Trevor Bauer made his 10th start of season for the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. Overall he allowed five runs in 7.0 innings, walked no one, and struck out eight batters. His ERA currently sits at 6.39 with the Reds. That is less than ideal and certainly not what the organization was hoping for when they acquired him.
The Reds have probably gotten some of what they thought that they would. Trevor Bauer has struck out hitters at an elite rate since joining Cincinnati. He’s fanned 27.5% of the batters. That’s down a fraction of a percent from his rate in Cleveland this year when he had a 27.9% strikeout rate. His walk rate has improved from earlier this year with the Indians, too. From those standpoints, the Reds have gotten what they expected.
Where the Reds haven’t gotten what they expected was in the ERA department. And that seems to come down mostly to his home run rate. On Sunday he gave up two more home runs. That gives him 12 home runs allowed this season in 56.1 innings for the Reds. If we extrapolate that home run rate to the same number of innings he threw in 2018 when he was a Cy Young contender for Cleveland, he would give up 37 homers. In 2018 he actually gave up 9. His walk rate was slightly better and his strikeout rate was a little better in 2018, too, but the biggest difference is the incredible difference in home runs allowed.
Trevor Bauer’s got a home run per fly ball rate that’s the second highest of his career (2017). But unlike the other season in which his rate was very high, he’s coupling that with a high rate of fly balls, too. That combination has led to a higher overall rate.
As we know, the baseball is juiced to the gills this year. What we don’t know is if Major League Baseball is going to correct the baseball. If they do we should expect his home run rate to come down, but planning for that simply because of that isn’t a good plan.
The Reds traded for a pitcher coming off of a Cy Young caliber season who through 24 starts this season had a 3.79 ERA in the American League where pitchers don’t hit. In theory he should have probably saw a slight improvement thanks to swapping out the designated hitter for pitchers hitting and pinch hitters. But that hasn’t happened at all. His ERA with the Reds has been 2.60 runs higher.
But aside from it just not feeling great, none of that really matters. The Reds playoff chances when Trevor Bauer made his first start for the Reds was 4% according to Fangraphs. The Cincinnati front office knew that their odds were slim-and-none, basically, when they made the trade for the right-handed pitcher. They certainly expected and hoped for better in 2019 than what they’ve gotten from his performance. But the trade to acquire Trevor Bauer was about 2020.
The team traded a valuable prospect in Taylor Trammell, as well as adding in a solid prospect in left-handed pitcher Scott Moss and big leaguer Yasiel Puig to get the deal done. They were taking the gamble that 2020 is a year in which they can compete. Bauer is a free agent following the 2020 season and he’s made it clear he’s not signing extensions before free agency, too. Things haven’t been smooth for Bauer and the Reds so far, but it’s more about what happens in April through September of 2020 that’s going to matter for Cincinnati, not what’s transpired in August and September of 2019.