Right Now, Trevor Bauer Delivering Exactly What Dodgers Need

trevor_bauer
(Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

Undeniably, there has not been more preliminary scrutiny over a contract in recent years than the deal the Los Angeles Dodgers made for pitcher Trevor Bauer last winter. While the three-year, $102 million agreement makes Bauer among MLB’s highest-paid players, only time will tell if it was a sound investment. However, based on what we’ve seen already, the reasons the team went above and beyond to sign the righty starter are starting to become visible, shenanigans aside.

Friday night’s opener against the Giants was perhaps the Dodgers’ most important game of the young 2021 season so far, and Bauer delivered yet another gritty, clutch performance. The contest was highlighted by several of Bauer’s eccentric, trademark antics, but once the dust settled on the scoreboard, the Dodgers walked away with a huge 2-1 victory.

No question, the 30-year-old North Hollywood native has become one of the most critical parts of the Los Angeles starting rotation just seven weeks into this year’s campaign.

Enhancing the Rivalry

The funny thing about the rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers is that it had been seemingly fading, especially considering the departure of lefty Madison Bumgarner from San Francisco two winters ago. Undoubtedly, the rivalry between these two clubs stretches back more than a century to New York City, but when the Giants began disappearing from the top of the NL West standings, the intensity started to lessen.

In the eyes of San Francisco fans, Yasiel Puig filled the role of the villain several years back, and Max Muncy was among the hated after his “Ocean Ball” against Bumgarner during the summer of 2019. However, Bauer might have opened a new can of worms, apparently becoming the new villain of the rivalry when he walked off the field on Friday night.

Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports summed up Bauer’s stage presence nicely: “He [Bauer] feuded with the home plate umpire, capped a big strikeout with a demonstrative sword celebration, and urged the biggest crowd at Oracle Park in nearly two years to go to another level with boos.”

Conceivably, not every major league player can get away with this type of mischief, but Bauer’s effectiveness on the mound is backing up all the frivolous capers we’ve seen from his so far.

Eating Innings

Before the beginning of Saturday’s games, Bauer’s 10 starts and 63-2/3 innings pitched are at the very top of the MLB leaderboards, but these numbers only tell just a small part of the story. On more than one occasion, a Bauer start was pushed back to follow a Los Angeles bullpen game, as the team depended on him to eat some much-needed innings when the relief corps appeared to be exhausted.

At the end of April, fans saw Bauer follow up a bullpen effort with his first complete game of the year, which ended up being a 2-1 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee. In that affair, he threw 113 pitches. In Friday’s opener against the Giants, Bauer logged 126 pitches in another gutsy display, but this time there was just enough scoring to notch him his fifth victory of the season. While his breaking pitches seemed to have lost a bit of crispness toward the end, the fact that he was still touching 96 MPH in the seventh inning suggested he still had a bit left in the tank.

“We needed him to go deep tonight, and he took that challenge, embraced it and left it all out there,” said skipper Dave Roberts in Friday’s postgame.

Quality Pitching

So far this year, Bauer’s numbers are eerily similar to some of the peripherals that helped seal his Cy Young Award last season. His strikeouts per nine innings currently sit at 12.4, which is a tick above the 12.3 he finished with last season. His 0.770 WHIP this year is lower than his 2020 mark of 0.795. Obviously, the season is still young, but if these trends hold true, we might see him in the conversation for another Cy Young come the end of 2021.

“He was really good,” said Roberts of Bauer’s performance on Friday. “The more you see him, I mean you just love the competitiveness, the execution, the ability to make pitches when he needs to.”

At 30 years old, Bauer’s velocity is still there, and his spin rate is higher than ever. Perhaps more importantly, he has not hit the injured list since the 2018 season with a small stress fracture in his leg, emphasizing another reason behind the Dodgers’ strong pursuit of him as a free agent.

Right now, Bauer’s WHIP is fourth in the majors among all qualified pitchers, and his 1.98 ERA is good enough for seventh. With his ability to go deep into games, the sky’s the limit in terms of his prospective 2021 end-of-season stats. Most essentially, though, his contributions may be crucial to yet another Los Angeles playoff run.

“You can argue that in his starts, his last 20 throws have been his best throws as far as stuff, where most guys, at 100 throws, 110 throws, you’re reaching back and there isn’t much left,” Roberts said.

28 thoughts on “Right Now, Trevor Bauer Delivering Exactly What Dodgers Need

  1. Interesting that Bauer was able to talk Doc into coming out for the 7th inning last night where Kershaw has been much less successful in changing Roberts’ mind on whether or not to pull him.

