Jake Bauers on Hitting (It’s Pure Reaction)

What type of hitter did the Cleveland Indians get when they acquired Jake Bauers as part of yesterday’s three-team trade with Seattle and Tampa Bay? From a biographical perspective, the answer is a 23-year-old left-handed-hitting first baseman who came into this year ranked fourth in the Tampa Bay system. He made his big-league debut in June and went on to post a .700 OPS, with 11 home runs, in 388 plate appearances. Bauers played his maiden season as a 22-year-old, not turning 23 until the month of October.

From a self-assessment perspective, Bauer is a hitter who knows who he is, and needs to stay true to those elements in order to be successful. The newest member of the Indians organization explained what those elements are when the Rays visited Fenway Park this past August.


Bauers on his keep-it-natural swing: “My swing has just kind of been natural. Any time I went to a hitting coach growing up, the only thing they’d say is, ‘Don’t change anything.’ Beyond that, there have maybe been little tweaks here and there, but mostly it’s been about doing my work and staying right.

“I have to keep my swing and just let it happen. I have to trust that the natural path of my swing is going to take over — that by doing what comes natural, everything will take care of itself.

“When I’m trying to hit the ball in the air — trying to hit for launch angle — my swing tends to get long and loopy and I end up not getting the result I want. Everything will get out of sync. My hips will go early. My hands will drag behind and then try to catch up. I’ll end up pulling off to where I can’t reach the outside pitch and I’m getting jammed on the inside pitch.”

On his “see-ball, hit-ball” approach: “I’m not focusing on where the ball is going; it’s more just ‘see ball, hit ball.’ Let it get deep and trust that what you’ve been doing for 20 years is just going to happen. The less I think about which pitch is coming, where I want to hit it — the more I just let my natural ability take over — the better I’m going to be. I’m on a fastball, and then if they throw something else, with the way I’m balancing my swing, I’m able to adjust. When I’m going good, that’s all I’m doing.

“Walking to the plate, the only information I want is the pitches he throws. That’s it. When I start diving into percentages, like on 2-1 he throws a changeup 40% of the time, then I start thinking too much. When I’m thinking too much, I’m putting myself in a bad spot. Most guys have three pitches, so if you’re on the fastball and adjusting to the other two — you know what the other two are — I think you’re going to put yourself in a good spot.

“It’s good to have an idea, and it’s good to have information, but again, when I think too much I start adjusting in the wrong way. I start looking for pitches. That’s not how I hit. I can’t remember the last time I was looking for a changeup, got one, and was ready to hit it. All of your work in BP, in the cages, whatever, it’s all pretty much fastballs. No one is mixing in changeups, mixing in sliders. When you get into a game and try to do something different than you do in your work … it’s just not going to translate. At least for me. This is purely me.”

On balance, reaction, and staying in sync: “In the last few weeks I’ve noticed myself trying to outsmart the guys on the mound. I’ve been looking at counts and thinking, ‘He’s probably going to throw a slider here.’ All I’m thinking is slider, so even if he throws a slider, I’m not ready to hit it. Same as what I was just saying about changeups. If I’m thinking slider — even subconsciously; slider, slider, slider — chances are I’m not doing the same things I do if I’m looking fastball. My swing is going to be different. The balance of my stance is going to be different. The balance of my load is going to be different. I’m not putting myself in a position to hit it, even if he does throw it.

“If I’m looking for a fastball, if I’m timing myself for a fastball … that’s something I don’t want to get away from. Doing it in a different way doesn’t work. Again, this is just me, personally. Keeping fastball timing allows me to see the ball better, and if I see the ball better, I can adjust to the other pitches.

“For me, hitting is pure reaction. I’m not hunting a certain pitch. I’m not sitting on pitches or guessing. When I’m going good, I’m looking fastball outer half, and when anything else comes — the way that I’ve trained and practiced, the way my swing has always been— I’m able to adjust. I’m not sure I’ve ever put all of this in words before, but that’s how I hit.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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5 years ago

Bauers seems like a good add who could conceivably be better than Alonso at a fraction of the cost.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

Actually, Cleveland is hoping he’ll be better than Chisenhall as an OF.
1B is the fallback but they want to see if he can play OF, which is something he was never going to do for the Rays.

From the Cleveland PD website:

“The Indians likely see Bauers as a replacement for Michael Brantley in left field, but his primary position coming up through the minor leagues was first base. He was blocked in the outfield by several Rays prospects at the corner outfield positions.

According to Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America, Bauers received “good reports on his outfield play in the Arizona Fall League” in 2017 and that “he runs well and took surprisingly good routes to the ball.” Bauers appeared in 76 games at first for Tampa, 16 games in left and four games in right. He did not commit an error and had one assist in 28 outfield chances.”

5 years ago
Reply to  fjtorres

That would be really useful

5 years ago
Reply to  fjtorres

Alonso to White Sox