Bauer’s heard before. If it were that easy to fix, however, he’d have done it already.
Clearly there is a mechanical issue that leads to Bauer’s wildness. It’s been a slow work in progress throughout his career, but as Bauer enters his third full season in the majors, it’s time for pitching coach Mickey Callaway to finally straighten him out.