Trevor Bauer loves velocity. He lives by it. His curve may be his best pitch, but his ever-reaching pursuit of velocity (and dominance) is well-known. It's the crux of what goes on at his off-season training ground, Driveline Baseball. Yes, that is some oversimplification, but it’s a tenet. He even got a bit of stink-eye from Mickey Callaway and Terry Francona in the spring of 2016 for focusing too hard on velo training in the off-season when other issues loomed. But he wants to throw hard. The fastball is all that is baseball. Faster baseballs are harder to hit. Most pitchers throw it about 2/3 of the time. But what if a pitcher, Trevor Bauer for instance, threw it 100 percent of the time?
Readers of my articles will know of my love of a Justin Masterson start in 2011, where he threw over 100 pitches, all but one of which were fastballs. Now, with Masterson there's a bit of fudging that can go on. In the strictest sense, he threw two fastballs, a four-seamer and a sinker. Bauer has a similar repertoire, along with a cutter. But let's ignore those, and go back to the place we found ourselves watching Josh Tomlin heave a heap of curve balls, MLB The Show. Once again we will tap into the might of this greatest of in-game simulators, and give Bauer the chance to throw nothing but the cheese. Could it work, perhaps better than the curve experiment? Let's find out. Follow me to the BAUER ZONE!!!
That was weird.
I chose to have Bauer face the Minnesota Twins. They're the team he's seen more than any other, so he's most at a disadvantage because they know him so well. That's how video games work, right?
Either way, early on I discovered fastballs are better at getting ahead, and back into, counts than curveballs are. Something about being able to throw the ball in most any part of the zone, so long as you avoid the middle. The weirdest part at the outset? The amount of booing that Cleveland fans rained down on of all people Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano, but not Joe Mauer. Whoever programmed this game must hate Minnesota. Or ,aybe the digital fans respect Mauer’s longtime havoc wreaking, and just hate home run chasing goons. The first two innings I threw like 17 pitches total with a bunch of grounders. It was easy sailing. One fun thing about video games, they allow for that strike up under the hands to be very effective. In a normal game I use it for a strikeout pitch a lot. The Twins seemed lost, even as tactics did not change.
Oh, and Edwin Encarnacion might be the most broken player in the game. I missed on this pitch, and yet:
ALso I got Byron Buxton to swing early on a fastball in the second inning:
HOW DO YOU DO THAT? Was he hunting 105? And then Max Kepler did the same thing!
Who is their hitting coach? He must be a corrupt Chicago politician in his spare time, and brought his “vote early and often” lessons to baseball, but for swinging. Despite this, as I wound my way through the third and fourth innings, the strikeouts were not coming. While I’m not dealing with actual humans who can think and react, I kind of expected more punishment to happen.Even so, I was at like 44 pitches through the fourth, and leading 3-0 after a Jay Bruce dinger. May he stay loose forever. Also I worked a full count with Edwin, which is a feat in itself. Yes, I ultimately struck out.
The wheels came half-way off in the fifth, and through no fault of Me-Bauer. He was fine, location was as good as my thumb would allow and the velo was in the high 90’s. No, it was all Me-Brantley that did it in. Sano did go Sano, hitting a ball into the Cuyahoga, or more accurately to the bullpens:
Bauer was in shock for a moment:
I think I broke his brain. I followed that up with a garbage pitch by me (which, when you think about it, is kind of Bauer-esque in its own right, just throwing without thinking) that turned into a double to Eddie Rosario followed by a ground ball single by Buxton. Then I had an adventure in the outfield with Dr. Smooth:
What was happening here? Was Me-Brantley tantalized by a shiny object on the foul line, or was a siren lurking in the grandstand somewhere? Whatever it was, a pair of runs scored and I felt bad. I let down Me-Bauer, it was tragic. Letting someone else down is a disappointment, but to let the avatar of a real human being you’re controlling down? That’s… confusing I guess. Luckily Jason Castro took three straight strikes - all fastballs, but how could he know that? - and Dozier (booed) and Mauer both popped out. Crisis averted.
Also I went back-to-back-to-back with Edwin, Bruce and Santana. I’m a little mad this never happened in the real world. I want it forever. But it was great, even in the digital world.
As with Tomlin, I kept Bauer in much longer than a real manager with any sense would. Right, Digital Terry? RIGHT?
Won’t even look me in the eyes. Honestly. But this was science, I wanted to get as close to 100 pitches as possible. I got to 99, ultimately posting a decent 8 inning, 8 hits with 4 earned runs and three strikeout, no walk line that probably would have looked better with seven innings and three earned runs, but what are you going to do. Oddly, I didn’t even need to go too far out of the zone, just pound strikes all over the place:
Basically I worked the edges as well as I could, and probably more accurately than a real Bauer could all that consistently. Especially with all the low fastballs. He just loves throwing the high hard one.
As with Tomlin, it’s hard to draw conclusions. I do think a pitcher could actually do this though, just not last eight innings. That pitch count would get much higher. Changing location enough, and actually throwing two-seamers or sinkers or cutters with the four-seam could be a path. It’s what Bartolo Colon does. But it’s wrong to reach for that untouchable summit. Digital Bauer did it right though, and would have looked much better with some defense. That’s what’s really important - that and not giving up huge dingers to huge men. And booing Brian Dozier. We’ve learned so much today.