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Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

Corey Kluber’s two-seam fastball and cutter combination provides a blueprint for Trevor Bauer tonight in Game 2

Last night, the Cleveland Indians rode the steady vessel of Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen to victory in Game 1 of the World Series, shutting out a potent Chicago Cubs lineup. While Miller and Allen unleashed their typical electric fastball-breaking ball combination to stifle Chicago, Kluber was able to dominate without a great feel for his best pitch: the wipe-out breaking ball.

Instead, Kluber corralled the Cubs with a devastating two-seam fastball and cutter combination that was particularly cruel against left-handed hitters. All night long, Kluber had Cubs left-handers hopelessly jack-knifing out of the way as two seamers that started at their hip lurched to the inside corner of the plate at the last second. Then, with hitters sitting on the front door two-seamer, Kluber unleashed his cutter that breaks down and in towards lefties.

Fortunately for Chicago, the quality of Cleveland’s starters – due to the loss of Carlos Carrasco and pitch count limitations on the still-recuperating Danny Salazar – falls precipitously after Kluber. On the other hand, Cleveland’s Game 2 starter, Trevor Bauer, possesses a similar arsenal to Kluber that can give the Cubs fits.

trevor bauer two seam fastball

Game 2 starter Trevor Bauer should thank Corey Kluber for providing him with a plan of attack against the Cubs. (Photo by: Arturo Pardavila III)

Like Kluber, Bauer throws a two-seam fastball in the low to mid-90s that starts at the hip of left-handers. If hitters begin to cheat on that pitch, Bauer can respond with a countervailing cutter that breaks in the exact opposite direction of his two-seamer. This combination of pitches proved to be wildly effective against two of Chicago’s most prominent players, in particular: leadoff man Dexter Fowler and slugger Anthony Rizzo. By pounding both hitters inside and not letting them extend their arms, Kluber tamed the dangerous tandem to the tune of two strikeouts, three pop-ups, and a routine ground-out.

While Bauer certainly is not Kluber, a bona fide ace and worthy recipient of the 2014 AL Cy Young Award, he can use Kluber’s blueprint to effectively attack the Cubs left-handed hitters. Perhaps Bauer’s similarities to Kluber in this regard motivated Cubs skipper Joe Maddon to start right-handed hitters Willson Contreras and Jorge Soler in Game 2 at catcher and right field, respectively, while eschewing his left-handed hitting options of Chris Coghlan, Jason Heyward, and catcher Miguel Montero.

Against right-handed hitters, Bauer will have to use a different approach, relying primarily on backdoor two-seamers, four-seam fastballs up and in, and a sharp-dropping curveball that is clearly his best pitch. But in order to use his out pitch, Bauer will have to command his fastball early in the count and get ahead of hitters, a dicey proposition for a pitcher who struggles with his command at times and had the 19th worst walk rate this season among qualified pitchers. Adding a degree of difficulty for Bauer is the troublesome finger he injured while constructing a drone. Will Bauer be rusty or will the extra rest prove to be a boon? Will he feel comfortable commanding all his pitches or will the finger cause discomfort that knocks him off his game?

Nobody, other than the mystical baseball gods, knows the answer for sure. But if Trevor Bauer is able to provide a facsimile of Corey Kluber’s approach against lefties, and command his fastball against righties, the Cubs may soon find themselves in a 2-0 hole.

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Updated: October 26, 2016 — 6:07 pm

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