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How well did Trevor Bauer actually execute his pitches against the Blue Jays?

At least half the time, all of the time.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Bauer didn’t look great against the Toronto Blue Jays last night. He allowed four earned runs, a couple hard-hit balls, and just generally looked like the same Bauer that has been getting shelled every time he takes the mound this season.

During the game, I jokingly tweeted that Bauer would probably reiterate a common phrase that he’s said after almost everyone of his shellackings this season: “I executed my pitches well.” And, to my surprise, he said it again in a post-game interview with Andre Knott, seen here:

The cool thing about the interview, and Trevor Bauer in general, is that it contained a lot of numbers. The frustrated pitcher rattled off all the slugging percentages of his opponents where he threw his ill-fated pitches. The general idea being that he could not have thrown the pitches any better than right where his opponents are not very good at hitting, based on scouting reports. Because Bauer included all these numbers, it makes it remarkably easy to fact-check him. So let’s do just that, starting with the first name and number he listed and going in order from there.

The data I’m using, while not perfect and probably nowhere near the trove of numbers provided to baseball players, comes primarily from FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x heat maps (SLG/P against right-handed pitchers in player x’s career) to find the career numbers that Bauer brings up, and Baseball Savant’s pitch locations to see, roughly, where Bauer’s pitches were thrown.

Let’s see if he really executed his pitches as well as he thought.

Ryan Goins, 2nd-inning home run

Ryan Goins homered in he second inning, and Trevor might be right on the location of this one. Goins has a small sweet spot in the upper part of the zone, but Trevor appears to miss it, and instead attacks the left-handed batter up and inside, where he slugs anywhere from 0.80 to .145 in his career, depending on the exact location.

Kendrys Morales, 3rd-inning double

This one doesn’t look great for Bauer. He claims that Morales slugs .167 where he threw the ball, but that’s clearly not the case. I don’t know where Bauer was aiming, or where he thought he threw the ball, but Morales clobbered a pitch right down the middle for a double in the third inning.

To be fair, almost nowhere is safe against Morales, but Bauer’s pitch is right in his wheelhouse.

Justin Smoak, 3rd-inning single

Justin Smoak’s big hit was only a single (turned into an out at second base), but it scored Kevin Pillar and Kendrys Morales, putting the Cleveland Indians down 4-0 in the third. According to Bauer, he was aiming for a spot that Smoak slugged .167 in.

He has another good case here. The pitch ended up high and inside, where Smoak struggles. Yet he turned on it for a game-breaking single.

Darwin Barney, 4th-inning single

Darwin Barney’s single in the fourth inning was inconsequential in the end, but he did make it all the way to third with a fielder’s choice and a single following him. Bauer claimed that Barney slugged .000 where the ball was thrown. Another solid claim.

The pitch was out of the zone, down and away, where — just as Trevor claimed — Barney has been really, really bad. Most players are down there. But Barney extended and slapped a ground ball that got up the center. He now slugs .005 in that zone.

Devon Travis, 2nd-inning double

Devon Travis’s second-inning double, arguably when things began to unravel for Bauer, probably wasn’t a pitch where Bauer wanted it. Travis does have issues hitting balls on the upper-outside corner, which is probably where Bauer was trying to throw, but he ended up belt high almost over the middle of plate. Still close, but enough for a good hitter like Travis to work with.

* * *

So, what can we make of all this, given Trevor’s recent struggles and insistence that he’s executing his pitches well every start?

For one, there’s obviously a lot more that goes into a pitch than where it’s located. Velocity, spin rate, movement, and so much more go a long way toward determining if Justin Smoak will suddenly crush a ball that he can barely hit any other day of the year, or if he’ll just whiff and sulk back into the dugout. Whatever the issue is, if it can be found in numbers, Trevor Bauer will probably find it. Whether or not he can actually fix it and live up to his potential is another thing altogether. Or maybe it’s just not something that can be found and fixed in numbers; humans are weird like that.

As Trevor repeated in his post-game interview, the results weren’t great but it wasn’t like he was getting killed out there, at least not as much as some may have perceived. Only one hit, the Goins home run, was considered barreled by Statcast, and only five balls in play had an exit velocity over 100 miles per hour.

But as far as his exact statements following the game, he appears to hit at least a few of the spots as he claims. The pitch to Kendrys Morales was clearly off, and the Devon Travis pitch was borderline, but the others fall right in line with what Bauer claimed.

Now he needs some luck on his side.