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Ahead of the Curve

Freshman pitcher uses interest in mathematics, physics to hone his throwing style

April 29, 2009 11:36 pm More stories in Sports

As a junior at Newhall’s Hart High School last year, Trevor Bauer remembers standing on the mound with something other than opposing hitters on his mind.

He had become so disinterested in baseball that he’d sometimes sing to himself in the middle of games.

For Bauer, being a dominant force was monotonous rather than enjoyable. High school baseball had become boring.

“There was no excitement,” Bauer said. “I was going to graduate early one way or the other. I didn’t see any point of staying in high school.”

Despite being mentally detached at times, Bauer still managed to register a flawless 12-0 record and a filthy 0.79 earned run average as a junior. After the season, Bauer craved a challenge, so he graduated this past December ““ skipping his senior season altogether ““ and enrolled at UCLA to begin winter quarter.

No one, not even coach John Savage, envisioned Bauer having as much success as he has had over the last few months as a freshman on the UCLA baseball team.

“We thought he was going to be really, really good down the road,” Savage said. “To think he could do what he’s doing, no, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that.”

Bauer, a closer-turned-starter, broke out with a complete-game shutout performance against Washington earlier this month. He struck out a career-best nine batters and allowed just one hit to earn national Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors.

Even though Bauer started the season as the team’s closer, the 6-foot-1-inch right-hander currently leads an experienced Bruin pitching staff in wins (six), innings pitched (69.1) and ERA (2.6).

“Trevor’s always at the field; he always has a ball in his hand,” said junior pitcher Charles Brewer, whose 3.83 ERA is the next closest to Bauer’s.

For Bauer, the impressive numbers go beyond the diamond. Bauer the student made honor roll last quarter.

He admits that when he’s not gripping a baseball, he loves solving mathematical equations ““ especially those that involve the game he started playing in his backyard as soon as he learned to walk.

“I look at pitching mechanics and try to analyze them in a physics way,” he said. “For example, the longer the lever arm and the faster it’s moving, the higher the velocity is on the end of it.”

The moment of inertia, which measures an object’s resistance to changes in its rotation rate, is also among the many variables that Bauer examines.

Oftentimes, Bauer ponders whether he can make a pitch break down and in, as opposed to away from right-handed batters by simply shifting his arm’s axis of rotation.

“Stuff like that helps me get the ball where I want it to go and make it move how I want it to move,” he said.

Bauer also experiments with different grips and various arm angles, all in hopes of increasing his repertoire of pitches. The 18-year-old claims to throw eight to nine distinct pitches, which is something Savage is quick to refute.

“To coach Savage, I throw four pitches ““ fast-ball, curve-ball, change-up and slider,” Bauer said. “When I have a ball in my hand I can try something and see what it does. I think a lot of that has to do with my math and physics background. I understand pressure on the ball.”

In an attempt to improve his own mechanics, Bauer watches video footage of successful Major League pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Roy Oswalt, who, like him, are relatively small in size.

By analyzing each pitcher’s motion, Bauer has learned that a long stride toward home plate helps him control his momentum. But Bauer confessed, almost embarrassedly, that he has incorporated much from Lincecum’s mechanics into his own.

“I’ve watched (Lincecum’s) delivery so much in slow motion that if I close my eyes, I can see it exactly in my head, almost frame by frame, with 30 frames a second,” Bauer said. “I just think (if he’s) 5-10 and throws the way he does, there’s something there. It fits with my pitching mechanics, so it all makes sense to me.”

All of that analysis illustrates the silent, introspective side of Bauer that one can see in him when he is on campus.

There’s a completely different side of Bauer when he’s on the diamond.

For being the self-proclaimed “calm and thoughtful” kind, Bauer knows how to make an entrance. As he walks out to the mound, metal music blares through the sound speakers at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

“I do have a really competitive side that obviously for baseball is important,” Bauer said. “The way I train is competitive. It’s how I try to pitch and the metal music goes with that aggressiveness.”

