Trevor Bauer is starting tonight for the Cincinnati Reds. He’s a Cy Young contender this year, currently rocking a 1.80 ERA on the season and is among the league leaders in nearly every category. He’s been an Ace. It’s been the kind of season, and then some, that the Reds envisioned when they traded for him last trade deadline.
Tonight, though, is different from the rest of his season. Trevor Bauer is pitching on short rest against Milwaukee, in a game that feels like a must win against the Brewers. The track record for Bauer on short rest – well, it isn’t good. In fact, it’s pretty bad. Let’s take a look at his career when he’s pitching on three days rest:
Let’s start off by saying that the sample size here is a grand total of four games. Two came in the regular season and two came in the playoffs. The two regular season short rest starts came in September of the last two seasons – one with Cleveland and one with Cincinnati. The other two, of course, came in the playoffs.
Toss that all out of the window. What happened in those games doesn’t matter today. Yes, it’s still September, just like the other two regular season starts on three days rest. And it’s still late in the season like the playoff starts were. But this is 2020 and it’s very different. In the past when Trevor Bauer has pitched on short rest he was near the end, or beyond a season where he had 190.0, 176.1, 175.1, or 213.0 innings pitched. Right now he’s sitting on 65.0 innings. To say that the wear-and-tear on his arm during the season isn’t remotely comparable to the other four times he was asked to pitch on three days rest is underselling it.
“I always feel ready to pitch and strong. I take care of my body, lifting, and all of that throughout the year,” said Bauer on Tuesday about the difference between short rest now versus the past when it’s come after a longer season. “I’ve got to imagine that there’s some downward trend in strength and ability as the season progresses into the 5th month, 6th month, 7th month of the season that maybe I don’t notice when I’m in it. I feel great. I recovered from my last start better than I’ve recovered from any start this season, so that was super encouraging. Yeah, I’m excited about the opportunity to pitch again. I enjoy pitching, especially in big games that have a lot on the line. So, I’m excited for it.”
That’s not to say that not having a full four days of rest isn’t going to impact things. It very well could. But this particular writer is also suggesting that looking at his past performance on three days rest isn’t particularly useful, either, given the context of when those games happened versus when it’s happening now. The ask is quite a bit different in terms of what his arm has gone through when the ask happened.
With that said, the circumstances are similar. Trevor Bauer is being asked to do something because he’s the kind of pitcher his team believes is giving them their best shot at winning. And while it’s the regular season, tonight has a “must win” feel to it – perhaps more so than any single game in the upcoming Twins series given both the divisional and wild card tiebreaker implications that come along with beating the Brewers tonight.