Trevor Bauer has been a Real Life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the original title of a novel written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson that was first published in 1886. It has become a popular play as well as an acclaimed movie. In 2013 Indians fans have been witness to their very own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in young prospect Trevor Bauer. Bauer is the Indians number one prospect and ranks as Baseball America’s #14 in all of baseball. With the Tribe needing help in the rotation many eyes are on the Bauer, looking for him to develop into the pitching prospect nearly everyone knows he can be. Dr. Jekyll is a dominant strikeout artist, while Mr. Hyde struggles to find the zone.

In four starts for the Columbus Clippers Bauer has pitched 24.2 innings with a 2.55 ERA. He has struck out 31 batters for an 11.3 k/9 and walked 10 for a 3.1 strikeout to walk ratio. He has looked outstanding and dominant on the mound, a fine Dr. Jekyll. Mr. Hyde comes out whenever he straddles the rubber for the Cleveland Indians. In two starts Bauer has pitched 10 innings with a 2.70 ERA. The issues arrive in his strikeouts and walks. He has struck out only seven while walking 13 for a strikeout to walk ratio of 0.54, an absolutely abysmal number. The question is, why has he looked so different from one level to the next? When the issue is getting hit hard or giving up home runs, it is easy to see that Major League hitters are better than Triple-A hitters, but when the issue is walks, the problem is not as clear.

If there were major differences with his control between the Majors and the Minors, one would expect the percentage of pitches thrown inside the strike zone to be vastly different. In Columbus, 53 of his 287 pitches this year were taken for strikes. That is 18% of his total pitches. In Cleveland, 26 of his 198 pitches were taken for strikes; that is also an 18% rate. The percentage of total pitches thrown for strikes is almost equal as well. In the Majors, Bauer is throwing 55.1% of his pitches for strikes. At Columbus, he has thrown 58.5% of his total pitches for strikes. If he is throwing the same number of strikes at each level, something else must be the cause of his vastly increased walk rate between Cleveland and Columbus.

Another place to look is the swing and miss rates of hitters against Bauer at each level. Here there is a clear discrepancy between the Major Leagues and Triple-A. At the Major League level, hitters swing and miss at 19.2% of the pitches thrown by Bauer. At Triple-A, batters swing at miss at a pitch 28.7% of the time against Bauer. That is a difference of 9.5%. Those extra pitches are all out of the strike zone, yet Bauer gets credit for them as strikes because the hitter swung at the pitch. The discipline of Major League hitters to lay off those pitches causes more balls to be thrown and therefore increases Bauer’s walk rate.

Yet another area to investigate is hitters’ OSwing% against Bauer. OSwing% measures how many pitches a hitter swings at that are outside the strike zone verses how many total pitcher a hitter sees outside the strike zone. According to Pitchf/x, in Bauer’s’ two starts with the Indians Major League hitters have an OSwing% against him of 18.8%. Batters are swinging at a little less than one out of five pitches he throws outside the strike zone. In four starts in Columbus, batters have an OSwing% of 33.8%; nearly double the percentage of the Major League hitters. This is a huge difference in counts, in balls in play, in strikeouts, and in walks.

All these factors have led to Bauer’s Jekyll and Hyde performances. Hitters at the Major League level have the discipline to not swing at pitches outside the zone while the Triple-A hitters have not yet developed that skill. He is the same pitcher in Columbus as he is in Cleveland; the quality of hitters is very different. Bauer has all the talent to be a top MLB starter, maybe one of the best in the league, but his control issues are the biggest obstacle in his way. If he learned some command of his pitches, he could become a dangerous pitcher with the ability to get anyone out, until then he remains a prospect under development.

Bauer’s command played a role in his start Tuesday afternoon at Triple-A Columbus when he had a no-hitter through 6.2 innings in a seven inning make game. His four walks created trouble that Preston Guilmet could not get out of in the final frame, resulting in a 4-2 Clippers loss. Bauer was charged with two runs while not allowing a hit. Guilmet was charged with the loss, allowing two runs on two hits.

The next big league opportunity for Bauer could come as early as Monday. Indians manager Terry Francona has not named a starter for Monday, but the Indians will need a spot start during the doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Both starts Bauer has made for the Indians this season has been spot starts.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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