One start. Friday night’s disaster (0.2 IP, 10 batters faced, six hits, five runs – all earned, two walks, two home runs) left a lot to be desired for the prospects of the Indians top pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer. After four starts with the Indians in 2013, Bauer now has a 5.29 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP over 17 innings to go along with his 8.47 BB/9. While it isn’t time to wonder if Bauer is going to have a pitching career much like that of Rick Ankiel, is it time to wonder about how the Indians are using their young right-hander?
Bauer has posted an impressive 3.33 ERA with 267 strikeouts in just 221.1 career minor league innings; however, in 12 starts at Triple-A Columbus, Bauer has walked five batters per nine innings while posting a 4.13 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Despite the ability to miss bats with his impressive arsenal of pitches, is Bauer trying to do too much?
He has allowed nearly eight hits per nine over his minor league career (7.8), so maybe he just can’t locate his pitches. If that is the case, how can the club help him throw strikes?
Trevor Bauer needs to be moved to the bullpen.
This isn’t going to happen in Cleveland. Bauer needs to be sent back to Double-A Akron to begin this transition, but, don’t worry prospect gurus, this is just temporary, so hear me out.
Bauer is missing something which goes far beyond coaching – confidence. Confidence is built upon successes and Bauer needs to find more consistency in his successes. Putting Bauer in the bullpen will allow him to come into games and throw his best stuff in small doses. This will allow Bauer to build confidence in his individual pitches, while giving him more opportunities to find success by pitching a couple to a few times per week.
As a starter, Bauer is susceptible to the big inning, as he was on Friday night in Chicago, and he won’t have another turn for another five days. While allowing five runs in a single inning is hardly effective as a relief pitcher, it doesn’t cause such drastic overuse of the bullpen by taxing middle relievers by having them toss two to four innings at a time in a single appearance. If Bauer has a meltdown, so be it; he can be replaced in the next inning and it isn’t nearly as damning.
Bauer can go to the minors, find success in Double-A Akron in a relief role, and get promoted to Triple-A Columbus. After a dozen appearances with positive results, Bauer could come up and provide lights-out stuff out of the bullpen over the rest of the 2013 season. If he is successful in the bullpen, you can send him to the Arizona Fall League to be stretched out (or another winter league), and try again in 2014. If the club builds on their pitching depth and they want to see Bauer maintain that bullpen success for another season, there is no harm in putting him in the bullpen for another year before moving him back to the rotation.
While some may argue that Neftali Feliz was damaged by the transition from young closer to Tommy John surviving starter for the Texas Rangers, what is the excuse for Dylan Bundy, Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, and all of the other pitchers who were babied and still succumbed to the ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery?
Trevor Bauer doesn’t need to become the next Aroldis Chapman, who was signed by Cincinnati to become a starter before redefining dominance in the closer role, but he does need something to happen to get things going in the right direction. What he has done to this point hasn’t been effective, so why not see if mixing things up could not only help Bauer’s confidence, but the potential dominance at the back-end of a shaky Cleveland bullpen?
Move him to the bullpen in the minors, build his confidence, let him show that he can get hitters out instead of just overpowering them, and mold him into a pitcher. Once he gets to that point, he can be a starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians instead of the starting thrower that he continues to show that he is at this point.
Some key stats for you:
Prior to Friday’s start, Bauer’s stats when he is in the game with runners in scoring position or with no outs, which speaks volumes to how he could handle pressure situations (albeit a small sample size):
|0 out, —||7||34||26||0||6||4||0||0||0||0||8||5||0.63||.231||.412||.385||.796|
|0 out, 1–||5||8||6||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||1||0.50||.000||.250||.000||.250|
|0 out, -2-||4||4||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|0 out, –3||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|0 out, 12-||3||3||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||1.00||.000||.333||.000||.333|
|0 out, 123||1||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0.00||.000||.500||.000||.500|
Additionally, his situational statistics based on leverage, which shows his effectiveness, specifically in high and low leverage situations:
And, finally his statistics by inning, which show how effective Bauer can be when the opposition only sees him once (hitters are making adjustments that he isn’t):
Bauer is a legitimate prospect and moving him to the bullpen isn’t giving up on him; however, something needs to be done to help him reach the levels that his stuff suggests that he is capable of. The Indians need to find the correct way to use him, as well. Shipping him back and forth between Cleveland and Columbus is not the best way to handle a top prospect, especially a prospect who isn’t thriving in his current environment, which Bauer wasn’t in Columbus. The Indians player development staff needs to step in and find a positive way to get Bauer back on his feet and confident. This is the right step right now.