But what if I told you neither of them currently lead their own staff in fWAR, strikeout rate, or SIERA? That’d probably sound ridiculous based off what we’re used to seeing from them, but it’s also a testament to just how good right-hander Trevor Bauer has been thus far in 2018.
After striking out 11 Minnesota Twins hitters in six shutout innings on Monday, Bauer’s 5.7 fWAR, 31.3% strikeout rate, and 3.24 SIERA are all the best of any qualified Cleveland starter at the moment.
This latest effort was the hurler’s 10th double-digit strikeout performance, which is more than his first six seasons combined, and he also entered the 200-strikeout club for the first time ever. The speed at which Bauer accomplished this feat has him amongst some cool names in franchise history, as well.
Bauer has been a factor for the Indians’ rotation for a while now, as 2018 marks the fourth consecutive year he’s won at least 10 games. He’s also currently on track to finish with an ERA below 4.00 for the first time as a big leaguer (he debuted in 2012).
No qualified starter has limited home runs like Bauer has this year (0.39 homers allowed per nine innings), but his hard-hit rate allowed is on pace to increase for the third consecutive year (31.9%, 34.4%, 36.0%). That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until you take a peek at his plate-discipline stats.
After never seeing his contact rate fall below 78.4% in a single season, that number is currently down to 71.2%. The quality of contact may be increasing, but it’s hard for hitters to do a lot of damage when they’re not putting the bat on the ball nearly as much.
Two pitches in particular have been a huge part of his success, too. Bauer’s slider usage has jumped about 10 percentage points when compared to 2017, and so has the effectiveness. He only threw that pitch four times last year, but it’s now his third most-used offering and is generating a 55.1% strikeout rate with a -17 wRC+. Meanwhile, his changeup went from allowing a 141 wRC+ and 12.7% strikeout rate to 34 and 22.9%, respectively, in 2018.
Chris Sale may be the favorite for the American League Cy Young Award right now, but Bauer is continually making his pitch (pun intended) to be taken seriously. After all, he does lead all qualified pitchers in fWAR heading into Tuesday’s action, ya know.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.