8. Cleveland Indians (29–26, plus-26, LT: 7)
The award for MLB’s biggest disconnect between nasty stuff and awful numbers goes to Trevor Bauer. Glance at his 5.83 ERA (seventh-worst among AL starters) and you flash back to the injured and ineffective pitcher who got chased in the first inning during Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays and then didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in Game 2 of the World Series against the Cubs. Watch Bauer snap off one nightmare-inducing curveball after another in his May 30 start against Oakland, though, and it seems impossible to imagine him struggling:
The good news for Cleveland is that Bauer's results are starting to match up with his stuff. That start against the A’s ended with Bauer going seven strong innings and striking out a career-high 14 batters. That made it four straight starts in which he had allowed three runs or fewer, with a combined strikeout-to-walk rate of 36-to-4. He worked around two hits and a walk in 1 ⅔ scoreless innings Sunday before exiting early due to a two-hour rain delay. That 5.83 ERA? It’s still a massive improvement over the 7.67 mark he carried as recently a month ago, and it also obscures the talent of the pitcher who’s generated the third-highest strikeout rate among AL starters this year.
Look for his luck to continue to improve: Only three other AL starters have seen more of the runners they’ve put on base come around to score (typically more the result of bad luck than bad pitching) and only four other starters have seen a higher percentage of balls in play allowed fall in for hits (a product of luck with some skill mixed in, but Bauer’s BABIP allowed also sits 52 points above his career mark, suggesting he’s mostly getting some bad breaks). With staff ace Corey Kluber just back from injury and electric-armed righty Danny Salazar pitching so poorly that he was exiled to the bullpen at the end of May, getting the best version of Bauer would be a welcome happening for the talented but inconsistent Indians.