MLB

Five reasons why Trevor Bauer is NL Cy Young

  • Senior editor, MLB at ESPN.com

The NL Cy Young race between Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish and Jacob deGrom was arguably the most intriguing battle of this awards season. Here’s a closer look at the stats and performances that made Bauer the winner, the first in the history of the Cincinnati Reds.

The number that says it best

4.66. That’s the difference between Bauer’s 2019 ERA of 6.39 in 10 starts after being traded to the Reds and his 1.73 ERA in his Cy Young-winning 11 starts this season.

Bauer led the National League in ERA and WHIP (0.79), while his 100 strikeouts were just four off Darvish’s NL-leading total. Bauer was also the only pitcher in the majors to record multiple shutouts this season, although both came in seven-inning doubleheaders.

Historic context

The Cincinnati Reds are the oldest professional baseball team, with a history going all the way back to 1882, and they had never had a Cy Young winner until Bauer took home the hardware Wednesday night. Before Bauer’s wins, the closest the Reds had come was second-place finishes by Tom Seaver (1981) Mario Soto (1983), Danny Jackson (1988), Pete Schourek (1995) and Johnny Cueto (2014).

Signature performance

The Darvish duel. Sept. 9 at Chicago Cubs. The two top finishers in the NL Cy Young race faced off twice this season, with Darvish winning the first battle in the first game of an Aug. 29 doubleheader, but it was Bauer’s performance the next time the two met that put him at the front of the pack.

Spotted a 3-0 lead thanks to Mike Moustakas’ first-inning home run, Bauer went out and delivered his best start of the 2020 season (posting a season-best game score of 83) as he limited the Cubs to just three hits over 7⅔ dominant innings. Bauer struck out 10 Cubs while issuing no walks in a win that the Reds desperately needed as they tried to surge back into playoff contention.

“As soon as Moose hit that ball, I said, ‘All right, I can make this stand up,'” Bauer said after the victory. “That was the goal. That helped lock me in.”

The pitch that made him dominant

Bauer’s success comes in large part because of his ability to use so many pitches effectively, but his slider stood out in 2020. He held opposing batters to just a .075 average on the pitch, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only Devin Williams (.032 on changeup) and Zach Plesac (.069 on slider) held opposing hitters to a lower average on any pitch this season.

Just ask his catcher

“It’s really hard to come up with a list of things that have been more fun than catching [Trevor Bauer] … the guy made me better. Demanded more out of me, and there’s nothing more complementary of a teammate than that. He got the best out of me. — Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart on Twitter in October

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