MLB

Trevor Bauer Used a Painful Experiment to Try to Improve His Pitching

In an era of science and data, Trevor Bauer has applied these methods to his pitching. He is known for his unconventional ideas and practices, and he uses technology and experimentation to support some of his innovations. He has talked about trying to “find an edge” and a way to improve his pitching. Here’s a look at what he’s tried.

Trevor Bauer’s MLB career

The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Bauer as the third pick in the first round of the 2011 draft. In 2012, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a three-team trade.

In 2018, Bauer had a 2.21 ERA, a career-low for him, and a 2.44 FIP, which was the best in the league. He was sixth for the AL Cy Young Award. In 2019, the Indians traded Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds as part of another three-team trade. His career ERA so far is 4.04.

Transcranial direct current stimulation

Many of his experiments are done during the off-season at Driveline Baseball, a laboratory and training center near Seattle. While there, Bauer has been using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to improve his pitching.

In this painful procedure, electrodes are attached to the temples, and a one milliamp current is run into the brain to improve the brain’s performance and help the person gain skills faster. Target analysts in the U.S. military have used the procedure too to improve their abilities. The impact of this procedure is almost impossible to measure, but it might give Bauer a mental edge.

The high-speed camera

Bauer has also tried several other experiments as well, including using a high-speed camera to analyze his pitches’ movement, spin rate, and axis. Bauer used the high-speed Edgertronic camera to help improve his pitching in 2018.

The Cleveland Indians already owned an Edgertronic camera, but the team didn’t use it regularly. Bauer wanted to use it to fix problems he was having with his slider and also to study the techniques of baseball’s top pitchers.

In April of 2018, the video staff was able to capture footage of Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. These 11 minutes and 51 seconds gave Bauer intricate details on how Stroman positioned his fingers when throwing his slider.

Bauer said, “When I saw this video I was like, I have to find a way to get my thumb to slip earlier while my hand is still behind the ball.” Bauer took the Edgertronic camera to the bullpen and worked to perfect his own slider.

It took several weeks of experimenting to find a grip that resulted in a pitch he liked. By May 11, Bauer began using the new slider in games.

Spin rate affected by foreign substances

In 2018, Bauer made news because of a Tweet he sent out suggesting that lots of pitchers use foreign substances on their hands. In an interview with Sporting News, Bauer pointed out that today’s technology can demonstrate how much of an effect these foreign substances have on increasing the ball’s spin rate and giving those pitchers an unfair advantage.

Bauer talked about meeting with a chemical engineer in 2016 to test whether various substances created more friction between skin and the ball. His substances included pine tar, firm grip, and Coca-Cola. He’s found that the only alteration that increases a fastball’s spin rate is a sticky substance. It can’t really be altered just with hand positions, and the only natural way to increase spin rate is to throw the ball harder.

In his tests of 10 people throwing 70 MPH four-seam fastballs, a sticky substance could affect the spin rate between 250 and 400 RPMs. At 90 MPH, the spin rate was affected between 200 and 300 RPM. While Bauer says a lot of pitchers do use a sticky substance during games, he isn’t willing to break the rules himself.

Trevor Bauer’s drone hobby

Bauer’s experiments outside of baseball came to everyone’s attention in 2016 when a drone cut his finger during the ALCS playoffs. He was repairing the drone, and as he plugged it in, the propellers came on at full speed and cut his right pinky.

Bauer had been scheduled to start in game two but was rescheduled for game three. His 10 stitches didn’t last out the first inning of that game, and he had to leave the game due to bleeding.

Bauer has taken part in drone racing and has been known to bring his drones with him when the team travels. He even custom builds his own mini quadcopters and has shared some of his drone footage on his website.

But while he does have outside interests, his primary focus is on pitching, and he’s proved that he’ll do whatever it takes to get better.