Bauer’s image is also defined by a faded, shrunken Bruin hat ““ which has become somewhat of his trademark. Following a few washes and nearly eight months of daily wear and tear, the color of Bauer’s game-day cap is now the lightest shade of blue.

“We tell him it’s a bad look, but he loves that hat,” freshman catcher Steve Rodriguez said. “He doesn’t change it; it’s pretty gross.”

“It’s his deal. As long as he has a “˜B’ on it, I’m comfortable with it,” Savage said, letting out a laugh.

“I think it’s just the sun,” Bauer said. “I’m not going to say that I don’t like the look. In high school I wore the same hat for two and a half years.”

In retrospect, Bauer could still be wearing that same high school cap.

He could still be throwing his mid-90s fastball past helpless batters.

He could still be humming to himself on the mound in the middle of games, padding his already mind-numbing statistics in hopes of becoming a high selection in the MLB Draft.

Instead, Bauer made a calculated decision, which he believes will help him reach the major leagues sooner.

“It’s a goal for me to get drafted and get through the minor leagues as quick as I can,” he said, citing the successes of recent college pitchers Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Andrew Miller and David Price.

“Trevor is a special guy,” Savage said. “He wanted to make that jump. He wants to go into professional baseball when he’s 20 years old. He has this plan laid out and we’re just kind of being a part of it.”

Yet if a baseball career doesn’t transpire, Bauer, an engineering student, hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer one day.

“I wanted to come to college and have a second plan in case baseball doesn’t work out,” Bauer said. “I want something to stand on. If you jump straight out of high school and you don’t make it, then you’re kind of left with nothing.”

Savage, who coached the likes of Barry Zito and Mark Prior at USC, feels that Bauer possesses the intangibles ““ a mentality, a mound presence, an approach ““ that any pitcher needs to be successful.

Away from high school and no longer bored, Bauer is open to the possibilities beyond the mound. Regardless, he said he will continue to test the limits of math in the game of baseball.

“I like quantum physics and stuff like that,” he said. “But there’s not much need for quantum physicists out in the world.”

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

Ahead of the Curve

Freshman pitcher uses interest in mathematics, physics to hone his throwing style

April 29, 2009 10:06 pm More stories in Sports

As a junior at Newhall’s Hart High School last year, Trevor Bauer remembers standing on the mound with something other than opposing hitters on his mind.

He had become so disinterested in baseball that he’d sometimes sing to himself in the middle of games.

For Bauer, being a dominant force was monotonous rather than enjoyable. High school baseball had become boring.

“There was no excitement,” Bauer said. “I was going to graduate early one way or the other. I didn’t see any point of staying in high school.”

Despite being mentally detached at times, Bauer still managed to register a flawless 12-0 record and a filthy 0.79 earned run average as a junior. After the season, Bauer craved a challenge, so he graduated this past December ““ skipping his senior season altogether ““ and enrolled at UCLA to begin winter quarter.

No one, not even coach John Savage, envisioned Bauer having as much success as he has had over the last few months as a freshman on the UCLA baseball team.

“We thought he was going to be really, really good down the road,” Savage said. “To think he could do what he’s doing, no, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that.”

Bauer, a closer-turned-starter, broke out with a complete-game shutout performance against Washington earlier this month. He struck out a career-best nine batters and allowed just one hit to earn national Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors.

Even though Bauer started the season as the team’s closer, the 6-foot-1-inch right-hander currently leads an experienced Bruin pitching staff in wins (six), innings pitched (69.1) and ERA (2.6).

“Trevor’s always at the field; he always has a ball in his hand,” said junior pitcher Charles Brewer, whose 3.83 ERA is the next closest to Bauer’s.

For Bauer, the impressive numbers go beyond the diamond. Bauer the student made honor roll last quarter.

He admits that when he’s not gripping a baseball, he loves solving mathematical equations ““ especially those that involve the game he started playing in his backyard as soon as he learned to walk.

“I look at pitching mechanics and try to analyze them in a physics way,” he said. “For example, the longer the lever arm and the faster it’s moving, the higher the velocity is on the end of it.”

