Ah, Trevor Bauer. Frustration incarnate.
See Spot run. See Trevor pitch. See Trevor work his way up the prospect lists. See Trevor go high in the draft. See Trevor destroy the minors. See Trevor have a rocky debut. See Trevor make a rap about Miguel Montero. See Trevor get his butt traded out of Arizona. See Trevor go up and down. See Trevor pitch out of the rotation. See Trevor start the year in the bullpen. See Trevor get moved into the rotation. See Trevor give up the long ball. See Trevor strike out 10 Mariners on Monday night.
There is very little rhyme or reason to be found here, at least not at first blush. Bauer is blessed with natural talent. This much is clear to anyone who watches one of his better outings. For instance, let's watch the highlights from that aforementioned 10-strikeout game he had against Seattle.
See! Bauer can pitch! His breaking ball looked like a true weapon, and he was spotting his fastball.
At this point in the article, I was going to let the other shoe drop and point out that Bauer is still prone to outings in which he gets blown up more than a handful of dynamite, but then I did a little digging and found something interesting. Bauer has not had a game this year in which he's surrendered more than four runs. That's not to say that this trend will continue, of course. But this latest iteration of Bauer seems to be getting fairly decent results.
The phrase "latest iteration" is key here. Bauer is a notorious tinkerer, as Emma Baccellieri detailed in February. Bauer has eight different pitches logged in the Brooks Baseball database and claims to have experimented with more than that. He also claims to have invented more pitches. Here's how his pitch selection has varied over the years.
Bauer has that special mix of former top prospect, pitching lore savant, wonky command, wipeout stuff, and youth that makes him incredibly easy to dream on. There's a Trackman system lab in his house. He's a disciple of Kyle Boddy's Driveline Baseball facility. In a perfect world, Bauer should be able to morph himself into a bioengineered super-pitcher who conquers the world.
This is not a perfect world. Bauer has made great strides this year, pitching to a 4.02 DRA, but he still has a long way to go before we can safely say that he is even a reliable mid-rotation starter. His first six appearances of the year were out of the bullpen, and eight starts don't make a trend. He's still at the point where a massive meltdown in his next start wouldn't be anything resembling a surprise.
But then we see stuff like this, and we start to wonder again.
That's the kind of pitch that can give you the vapors. It's a pitch that prints money ... if only he could consistently wield it.
Bauer is an enigma. One second he's brilliant, the next you wonder where it all went wrong. It's likely that he'll never be truly done toiling in the lab. There will always be testing and adjusting, tinkering and experimenting. There may very well be an Eureka moment. If and when that moment comes, the Indians will have the best rotation in baseball.
Until then, Bauer will be naught more than one of the many ex-top prospect curios that litter the game. He will always be a source of fascination and hope, until he isn't. Baseball is incredibly hard. Sometimes the top prospects don't work out. Bauer isn't an ace right now, but it doesn't mean he won't one day be. It doesn't mean that this isn't as far as his development gets either.
Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and BP Bronx. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.