Bauer wins Reds' first Cy Young Award

Right-hander posted a 1.73 ERA to earn honor for first time in career

November 12th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- The Reds have had some great pitchers during their long history, but none of them had won the National League Cy Young Award -- until Wednesday.

Right-hander became the first Reds pitcher to win the NL Cy Young Award from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. In balloting completed at the end of the regular season, Bauer received 27 of the 30 first-place votes and three second-place votes for 201 points. Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish finished in second, receiving the other three first-place votes and 123 points, while Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom -- the two-time defending winner of the award -- finished third with 89 points.

For Bauer, who has long kept a photo of Jim Palmer’s American League Cy Young Award as the background on his phone, it’s an achievement that means a lot.

“It’s been my goal ever since I won the Golden Spikes [Award] in college in 2011,” Bauer said. “It’s something I’ve chased, I guess, for nine years now. All the offseason workouts, all the time I’m studying, learning, researching, all the bad years I’ve had, the bad pitches I’ve made, to find a way to overcome all of that and actually accomplish something that I’ve wanted for that long, it’s pretty special.”

Bauer, 29, led the NL in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.795), opponents’ batting average (.159), opponents’ BABIP (.215), adjusted ERA+ (276), hits per nine innings (5.1), shutouts (two) and complete games (two). He ranked second in strikeouts (100) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.3).

In 11 starts and 73 innings during the shortened 2020 season, Bauer had a 5-4 record and often battled with poor run support. But over his final five starts of the regular season as the Reds made a surge down the stretch, Bauer went 2-2 with a 1.29 ERA and 46 strikeouts over 35 innings.

Bauer’s final regular-season start -- on Sept. 23 vs. the Brewers -- was his favorite, and the most important to the club all season. He allowed one run on four hits over eight innings with one walk and 12 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory.

“Short rest against the Brewers in a must-win game to really put us in a position to where we were confident that we could make the playoffs,” Bauer said. “I want to pitch every four days, I got an opportunity to do that in a critical situation, and that's what I'm drawn to about baseball, the highest stakes, the most on the line, the most intense competition, put me in that situation. That's when I feel the most alive. That's one that sticks out for me.”

The Reds have had several pitchers come close to winning the NL Cy Young Award over the years. Second-place finishers from Cincinnati were Tom Seaver in 1981, Mario Soto in '83, Danny Jackson in '88, Pete Schourek in '95 and Johnny Cueto in 2014.

“That's a huge honor, for the oldest franchise in baseball to not have a Cy Young Award winner, it's about time that Cincy had one,” Bauer said. “I look forward to being able to share it with the people and interact with the fans in Cincy at some point in hopefully the not-too-distant future.”

Since debuting in the big leagues with the D-backs in 2012, Bauer has been a forerunner of using analytical data, biometrics and other innovations in his pitching and preparation. Some of his methods have been used by other pitchers in MLB.

Bauer felt a level of validation that his way of doing things paid off.

“I think a lot of that has been validated in other ways already,” Bauer said. “To me, it’s not about the validation for myself. It’s about providing a better landscape for my fellow players. I really believe the things I do are beneficial for health and performance, opportunity and stuff like that. I think that a lot of players can benefit from it. That’s why I’m as active as I am in promoting it, talking about it on social media, launching companies to double down on that and help other players. That’s where my vision lies and my passion lies, leaving the game in a better place for my fellow players than it was when I came in.”

There was also credit given to the Reds. Bauer enjoyed pitching on the same staff as Sonny Gray and Michael Lorenzen, among others he mentioned, and considered pitching coach Derek Johnson the best he’s worked with at any level of baseball.

“You always have to surround yourself with people that are more knowledgeable than you or are better at certain skill sets than you are, so they pull you up,” Bauer said. “I think the Reds organization has done a tremendous job of putting people in place that pull people up just with their presence.”

Eight pitchers -- including Bauer -- have won a Cy Young Award while heading into free agency. Three of them changed teams -- Catfish Hunter in 1974, Mark Davis in '89 and Greg Maddux in '92. Maddux was the one who announced Bauer as the winner on MLB Network. There have also been four other pitchers who were traded after they won the Cy Young Award -- David Cone (1994), Pedro Martinez ('97), Roger Clemens ('98) and R.A. Dickey (2012).

Bauer is the top starting pitcher available on the free-agent market. The Reds acquired him at the 2019 Trade Deadline from the Indians in a three-team trade. He hasn’t ruled out a return to Cincinnati, where he has been open about enjoying his time.

“It's been a very good relationship, and hopefully it continues,” Bauer said. “I'd love to be back and to see my guys, to see Curt [Casali], to see Tucker [Barnhart] on a daily basis. To see Sonny, to see Michael Lorenzen, to see Lucas Sims, I could name a bunch of different people, obviously. I feel at home. I feel very much at home.”