Anybody who has followed Trevor Bauer's career knows he's a little different. Well, that different is what makes him good and while some chalk up his eccentricities to being strange, they would be missing the point. His eccentricities aren't for the sake of being eccentric or some superstition. He is different because he has studied the game and himself. He's taken that study and figured out how to best maximize his talents. His is different because for him, different is better.
That different is what Tim Keown digs into for ESPN the Magazine. In an article in the upcoming magazine, Keown takes a look at Bauer's eccentricities and not just the eccentricities, but why he does what he does and what it sets out to accomplish.
Enter the world of Trevor Bauer, where nothing is taken at face value. He is a devotee of the teachings of Perry Husband, a former hitting coach who devised a theory of pitch sequencing called Effective Velocity. EV is complicated—Husband calls it "the theory of relativity but with baseball"— but it relies on a pitcher’s ability to make each pitch look the same for the first 20 feet, at which point a hitter has to decide to swing. The deception relies on a pitcher’s throwing each pitch through the same "tunnel." Bauer was not content to merely understand the concept of tunnels; he wanted to put it into practice.
According to Husband’s research, a normal strike zone, when extrapolated to 20 feet from a pitcher’s release point, measures 13 inches by 10 inches. So Trevor and his father, Warren, an engineer, built a metal contraption with a 13 by 10 opening. It is placed 20 feet from the mound, and Bauer throws bullpen sessions through it. In theory, each pitch that travels through the Bauers’ homemade tunnel will not only be a strike but will also look the same beyond the point where the hitter must decide to swing. "I call them the Bauer Engineering Crew," says Ron Wolforth, the director of the Texas Baseball Ranch, the training academy where Trevor has spent many summers. "The stuff they do isn’t in any manual. It’s Effective Velocity 501."
It’s not enough for Bauer to execute a pitch. He has to understand it, dissect it, improve upon it. He has to turn it sideways tilt his head and examine it from all angles. Performance is simply a by-product of process. UCLA coach John Savage calls him the Mad Scientist of Pitching. Wolforth, who clocked Bauer at 102.7 mph last summer, says, "Trevor always has a million questions. Some of them are ethereal, but they’re all insightful." Alan Jaeger, whose long-toss program is part of Bauer’s training, says, "He pitches with the wisdom of Greg Maddux at 33."
As you might imagine, fresh off of being named Collegiate Baseball's National Player of the Year, Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and heading into the postseason, it is also a timely article. Bauer is a unique character, but probably one of the most interesting ones out there, good or bad, and this article captures it well.
For the Bruins, having someone as good as Bauer sure helps and he'll be asked to win the most important game for the Bruins this weekend at the Regionals. If UCLA wins their opening game against San Francisco, Bauer will get the ball in the game that would put the Bruins in the Regional final, where they would have to be beaten twice not to advance. If the Bruins lose their opening game, well Bauer takes to the mound trying to stave of elimination.