And Trevor Bauer makes it Five?

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The 'Big 3' may be turning into the 'Big 5?.'

When the Cleveland Indians acquired Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw in a three-team deal back in December of 2012, many believed that Bauer could be the anchor of the Indians rotation for years to come.

To say that the Indians starters were in a state of flux at the time would be the understatement of the century. The ace of the staff was Justin Masterson, coming off an injury, and heading towards the end of his arbitration years. Ubaldo Jimenez was entering the final year of his arbitration, and had been a bust since Chris Antonetti had dealt for him at the trade deadline in 2011. Zach McAllister appeared to have promise, but his two-pitch arsenal needed work, and the Carlos Carrasco entering 2013 wasn't the Carlos Carrasco that exited 2014. He still had two suspensions to serve, a minor league stint, a move to the bullpen, another shot at the rotation, and another move to the bullpen, before exploding at the end of the 2014 season. 

The rotation was so good, that the Indians were forced to sign Brett Myers in February 2013, in hopes to lock down a spot until a youngster could potentially claim it.

I do realize that a part of this is revisionist's theory, or perhaps it was a bit of "we'll take what we can get" theory. The Indians were pondering big offers to Masterson, and extending Ubaldo Jimenez. While not mentioned earlier, Scott Kazmir was offered a minor league deal (brilliant signing), and after earning a spot in the rotation, was also going to be a free agent at the end of 2013. In other words, the rotation looked a lot different than it would, and the questions at the end of that 2013 season seem absolutely ludicrous.

My, how times for Bauer and the Indians' rotation have changed since then. The 2013 season saw the emergence of Corey Kluber, as well as Danny Salazar, followed by the aforementioned "break-out" of Carrasco, while Bauer hadn't quite lived up to expectations. Sure, he made 60-starts, and some were exceptional, but the overall bulk of his appearances were nowhere near the term "ace."

This is when you make the case for "expectations being too high," and "you're comparing him to three of the best pitchers in the American League, if not the entire Majors."

But here we are. Bauer entered his Saturday Night start coming off of two straight starts in which he's gone seven full innings or more. His last start, a seven inning gem that saw him strike out ten, while walking only one, is arguably his best start as a big leaguer, if not his most efficient. In other words, he's coming into his own, and making waves in a rotation that has been very good.

Was it his best start? Regarding pure stuff, likely not. What stands out is how he battled, and his continued development utilizing his substantial pitch repertoire. As mentioned in a Mike Hattery piece in March, Trevor Bauer continues to use his sinker as his primary pitch, rather than his four seamer. What's even better though is that he's using his entire arsenal with confidence. 

While understanding that the alignment of pitches here isn't perfect, we can see that last night, he was able to keep the Angels off balance throughout the game with every pitch. While he favors his two-seam sinker to get ahead of lefties, he only used it last night as his 'out pitch' to righties (61% of the time). He continues to use his four seamer to right-handed hitters, while his curve ball has prominence against both lefties and righties. In other words, he's pulling out everything in his tool box, and with the help of a team, including Mickey Callaway, it appears as though he's figured out when and where to use each pitch.

It helps that he's throwing strikes too.

What strikes me about Bauer goes back to that piece that Mike wrote in March, and more specifically, to a tweet that he posted in which Jordan Bastian noted something that Callaway said.
The knock on Bauer has always been his egocentric training, but it's clear that something has either recently changed, or has been a slow build to this year. In a podcast earlier this season, former Indians' beat writer and current columnist Anthony Castrovince and current beat writer Bastian were discussing Bauer in a podcast, and in particular, how he's thought of pretty highly.

Maybe it connects to his pitch usage, and maybe it doesn't, but it does appear that Bauer is utilizing a similar usage, even with his slightly different arsenal. Here's Kluber's usage in his last start:

As noted many times, Kluber is more two-seam dependent, based on work that he did with Callaway and Ruben Niebla back in Columbus in 2012, but when he's on, he's using everything. What's more interesting is the movement, in comparison to Kluber, and why the Indians management (and everyone else) has been so high on Bauer from the start.

My point here is simple though. However Bauer got to this point, this season, he's doing what Callaway has likely wanted from the start. Like Bauer, he's moved to an approach that begins with the sinker, gets ahead of batters, then opens the door for the rest of his pitch selection.

You know, get ahead...and keep 'em guessin'.

He's become more efficient, and as he's matured, he's become more effective. Last night's start appears to be the rule, when before it would be the exception. If that's the case, then this Indians' rotation, with both Bauer and Josh Tomlin pitching as well (and sometimes better) as Carrasco, Salazar and Kluber, just became a Big Five.

The List

1. Bryan Shaw, RP, Cleveland Indians--I haven't been a big fan of Bryan Shaw, almost since he's been a part of the Indians 25-man roster. While I will gladly admit that some of the reasoning was based in unfair analysis and the fact I hate bullpens period, last night's ballgame was exactly the reason. Because of the high leverage situations he gets put in, when he implodes, he does it on a grand scale. Indians are down three. Indians come back to tie it in the 9th inning. Jim goes and puts on a pot of coffee for the extra innings. Once he clicks start, the game is over, because of Bryan Shaw. Oh sure, he has a ton of holds, and sure, my hate for him as a player is nonsensical for the most part...but...I'll be diving into the very real reasons why it's time to move on from Shaw later this week. He's been overused, and is now abused far too much. In his 29 appearances over 24 1/3 innings, he's given up 14 earned runs in seven of those appearances. sure, nine of those runs came in two early games, but sheesh, is this really the guy that gets you to the closer? He shouldn't be.

2. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians--I know, I already talked about him in today's piece, but I want to mention one more thing: I've always loved his demeanor on the mound. I'm not super crazy about his moping when something goes wrong (it's improved this year), but I absolutely love the yelling and screaming he does when things are going right. He honestly, to me, has always been the perfect bullpen guy, straight outta the 70's, bundled with emotion. He's in the rotation, and needs to stay there, but love what this guy brings to the mount. When he struck out Trout and let out a scream, I was all for it.

3. Matt Shoemaker, SP, California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (or whatever the hell they're called now)--You're really good. I hate you.
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