CLEVELAND -- Over the offseason, Trevor Bauer wanted to add another pitch to his repertoire, and he identified Marcus Stroman's slider as one of the best in the league and one that he wanted to emulate.Although neither pitcher will start in Thursday's doubleheader between the Blue Jays and Indians, they
CLEVELAND -- Over the offseason, Trevor Bauer wanted to add another pitch to his repertoire, and he identified Marcus Stroman's slider as one of the best in the league and one that he wanted to emulate.
Although neither pitcher will start in Thursday's doubleheader between the Blue Jays and Indians, they may just have a chance to meet and compare notes.
Bauer already had a deep arsenal last season: a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup and slider. But the slider wasn't getting the movement he wanted, so he tried to identify the best sliders in the league.
Bauer selected Stroman's slider, because he considers it one of the elite breaking balls in baseball based on the pitch's results on balls in play and in generating swings and misses. Although Bauer is listed as five inches taller than Stroman, he thought their arm angles were similar enough for it to work.
"I diagrammed that out in my head, how it has to spin in order to accomplish that," Bauer said. "I went to video and checked to make sure I had a theory lined up with the actual [results]. I tried to get as much slow-mo video of [Stroman's slider] as I could, there's not a lot of it. I looked at what I could, and then I went in the lab and started using high-speed video of myself just iterating the axis that I wanted. Then it was pretty much about commanding it."
The slider is still a work in progress, as it isn't getting quite the depth he wants, but Bauer has increased his slider usage from 4.4 percent in 2017 to 17.7 percent this season.
Stroman has long used his slider as his primary offspeed pitch, but the pitch continues to evolve. The 27-year-old says he's still looking to find his feel for the pitch this season, but when it returns, it will go a long way to help lower his 7.52 ERA.
"I've played with my slider my whole life," Stroman said. "I throw different ones, I'm always messing with pitch grips, I'm always one to go away from a pitch grip and come back to it, start by start. I kind of change grips all the time. The slider that he's talking about is one that I was hitting on all last year. When it's good, it's my best putaway pitch."
Stroman was honored that his slider was considered worth emulation, especially by someone so invested in pitching mechanics and spin rate as Bauer. And fittingly, the pitcher that most inspired Stroman during college was Bauer, who was drafted a year ahead of him out of UCLA.
"When I was at Duke, he was setting records," Stroman said. "He was kind of right above me in that Draft class, so he was a guy who was punching tickets. His numbers in college were ridiculous. After seeing what he did, my junior year, I wanted to lead the country in punchouts, and I did in 2012. He's been dominant for a long time, he's got great stuff, and he knows how to spin the ball."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com.