Constant positive change. It’s what defines successful organizations. It’s what defines successful individuals. It’s a culture more than an attitude. The acceptance of and proclivity towards change is what permits us to get better, to think outside the box, and to reinvent ourselves in fashions that were previously inconceivable.
It is what defines Trevor Bauer’s professional baseball career. Bauer is constantly exercising the limits of his pitch repertoire in a manner that is surpassed only by his mental maneuvering.
His pitch repertoire is expansive. A slider that was introduced in 2018 was far and away his most effective offering per weighted pitch values. Reread that last sentence. It is simply awe inducing that a professional baseball player in his fifth full season could just add in a new wrinkle so effectively.
His mental repertoire as it pertains to the art of pitching is even more expansive. The introduction of the slider was a direct response to the fly ball revolution. It’s a battle of physics, actually — the spin of the slider spiraling against the grain of the fly ball optimized swing path. Before the slider, there was the curveball usage spike. Whatever the newest initiative, Bauer is performing mental gymnastics to make it work.
Thus, a newly discovered changeup is born. While the exact details about where and when he conceived this offspeed pill are uncertain, his devotion to it cannot be questioned. If you are not a follower of his on Twitter for a reason or two, it would’ve been easy to miss a couple videos depicting its aesthetic brilliance.
Spring training or not, the movement on that offering cannot be denied. Professional hitters spinning their wheels in that capacity is a sight to behold.
Last season, Trevor Bauer depended on his changeup at about a seven percent clip. A meager output that produced solid results. Though the sample size is minute due to usage share, his changeup permitted a stellar expected weighted on-base average of 0.147 thanks to mitigating contact authority, which manifested itself in an average exit velocity of 83.2. These are both career bests with the offspeed, perhaps offering us a peek into his affinity for the pitch.
This year, Bauer has made it known he will go to that well more often. In a conversation with MLB.com’s Mandy Bell, he relayed that last his worst versions of the changeup this offseason were better than the ones that were so effective last summer. Though he is never short on confidence, the results usually tend to follow his words.
This aura of confidence that crosses over into arrogance is the foundation of what makes Bauer so polarizing. It is also a byproduct of the constant tinkering. Following his most successful year as a professional — a pole to pole performance that propelled him into the statistical realms of Corey Kluber and Chris Sale and Max Scherzer — he is still thirsty for more.
The elite slider wasn’t enough. The career high strikeout rate wasn’t enough.
For Bauer, it’s a trip back to the laboratory. He is a chemist dabbling in his craft of Trackman data and weighted training balls. It’s examining tunneling methodology and combing through kinesiology textbooks. Hours and hours of work dedicated to developing a changeup that should be on full display when the season opens next weekend.