Trevor Bauer's 3-1 win over Fresno State on Saturday looked no different than any of his other starts this year. The UCLA right-hander fanned 14 batters, walked two, yielded just six hits, hiked his season record to 13-2, dropped his ERA to 1.25 and tallied his ninth straight complete game. The skinny 20-year-old flashed another number, though, that was right in line with his season average, one that has MLB draft hounds wincing even as Bauer looks ready to be a top-10 pick: 133 pitches.
The rise in pitch count awareness across all levels of baseball makes people panic when they see a college pitcher racking up 130-plus pitches per start; doubly so when the guy doing it skews much closer to Tim Lincecum than Roger Clemens at 6-foot-1, and only 175 pounds. But Bauer's situation is different. He pitches just once a week, taking the mound every Saturday for the Bruins. Meanwhile, the benefits to his team are huge: Every Saturday, UCLA knows it has one of the nation's best pitchers ready to go nine innings and give the bullpen a day off.
All of which makes us wonder: Why doesn't a major league team try that? Mostly because it's hard, and looks risky.
"The team trainer and pitching coach have to know the pitcher's quality of strength, quality of conditioning, what kind of a workload he can handle," said Glenn Fleisig, research director for the American Sports Medicine Institute and an expert in pitching biomechanics. "You have to choose the right guy, then monitor him very closely."