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Trevor Bauer’s best season was shortened by a freak injury

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Oh what could have been...

Divisional Round - Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Trevor Bauer came over to the Cleveland Indians from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade back in 2013, and he’s been a contentious character from day 1. Many love him, many despise him, but most (if not all) can’t deny that the man works incredibly hard. It’s not uncommon to see him working out with a shoulder tube before a game or long tossing from foul pole to foul pole. According to this video, he’ll do 115 throws with a weighted ball every day; some days, I don’t even take 3,000 steps. Trevor Bauer cited early in his career with Cleveland that the team was willing to work with him instead of against him when it came to his unorthodox training methods. And Bauer has always been good. But in 2018, he took his pitching to another level and was in serious Cy Young contention for the majority of the season.

Prior to August 11, the day Bauer got hit with a freak line drive that sidelined him for the majority of the rest of the season, Bauer was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. 159.2 IP, 40 ER, 56 BB, and 206 K. He was striking out over 30% of hitters, he was walking 8.5% of hitters, and he was hardly letting anyone on base (1.12 WHIP). This also helped him earn his first All-Star honor, and there was serious talk that he should’ve been the starter for the AL team.

So how did Bauer do it? For one, he reduced his pitch arsenal again. The man of a thousand pitches has refined his selection over the years and in 2018, he ditched his splitter (which he hardly used to begin with) and settled on his 4-seam, sinker, change, slider, curve, and cutter. Additionally, his 4-seam and sinker got a little faster, both averaging just over 95 mph in 2018. Pairing both of these pitches with his change and his breaking balls, Bauer kept hitters off balance all season. Go to Twitter and search “Trevor Bauer overlay” and just sit in awe at the crazy movement on all of his pitches. There are so many to choose from, but here’s one of my favorites:

Hahahaha. That’s just silly.

On August 11 against the Chicago White Sox, Bauer was rolling. He had completed 6 innings and had given up just 1 earned run on 2 hits. He hadn’t walked a batter and had struck out 8 hitters. Jose Abreu then stepped up to the plate and lined a bullet right into Bauer’s ankle. Bauer sustained a stress fracture in his right ankle and the medical staff said that it wasn’t clear if he would pitch again this season. Which, if you know Trevor Bauer, knew was bull from the second they said it. Trevor Bauer would pitch out of a full body cast if he could find a way to spin the baseball. Just a few days after the initial injury, Bauer was out with a boot on his foot throwing a baseball in an attempt to keep his arm strong. The work ethic is seriously admirable.

As the calendar flipped to September, there was still uncertainty as to what role, if any, Bauer would have in the home stretch and into the playoffs. Obviously starting would be optimal, but the coaching staff didn’t know if there would be enough rehab time for Bauer to get stretched out for the playoffs. Bauer was cleared to pitch again near the end of the season and made his first appearance post-injury on September 21. He was pitching on a limit, but the leg looked healthy and that was the primary concern. Trevor had two more games to tune up before the ALDS, and he piggybacked with Carlos Carrasco in both games. Velocity wasn’t where it was pre-injury, but Bauer and the Indians were out of time. The Astros called.

Tito said that Bauer would be used out of the bullpen in the ALDS, which was the most logical decision given the circumstances surrounding Trevor and the bullpen. The former was still recovering from a leg injury, and the latter was trying to recover from being a raging dumpster fire for the duration of the summer. With an inconsistent Cody Allen and a broken Andrew Miller, a multi-inning weapon in Trevor Bauer was an unexpected resource for Francona to lean on. And lean on him he did. Bauer appeared in all three games that the Indians played in the ALDS, all out of the bullpen. Things went from great (game 1) to wait (game 2) to please make it stop (game 3) for Bauer as his effectiveness began to wane with each new day. This was no more evident than in game 3 when Bauer gave up 3 runs in 1.1 innings on top of two fielding errors that compounded the problem. You don’t need me to remind you how it all ended.

At the end of the day, Bauer didn’t contribute in the way that he or anyone else expected him to, and that truly sucks. Trevor was on track to have the best season of his career, and some would argue that it still was, postseason struggles aside. The 28-year-old ended his season with 175.1 innings, 43 ER, 57 BB and 221 K (which translates to an ERA+ of 198). He’s hitting his prime now, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t continue to surge in 2019. I’m excited to see what Bauer does next season; an entire, healthy season of 2018 Trevor Bauer would have truly been something special. Maybe next year.