A season after Bauer’s changeup earned a 3.8 pVAL, the offspeed pitch faltered to a -2.7 mark in 2019. Part of that comes from the success batters had putting the ball in the air: the ground-ball rate for Bauer’s changeup plummeted 30.5%, and a season after keeping a clean sheet in the HR/FB column, the figure ballooned to 27.3%.
The curveball remains one of Bauer’s most reliable and lethal off-speed pitches in his arsenal. Not only does the curve boast a strong 41% K-BB rate, but Bauer also keeps the ball low with an impressive 61.4% ground-ball rate. It’s only when opposing batters lift the ball that problems arise: The curve’s HR/FB rate climbed from 12.5% in 2018 to a more unsightly 23.1% last season.
While Bauer appeared to take something off his offspeed arsenal during the 2019 season, his fastball velocity remained steady, hovering around 95 mph. But what the pitch lacks in velo (32nd percentile on Statcast), Bauer makes up for with a stellar 90th-percentile spin rate. The four-seamer also holds a walk rate in the 14% range.
Bauer more than doubled his cutter usage in 2019, despite the pitch losing some of its 2018 sparkle, along with a tick or two of velocity. The offspeed pitch saw its chase rate slip 15.2% (from a robust 43.5% in 2018 to a lackluster 28.3% last season), its swinging-strike rate drop 8% (21.9% in 2018 to 13.9% in 2019), and its walk rate nearly double to 10%.
Bauer’s brilliant slider performance in 2018 was always going to be a tough act to follow, but his go-to punchout pitch held up its reputation with a 43.5% strikeout rate. The breaking ball bucked trends from the previous two seasons, coaxing more fly balls (44%) than grounders (30.7%). Worth noting: Like his cutter, and, to a lesser extent, his changeup, Bauer lost some velocity on his slide piece, down to 79.8 mph from 82.6 mph in 2018. Whether it was an intentional choice from the notorious tinkerer remains to be seen.
At 94.5 mph, Bauer has solid fastball that he throws about a third of the time. Like his other pitches, it both got batters to make less contact out of the zone and kept batters from hitting the ball out of the park. His efforts at balancing this offering with his fast repertoire have been greatly effective.
Bauer kept up with his successful curveball in 2018. It was his primary breaking pitch—even ahead of his killer slider. Throwing it with a bit more vertical movement, he got way less contact out of the zone than in previous seasons and got batters to hit fly balls only 10 percent of the time.
Though his cutter wasn’t thrown while ahead in the count, Bauer’s slider was almost exclusively thrown in those scenarios. With about the same whiff (21.1%) and chase rates (45.6%) as the cutter, he struck out batters at a 50% rate. He used his slider way more in 2018, and for good reason.
Bauer did not throw his cutter often, nor did he throw it while ahead in the count. However, Bauer had a 22% whiff rate with a 43.5% chase rate. He may need to use this pitch more often and potentially when ahead in the count.
Bauer’s changeup took a big step forward in 2018, and that may be because he took over one mph off. He kept his fastball velocity the same, so the shift in speeds was more drastic for this pitch.
Bauer threw his two-seamer about half as often as the previous year but struck out just as many hitters. Hitters made contact against it when they did swing, yet opponents kept their bats on their shoulders less than 40% of the time. Additionally, most of the contact stayed on the ground, and he kept the ball from leaving the yard.