Trevor Bauer has been traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a three-team deal. Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to have presented at Ron Wolforth’s Ultimate Coaches’ Bootcamp in Montgomery, Tex., with Bauer, who spoke at length on using the lower half in the pitching delivery (with Eric Binder).
Bauer on the left, me third from the left
It’s no secret that the Arizona Diamondbacks had issues with Bauer’s workout routine, which involves a 60-plus minute warmup using implements like the Oates Shoulder Tube:
As well as “extreme” long toss prior to games:
Jerry DiPoto sought Bauer while he was the director of scouting in Arizona. However, after Kevin Towers replaced GM Josh Byrnes, DiPoto eventually moved on to Anaheim as the GM. It’s been said that DiPoto was one of Bauer’s last allies, needing to step in to prevent the player development department from further infringing on his workout routines, which include daily throwing in-season.
Let’s look at his mechanics—he was kind enough to upload tons of high-speed footage on YouTube:
His deceleration pattern is extremely efficient: He rotates his throwing shoulder forward into the target significantly farther than most pitchers. This pattern allows force to be applied to the baseball in increasingly straighter lines, which is naturally more efficient and less injurious on the elbow and shoulder. Force is best applied parallel to the direction of acceleration instead of perpendicular to the lever arm. For a stark contrast, look at Stephen Strasburg‘s release point, which is much earlier in the delivery:
Bauer also trains and exhibits solid use of pronation through and after release of the baseball, which theoretically reduces stress on the elbow by engaging the muscles of the medial forearm (pronator-flexor mass). This and the deceleration pattern, are mainstays of the teachings at Ron Wolforth’s Texas Baseball Ranch.
Bauer’s training: Leave him alone
Bauer’s training includes plyometrics, medicine ball training, wrist weights, rubber tubing, and a host of other things (for more information, check out The Athletic Pitcher for a basic overview). However, one thing stands out: It includes tons of throwing, often with weighted baseballs. While major league clubs are afraid that more throwing equals more injuries, we’ve enacted tons of pitch count and innings restrictions with no evidence that they work.
Representatives from the Cleveland Indians (including their minor league pitching coordinator) were in attendance over the weekend to hear Bauer speak. So were many other coaches who strongly believe in constant throwing year-round. Ken Knutson, pitching coach at Arizona State, has implemented a similar training program at ASU. Total number of surgeries on his pitchers over the last eight years? Zero. Only 180 days of injury time in that span, with 100 coming from a single player who didn’t even play at ASU (he committed but went to pro ball).
There is room for concern when it comes to the Indians, however. One of Knutson’s pitchers when he was at the University of Washington was Nick Hagadone, the fireballing lefty in Cleveland’s bullpen. Hagadone credits his workout routine with getting him from the mid-80s his junior year to the mid-90s his senior year. Despite this, the indians reportedly curtailed much of his workout program after he was traded to them from the Red Sox in the Victor Martinez deal. Will they treat Bauer the same way?
To those in Cleveland’s player development group, I humbly suggest this: Let thse two pitchers do their thing for one full year without interfering. Simply let them do what got them to the big leagues in the first place and made them first-round draft picks. It makes no sense to change that.
Moneyball and Oakland have had a profound effect on professional baseball with regard to statistical evaluation of players and the quantification of runs scored and wins credited. It will be another low-budget team that initiates the revolution in player development, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be Cleveland.
The Indians fan in me sure hopes it will be.