Is Trevor Bauer Suffering a Major Velocity Drop?


Is Trevor Bauer Running Out of Steam?

Trevor Bauer is a key player to the Cleveland Indians.  He was the center piece of the three-team trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds, but Bauer has had two up-and-down years with the Tribe.  His main struggles have been in limiting walks.  But have we been so caught up in Bauer’s control issues that we overlooked something even bigger?  Is it possible Trevor Bauer is already running out of steam?

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Let’s look at his fastball velocity.  This season he has thrown 1,249 fastballs.  At the beginning of the year, his four-seam fastball averaged 96.12 MPH.  At its peak in May, his fastball clocked in at an average of 96.49 MPH.  Now, in September, his four-seamer averages 94.33 MPH.  That is a two MPH drop in velocity.  Below is a graph of this trend, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

Is this kind of velocity drop abnormal?  Let’s look at Bauer’s fellow Indians teammate, Corey Kluber.  This season, Kluber has logged a career-high 227 innings.  With this being his first full season in the rotation (last year he missed time with an injury), we might expect to see a similar drop in velocity.  What actually happened, is far different.

When he started the season, Kluber averaged 94.05 on the gun.  Now he is hitting 94.38 MPH with his four-seam.  In fact, his cutter and sinker follow the same trend:

Let’s check out another youngster, the New York Mets’ Zack Wheeler.  Wheeler is five months older than Bauer and has similar playing time and upside.  Wheeler did pitch 100 innings last season, and has thrown 30 more this year, but he is a good comparison to Bauer.  This year, Wheeler’s four-seam fastball his risen by one MPH.

But what if Bauer’s velocity is dropping because he is trying to throw more strikes and pitch better?

This is most certainly not the case.  Trevor Bauer has walked 26 batters over his last ten starts.  This is an improvement, but it does not account for the velocity drop we have seen.  Even further, he has thrown his four-seam for a ball 31% of the time since August.  This is two percent down from his rate before August.  However, this two percent drop is not huge, as he is still getting a called strike at the same rate. but batters are simply putting more pitches into play.

Trevor Bauer’s trend is not normal.  It is also slightly concerning.  It tells me that Bauer is running out of steam.  In May, Bauer topped out at 99 MPH.  This month, Bauer has maxed out at just under 97 MPH.  Let’s see if he can constantly hit 95 to 96 on the gun.