Trevor Bauer has suffered through a less than stellar career thus far. Being the 3rd overall pick in 2011, Bauer has a career 4.59 ERA. So far in 2017 he has a 5.59 ERA however his k/9 of 10.13 is so far a career best. Following his most recent start where he only went 2/3 of an inning giving up 4 earned runs, Bauer’s rotation spot maybe in jeopardy. There is however an interesting path in Bauer’s career timeline and possibly some bad luck this season.
Let me start by showing graphs of Bauer’s pitch distribution from 2015 to 2017:
You can see from the progression from 2015 to 2017 that he took a break from using his four seam fastball as much in 2016. Instead, he increased his cutter usage. Following 2016 he is back to using less of a cutter and more of a four seam this season. The biggest change is the use of his knuckle curve as opposed to a regular curveball he was throwing in the past. He is having more success with his fastball this year than in the past. There is one thing that is really interesting about Bauer that people should be made aware of. Take a look at this plot that shows BABIP to the difference between ERA and xFIP (in other words, shows who the most unlucky pitchers in baseball are):
Bauer is the red point. He is in the group of 5 pitchers who are getting incredibly unlucky this season. Bauer has the biggest difference between ERA and xFIP to go along with one of the highest BABIPs.
Bauer is striking players out at the 17th highest rate in all of baseball. It is being undone by him walking hitters at 12th highest rate. In the previous three years he continued to have this problem of having a high ERA with a reasonable xFIP. Maybe he is just really unlucky. He has great ability and still has the potential to break out. He might be a late bloomer. His xFIP is better than names such as Robbie Ray, Gerrit Cole, and Jose Quintana. Indians should wait it out and see if his ERA normalizes to his xFIP.