I Owe Trevor Bauer Some Well-Deserved Praise

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If you’ve followed me at all this summer – or heck, any summer for the past few years – you know I typically have a bone to pick with one particular member of the Cleveland Indians. Trevor Bauer, quirky as he may be, usually ends up a target of my criticism any time he struggles.

That said, I’m not one to avoid the concept of eating some crow. Thanks to Bauer’s recent performance, I’m enjoying a heaping plate of it right now.

Suddenly, a pitcher who’s struggled mightily with consistency for years now has become one of the steadiest hands in the rotation, is Cleveland’s current leader in wins and has helped the team as a whole quickly become one of the most dominant clubs in the majors. For that, I can’t help but throw him some much-deserved praise.

So much has changed for Bauer since July 16. On that day, he was spanked for four runs before even recording three outs against the Oakland A’s. He gave up three hits, allowed three walks and, after getting yanked in the first inning, seemed to cement his place as the scapegoat of the rotation.

This date also marks the last time Bauer had a bad outing.

In his starts since, he’s quickly become a model of consistency. Bauer has earned a win in all but one of his last nine starts, the lone no decision being a seven inning, one run gem Cleveland ended up losing in extras. His current K/9 rating of 10.09 is a career high. Most importantly, he’s limiting the amount of free passes he’s handing hitters, giving up just 15 walks across his last nine appearances.

Also noteworthy about Bauer’s recent outings is how much more efficient they’re getting. He typically has a penchant for trying to show off the many pitches he can throw, which results in lengthy at-bats and pitch-counts hitting the triple digits by the fourth inning. Lately, though, he’s been far more focused on attacking hitters, resulting in him getting through at least six innings before his pitch count reaches 100+.

It’s certainly not his most impressive stat. That said, if you’ve followed Bauer during his time in Cleveland, you realize how surprising it is to see him settling down on the mound.

To be fair, Bauer isn’t the only reason Cleveland’s rotation has now become one of the most dominant in the majors. Corey Kluber is a favorite to win the AL Cy Young, while Carlos Carrasco has calmed back down after a few shaky outings. Even spot starters Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt are providing solid outings.

However, only one of these aforementioned pitchers is tied for first in the American League with 15 wins, and that’s Bauer.

While his contributions are definitely a huge boost for the Tribe now, words can’t describe how crucial it will be if he can keep this up come postseason.

Remember, last year Bauer was seen as the lone under-performer of the Tribe’s playoff rotation. He was unsteady at best, and ran into issues after injuring his pinkie in the now-infamous drone incident. Had Carrasco and Danny Salazar been healthy, Bauer might not have even been in the rotation to begin with.

If he keeps this recent string of dominance up, there’s no way the Tribe would consider such a thing this time around. While injuries forced Bauer into the role of second starter last year, he may very well earn this same position this October.

It’s all an incredible testament to how much of a turnaround he’s undergoing. Bauer has been a lightning rod for criticism ever since joining the Indians, and much of the vitriol was due to his inability to live up to his potential. While it’s too early to tell if he’s finally become the consistent pitcher Cleveland was hoping for when trading for him in 2013, he’s certainly locked in at a level we haven’t seen from him in a long time.

For this, Bauer deserves a ton of acclaim. That this statement is coming from someone who’s never shy about criticizing him should be a very clear sign he’s indeed pitching better than ever.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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