In an article yesterday, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand made a statistical case that Trevor Bauer’s recent body of work justifies him matching or exceeding the record $36MM average annual value Gerrit Cole received in December 2019. While it may not be true that Cole and Bauer currently have beef, we can at least say the former UCLA teammates once had a rivalry. Beating Cole’s AAV record would be a major feat for Bauer and agent Rachel Luba. But as Homer Simpson once said, “Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.” So I set out to see how Feinsand’s claims hold up.
Bauer has had an up-and-down career. Since 2017, his season ERAs are 4.19, 2.21, 4.48, and 1.73. Feinsand, who also included Stephen Strasburg in his comparison, mainly focused on each pitcher’s final 90 starts heading into free agency. Why 90? Well, a three-season lookback is pretty standard. A 90-start lookback also happens to be quite convenient for Bauer, as it excludes his rough first half of 2017.
One thing I did not see in Feinsand’s article was any form of a strikeout rate, walk rate, or groundball rate. Those are the things pitchers do that actually correlate year-to-year. So here’s that look, with the additional info. We’ll remove Strasburg, since the question is whether Bauer is worthy of Cole’s AAV record.