    As others have said, Bauer is really a true warrior and, as far as I’m concerned, to this point in the season he’s the ace of the staff.

    All teams have had injuries this year, but the thought of getting Belli, Zmac, Catman and Pollock back within the next couple of weeks and what that will do for our bench really makes me salivate.

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    1. I think a lot of it has to do with overall health. In his early days, Kersh was an iron man, but he has had six DL stints over the last five years. I think Bauer has shown that he’s among the most durable pitchers in the game. He simply does not get injured. Let’s hope that doesn’t change.

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    2. Been more than a few years sinse you could send kersh out with any confidence after 85/90 pitches. I wasn’t a fan of the Baur signing, but I am becoming a big fan. This team has been so blah they needed a guy like him to shake them up. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this team turned around after his little outbreak.

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  2. I was wrong about Bauer. As a Husband and Father of two incredible daughters I have my mistakes pointed out regularly! LOL I had said the Dodgers did not need Bauer. But then May is getting TJ surgery, Gonsolin has been on the IL along with Price. And the Dodgers have needed an ace to fill the gap.
    Bauer is as competitive as they come and I enjoy the attitude when being booed with the is that all you got type attitude. His pitching long into games hopefully does not bite him or the Dodgers in the playoffs.
    In today’s game, Buehler has a shutout through 6 and is pitching well leading 2-0. The offense is still an issue with 4 hits and 1 walk in the 6th. With Kershaw, Bauer, Buehler, and Urias this team will be tough to beat in the playoffs if they can score some runs. We all hope Bellinger and McKinstry will help as Swapping Belli for Peters and Neuse for McKinstry are definite upgrades.

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  3. Yep, Bauer looks like the real deal. He’d better be. He’s being paid more than any player in baseball.

    I’m beginning to like Peters. He reminds me of Jayson Werth. Werth wasn’t an All Star until he was 30.

    Anybody seen Justin Turner?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JT may be among the missing but luckily others have stepped up. Imagine winning 10 out of 11 (including the last 2 against the first place team) without the benefit of contributions from Turner, Bellinger, Seager and Pollock, not to mention May, Gonsolin, Graterol and Knebel.

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    2. I too like Peters. If he can just stop striking out. He plays with great enthusiasm and is an incredible physical specimen, he is huge and fast with a good arm. Last night he made enough contact to have his first multi-hit game.
      As I stated earlier I was wrong about the Dodgers signing Bauer he has been a key in keeping the Dodgers on a winning track. Plus I liked his comments about wanting to be on a winning team.
      The rest of the League should be concerned as the Dodger record is competitive with the MLB without May, Rios, Gonsolin, Bellinger, Seager, Graterol, Knebel, and McKinstry. And everyone but May and Rios will be back this season reportedly.
      I am enjoying the joy Pujos displays playing the game. It’s great to see a first-ballot Hall of Famer at the end of his career still have the joy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If Peters starts making contact – watch out. It might be hard to send him down. Like you said, he’s a gifted athlete and he’s huge. The fences aren’t that far away for a guy of his size and strength. Once he finds them I got a feeling he will do it often.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We fans (and I include myself) are a fickle bunch. Pretty much every one of us could hardly wait to get him off to OKC at this time last week. After a couple of decent games we’ve suddenly decided that maybe we need to be a little more patient.

        Maybe we have another Aaron Judge in the making here.
        Both from California. Judge is 6’7″, DJ is 6’6″. Judge outweighs our guy buy almost 60 pounds, though. Maybe we need to put DJ on the Tommy Lasorda diet, pasta at every meal.
        One other thing, during Judge’s first big league season, in just under 100 at bats, he struck out about 44% of the time and hit .179.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. His MiLB BABIP is .362 with a slg% of .500. 1700 plate appearances. My only suggestion at this point would be to shorten up that swing. Study Mike Trout and duplicate what he does. It would be exciting to see him get hot in his last few days here.

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      4. Trout is a great example. I wonder if Pujos can help him, “The Machine” has a nice compact swing and is on his way to 700 HR’s so must have figured it out. Plus Albert makes consistent contact.
        Peters is strong enough to shorten the swing and still have plenty of power. We can hope the brain trust of hitting coaches for the Dodgers is helping him along. Peters is reportedly receptive to the coaching and shortening up that swing would certainly help.

