After last night's defeat Trevor Bauer was understandably rather tetchy when he was asked why he was giving up so many homers:
"Nope. You can ask me, keep asking me about it, but that’s the answer — I don’t know. I’ll figure it out at some point, but right now, I don’t know, so it doesn’t make any sense to keep asking me about it."
Since he doesn't seem to know what's going wrong, perhaps there's not much hope for the rest of us being able to figure it out. However, I still thought I might analyze last night's start with regards one particular aspect: two-ball counts.
Using Gameday data, let's look at Bauer's pitch selection in all instances from last night's game in which he had already thrown two balls or more in an AB:
1. 1st inning: After Ellsbury singled, four straight 4-seam fastballs to Gardner (two to make it 2-0, then two more), all of them balls.
2. 1st inning: With two on and two out, and 2-1 down i the count, Bauer threw another 4-seamer that McCann despatched for a homer.
3. 2nd inning: 2-1 down in the count, Bauer got leadoff hitter Gregorius to ground out on a changeup.
4. 2nd inning: After Drew homered, Bauer was 2-0 down in the count against Gardner. He threw three straight fastballs (the middle one a 2-seamer) to record a fly out to LF.
5. 3rd inning: 2-2 count vs. A-Rod (leading off), two fastballs (one 2-seam and one 4-seam), both of which missed for another walk.
6. 3rd inning: 2-0 down in count vs. McCann, 4-seam fastball was fouled off and then a changeup(!) led to another flyout.
7. 4th inning: 2-2 count vs. Gregorius, line drive single to center on a 4-seam fastball.
8. 4th inning: 2-0 behind, two 4-seamers and then a 2-seamer that resulted in a line drive RBI double to LF.
Let's add these up:
1. 2 fastballs (walk)
2. 1 fastball (homer)
3. 1 changeup (out)
4. 3 fastballs (out)
5. 2 fastballs (walk)
6. 1 fastball and 1 changeup (out)
7. 1 fastball (single)
8. 3 fastballs (double)
Many fans marvel at how many pitches Bauer has in repertoire, but yesterday he seemed to be intent on making himself as predictable as possible. He threw 15 pitches when there were already 2+ balls in the count, and on than 13 of those occasions he elected for a (4-seam or 2-seam) fastball, going to his changeup just twice (both of which resulted in outs).
Bauer didn't use his curveball or cutter in any of those critical situations. It's all very well having those pitches in your repertoire, but if you are only throwing them when ahead (or early) in counts, then you are turning yourself into a fastball/changeup pitcher in critical counts.
Basically, as soon as there two balls in the count, the Yankees were able to sit on his fastball and not really worry at all about anything else. Five of the six two-ball counts in which he finished with a fastball ended up with a bad outcome, whereas when he did mix things up with a changeup he was able to get the out on each occasion. Bauer is a smart guy, but he didn't seem to be demonstrating that with his pitch selection yesterday.
Of course, the situation is somewhat exacerbated by the fact that Bauer clearly doesn't actually have great command over his fastball. Here is what Tito had to say at the start of the year:
"We want him to keep working on commanding his fastball," said Francona. "He can work off that (pitch). He's very durable and he competes like crazy." Source.
And here is a critique that Mitchel Lichtman (co-author of The Book) published on Twitter way back on July 24:
"Trevor Bauer does not have enough command [of all his pitches] or movement on his fastball to be a very good pitcher, at this point at least. I wonder if he could end up in the pen eventually.
"By the way, I meant command of all his pitches, not just his fastball. He probably has less command (relative to other pitchers) of the off-speed, which forces him to throw fastballs in fastball counts.
"Unless you have a ridiculous fastball (like Chapman) it is critical to have good command of secondary pitches. Otherwise you are forced to throw fastballs in fastball counts. And major league hitters will crush fastballs in fastball counts if they are thrown often enough.
"Just looking at pitches in/out of the strike zone (obviously off-speed are more intentionally thrown out of zone), 49% hard stuff in zone, 31% off-speed. I have no idea what the league averages are. It is also virtually a given that someone who throws 94-96 with great secondary stuff (which Bauer has) who does not have great results, automatically is lacking in command (or they have no idea how to pitch)."
Hopefully, las night's game was just a blip, because If Bauer persists in throwing so many fastballs in fastball counts, it's hard to see how he will ever become a front-of-the-rotation pitcher.