Trevor Bauer has been one of the most frustrating pitchers for Fantasy Baseball owners over the last few seasons. There are times when he looks dominant but then in his next start he can’t find the strike zone. In four full seasons with the Indians, the right-hander hasn’t had an ERA lower than 4.18 or a WHIP below 1.31.
Bauer took huge strides in the second half of the 2017 season. He pitched 176.1 innings and went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and a 196:60 K:BB ratio. The 26.2 percent strikeout rate was a career best as was the 8.0 percent walk rate.
When you see a stark change in a pitcher like Bauer, the key is to seek what changed. For Bauer, it was pitch usage as he went from a cutter to a slider and used his curve a lot more often than he had been using it previously. The slider induced a lot of weak and ugly swings. Bauer threw his fastball (average 94 miles per hour) 49.2 percent of the time and the curve (78.5 miles per hour) 29.8 percent of the time.
He has improved his walk rate in two straight seasons and it resulted in a career-high 10 K/9 last season. The key for Bauer is throwing more first-pitch strikes as he was at a low 56.8 percent last season.
Bauer has yet to reach 200 innings in a season and most of it can be attributed to high pitch counts. He pitched 190 innings two years ago. In his final 12 starts of 2017, Bauer pitched at least six innings in ten of them. In nine of the starts during that span, he allowed no more than two earned runs.
Another key for Bauer to become more consistent is getting left-handed hitters out. He allowed them to bat .272 with 16 home runs and a .356 wOBA. Bauer is on a good team, has pitched at least 176 innings in three straight seasons and even with his poor start last season, he finished with an ERA .18 below average.
The next step is trimming the ERA, but there’s a good chance Bauer finally finishes with an ERA below four. He has an ADP of 137 on fantrax.com as the 37th starting pitcher off the board. It’s not a steep price to pay for a pitcher who could take another leap this season. Only 15 pitchers reached 200 innings last season and Bauer can get there. If he does and the strikeout rate from last season sticks, he gets to the rare 200 innings and 200 strikeouts.