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  4. We are a fickle bunch it’s true especially when the team is mired in a losing streak, then it’s “Off with their Heads” for anyone not contributing. As I am always talking about letting the Farm Guys get some experience I am especially pleased that Peters, Raley, Uceta, White, Ruiz. etc have accrued MLB time. It has to help to get up to the Show and see the preparation and the level played. It gives the player and the club a good measurement of where they are and what they need to work on.
    Gotta love Peter’s enthusiasm. And what an athlete. When he flies into second base he almost takes the bag with him. Wouldn’t it be incredible if he could develop like Werth or Judge? Reportedly everyone likes him and the coaches respect his work ethic.
    Hopefully, Gonsolin will work his way back and be as effective as the start of last year. What a rotation with Kershaw, Bauer, Buehler, Urias, and eventually Gonsolin, there isn’t a weak traditional “5th starter’ in the group.

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    1. Peters, Raley, white and reks are all 26/27 years old. Too old. Uceda is almost there. When there is potential they are auditioning at 23 not 26. Thats why we’ve seen so many no name and dfo signings recently. Nobody on the farm. Our core is good enough as you say and we won’t even need them in 2/3 weeks.

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      1. Max Muncy and Justin Turner didn’t blossom until the ages of 27 and 29 respectively.
        ZMac is 26. Are you going to be the one to tell him he’s too old?
        Uceta turned 23 this January.

        I’ll be the first to agree with you that the upper echelons of our farm system are pretty baren right now, but much of that is because we’ve graduated so many guys in the past few years. That still doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t come out of nowhere and find themselves at a later age, just like JT and Max did.

        In the meanwhile, we have some very good (young) prospects in the lower minors so I think we’re still in good shape for the future. We just had the perfect storm here with a lack of major talent at AAA coupled with a ridiculous amount of injuries to our core players. All that and we still won 11 of the last 12. Just think of what this team will look like when we get some of our guys back in the next week or two. As you said, the guys who are flailing won’t even be here in a couple weeks and will be replaced by Bellinger, McKinstry, Pollock, Gonsolin and Graterol.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m curious to see how Peters hits after he’s optioned. Has he learned anything in the majors to improve upon his career .265 minor league batting average? Or has he already plateaued at the plate as far as improvement goes?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m also curious to see if he learned anything up here. He’s got so many tools. Maybe he’ll be one of the few who just wakes up one day and figures out that one little change that locks everything into place.

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      4. Your right about age McKinstry is on the older side. That is why I wanted to see Pages up. I was thinking the other day about this and realized that Verdugo was the answer. If Boston had taken the initial deal we would have had Verdugo and we would have been good.
        For the short future, Pollock was hitting well and will be back. I still hope Peters can figure it out. But McKinstry, & Bellinger will be back soon. Not sure about the time frame on Pollock hamstring injuries can be difficult to heal and can become long-term chronic.

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  5. Uh jeff you forgot Taylor and the hundreds of 26 year old players now bagging groceries. Zmac looks good but we have no idea if he will be on this team in October. 3 week track record remember. You can’t build a team or a farm system hoping for 26 year olds sudden emergence. Thats called wishful thinking.

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    1. It’s true not all of them will have a late emergence, but we don’t need all of them to. How about just a couple? I’ll take Peters and White. A power centerfielder and a starter. Who you got?

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      1. Thanks for straightening that out. If you come to a Dodger blog and say you like ruin we might have to ask Dennis and Andy to ban you for life.

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    2. I didn’t think it was fair to include Taylor because he actually had a pretty good 1/4 season for Seattle at the age of 23.

      I’m not exactly sure what we are differing on here Gordon. I agree that we can’t be sure how ZMac’s 2021 season will work out just based on three weeks so far. I think we both agree that the team’s high minors prospects leave a lot to be desired but that once we get our IL guys back we probably won’t have much need for them.

      I think we have some excellent prospects in the lower minors that may be 2-3 years away and if there are any holes in the roster this season, AF can always fill them in through trades. If you want to call that wishful thinking, I plead guilty as charged.

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      1. Ruiz isn’t on the list. He’s a top prospect and a sure thing. We’re talking about the replacement players we’ve thrown in there since all the injuries happened. Our catchers haven’t been hurt. It’s guys like Peters, Neuse, Raley,White, Santana, Bickford, Uceta, Cleavinger, Jones, Vesia, Reks, Tsutsugo.

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  6. TMax, I was going to ask you about this a couple days ago and never got around to it. You make reference to the fact that if Boston had taken the initial deal we would still have Verdugo. As far as I know, Boston made it clear that without Verdugo there was no deal. They never waivered from that.

    Am I wrong about that? As far as I remember, the deal was re-worked when the Sox decided they didn’t like Graterol’s medicals and wouldn’t take him from the Twins as part of the deal. That’s when Jeter Downs was added.

    But yes, if we still had Verdugo PLUS Mookie we would really be in spectacular shape.

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