We are not known for buying into the hype of young players. Draft picks, rookies, minor league prospects are all just a big pile of goo oozing with potential who've accomplished little but often generate an overblown amount of attention based mostly on the hope they might do something good someday.
The case of Trevor Bauer is different.
We don't love Bauer for the strikeouts he recorded at UCLA (460 in three years) or his ERA (1.25 in 136 innings) against kids who will only sniff the hot dogs at a major league park from the paid seats in the stands.
We love Trevor Bauer for what he's already done in his young life and because he's the kind of baseball geek that didn't ask how he could better calculate what already happened on the field but questioned everything about the way the game is played.
Bauer since a young age has looked forward at the game of baseball and asked and answered incredibly brilliant questions.
Why do so many pitchers get hurt? Why can't you learn more than three or four pitches? Why can't I make the ball fly in a way that no one else does? What exactly happens in the game of baseball and how can I train my body exactly for those scenarios?
When you read Lee Jenkins' fantastic story in Sports Illustrated about the Diamondbacks third-overall draft pick, you get the feeling we are being introduced to a revolutionary thinker years before the revolution is televised.
[...] as a sophomore at Hart High School in Newhall, Calif., Bauer took physics and applied the lessons to what he had seen Lincecum do.
"It started making sense why he did what he did," Bauer says, standing to demonstrate. "The more you delay your hip and shoulder from opening up, as long as you're moving toward home, you're shortening the distance to the plate and adding tension to the body, stretching the elastic band. If you fire your back hip and keep the front side of your body closed, you get more torque. The more torque you get, the more impulse you will get when you release."
It started years before Bauer was copying Lincecum's mechanics. When he was 12-years-old young Trevor was already throwing 300 feet in the park and spending his summers at the Texas Baseball Ranch of Ron Wolforth who is trying to recapture the glory days of pitching.
"Back in the '40s and '50s, guys came up with their own motions, and they had more complete games with fewer injuries," says Wolforth, a former college baseball player and private pitching coach. "We interrupted the natural flow of Warren Spahns and Sandy Koufaxes and Bob Gibsons. We over-instructed the delivery."
In Texas, Bauer refined his mechanics and honed his physical regime that eliminates weights that might limit his flexibility and instead uses tools like this shoulder tube that is specifically designed for stretching and warming the muscles used on the mound.
As Bauer sees it, every play in baseball happens in 12 seconds or less so you won't see this guy running stadium stairs (like Lincecum does) but instead he has designed an intense workout based on a series of explosive and quick exercises.
Like any great student, Bauer sought out the wisdom of multiple gurus. He went to former college coach Perry Husband who used high-tech video analysis to answer one of Bauer's burning questions -- when does a hitter have to commit?
The answer led Bauer to create a pitching target with a window 20 feet from the mound to that forced Trevor to make sure all of his pitches would be on the same plane early in flight and therefore look the same to the hitter and not start breaking until it was too late to react.
"I've talked to other pitchers about this, and they're like, 'O.K., great, thanks a lot,'" Husband says. "There are only a few people in the world like Trevor."
And that's what we love most about Trevor Bauer.
He has a unique approach to the art of pitching that combines traditional signs of athletic greatness -- work ethic, desire to be great, competitive fire -- with an engineer's son's passion for studying every fine detail of his craft to create a sustainable advantage.
You don't ever want to jinx a young player, but the more we learn about Bauer the more it seems like we are at the very beginning of something great.
[Update, 08/10/11 12:26 PM MST ]
Bauer went four innings with eight strike outs and one run allowed in his third pro start. He's unhappy though:
Bauer fans career-high eight batters | MiLB.com News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball
Bauer knows that holding runners close to the bag is vital to his growth. In fact, it may be the one thing standing between him and a promotion. "I was working on that tonight," Bauer said of throwing out of the stretch.
"I had one guy steal on a change-up where the hitter swung and missed and the other one was on a curve ball that I missed up in the zone. They picked good pitches to run on. I need to work on being quicker to the plate and keeping them closer."