The moment of inertia, which measures an object’s resistance to changes in its rotation rate, is also among the many variables that Bauer examines.

Oftentimes, Bauer ponders whether he can make a pitch break down and in, as opposed to away from right-handed batters by simply shifting his arm’s axis of rotation.

“Stuff like that helps me get the ball where I want it to go and make it move how I want it to move,” he said.

Bauer also experiments with different grips and various arm angles, all in hopes of increasing his repertoire of pitches. The 18-year-old claims to throw eight to nine distinct pitches, which is something Savage is quick to refute.

“To coach Savage, I throw four pitches ““ fast-ball, curve-ball, change-up and slider,” Bauer said. “When I have a ball in my hand I can try something and see what it does. I think a lot of that has to do with my math and physics background. I understand pressure on the ball.”

In an attempt to improve his own mechanics, Bauer watches video footage of successful Major League pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Roy Oswalt, who, like him, are relatively small in size.

By analyzing each pitcher’s motion, Bauer has learned that a long stride toward home plate helps him control his momentum. But Bauer confessed, almost embarrassedly, that he has incorporated much from Lincecum’s mechanics into his own.

“I’ve watched (Lincecum’s) delivery so much in slow motion that if I close my eyes, I can see it exactly in my head, almost frame by frame, with 30 frames a second,” Bauer said. “I just think (if he’s) 5-10 and throws the way he does, there’s something there. It fits with my pitching mechanics, so it all makes sense to me.”

All of that analysis illustrates the silent, introspective side of Bauer that one can see in him when he is on campus.

There’s a completely different side of Bauer when he’s on the diamond.

For being the self-proclaimed “calm and thoughtful” kind, Bauer knows how to make an entrance. As he walks out to the mound, metal music blares through the sound speakers at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

“I do have a really competitive side that obviously for baseball is important,” Bauer said. “The way I train is competitive. It’s how I try to pitch and the metal music goes with that aggressiveness.”

Bauer’s image is also defined by a faded, shrunken Bruin hat ““ which has become somewhat of his trademark. Following a few washes and nearly eight months of daily wear and tear, the color of Bauer’s game-day cap is now the lightest shade of blue.

“We tell him it’s a bad look, but he loves that hat,” freshman catcher Steve Rodriguez said. “He doesn’t change it; it’s pretty gross.”

“It’s his deal. As long as he has a “˜B’ on it, I’m comfortable with it,” Savage said, letting out a laugh.

“I think it’s just the sun,” Bauer said. “I’m not going to say that I don’t like the look. In high school I wore the same hat for two and a half years.”

In retrospect, Bauer could still be wearing that same high school cap.

He could still be throwing his mid-90s fastball past helpless batters.

He could still be humming to himself on the mound in the middle of games, padding his already mind-numbing statistics in hopes of becoming a high selection in the MLB Draft.

Instead, Bauer made a calculated decision, which he believes will help him reach the major leagues sooner.

“It’s a goal for me to get drafted and get through the minor leagues as quick as I can,” he said, citing the successes of recent college pitchers Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Andrew Miller and David Price.

“Trevor is a special guy,” Savage said. “He wanted to make that jump. He wants to go into professional baseball when he’s 20 years old. He has this plan laid out and we’re just kind of being a part of it.”

Yet if a baseball career doesn’t transpire, Bauer, an engineering student, hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer one day.

“I wanted to come to college and have a second plan in case baseball doesn’t work out,” Bauer said. “I want something to stand on. If you jump straight out of high school and you don’t make it, then you’re kind of left with nothing.”

Savage, who coached the likes of Barry Zito and Mark Prior at USC, feels that Bauer possesses the intangibles ““ a mentality, a mound presence, an approach ““ that any pitcher needs to be successful.

Away from high school and no longer bored, Bauer is open to the possibilities beyond the mound. Regardless, he said he will continue to test the limits of math in the game of baseball.

“I like quantum physics and stuff like that,” he said. “But there’s not much need for quantum physicists out in the world.”

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

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