Young Cleveland Indians RHP Trevor Bauer has frequently been likened to a “mad scientist,” a tinkerer experimenting with concepts and materials beyond his control. When he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he had been described as stubborn, difficult to work with, and many questioned why he pitched up in the strike zone so much.
Turns out, the mad scientist label couldn’t be further from the truth regarding Bauer. His pitching philosophy has a name, and according to a fantastic longform article by Jason Turbow on Beyond the Box Score, Effective Velocity isn’t some crazy concept, but is rooted in research and physics.
Most of the article rightfully focuses on Perry Husband, who has been championing the pitching theory for years, and even pitched it to teams as far back as 2005, but there’s a large chunk of the article focusing on Bauer’s adherence to the philosophy, the Diamondbacks’ resistance to it, and the adjustments Bauer has learned to make to his philosophy to survive at the Major League level.
But perhaps most fascinating to most Indians fans will be just how acutely aware of Bauer’s pitching beliefs the team was prior to acquiring him, and how open to the concept they appear to be.
Cleveland did not enter into this relationship with eyes closed. Not only did they scout Bauer before making the deal with Arizona, they went so far as to send representatives to Wolforth’s coaching clinic in Montgomery — reconnaissance agents whose targets were only too happy to spill the beans — just weeks before pulling the trigger. There, they watched Bauer, together with a Ranch regular named Eric Binder — a 26-year-old whose two-season professional pitching career crested in the Single-A New York-Penn League in 2011 — give a presentation on lower-half pitching mechanics. The team was so taken that they didn’t just trade for Bauer, they also hired Binder, who currently serves as an assistant in player development.
They not only grabbed the pitcher they liked at pennies on the dollar, but they hired another believer of Effective Velocity to their payroll. It’s unclear how much of an influence an employee like Binder would actually have, but it’s clear the Indians feel there’s some merit to the concept.
The entire article is well worth taking the time to read, as Effective Velocity seems to be an exciting development in our understanding of pitching and the game of baseball. Trevor Bauer, and the Indians, appear to be ahead of the curve on this one.