Once again, for all their troubles elsewhere, the Yankees have proven that they are one of the better teams at minor league deals. When Jake Bauers went on his initial power surge, I was not sure what to think. For the most part, he had significant struggles in his MLB career despite being a Top-50 prospect at one point. However, he remade his swing to be a perfect platoon hitter and even a decent power bat to face lefties with vertical moving profiles. Last week against the Mets, Bauers put on a very good day at the plate against Justin Verlander, even though he only had a single hit.
Given that Verlander is who he is, it’s rare to see someone put together three very good at-bats against in him in a single game, but that is exactly what Bauers did. In the first inning, he had a nine-pitch battle that ended with a great swing, but it hung up a bit too long. Tommy Pham was able to track 99-mph fly ball down the line just a few feet in front of the foul pole. Here is that swing:
This is a fantastic swing to put on a riding fastball up and away. After this at-bat, I was excited to see what Bauers would do in his next shot at the plate, and he did not disappoint.
This time, Bauers put together a 10-pitch battle and kept fouling off pitch after pitch. He fought off Verlander’s entire arsenal: a 1-1 slider, a 2-2 fastball, two 3-2 curveballs, and another 3-2 slider. Unfortunately, after putting on another great swing, he hit a light-tower popup:
This one was hit at 97 mph, so Bauers had two great at-bats and a bunch of great swings with nothing to show for it.
When Bauers got a third opportunity to face him, I was eager to see if he could turn a bunch of good swings and takes into a hit. Luckily Verlander fell behind in the count and Bauers had his couple of shots. Let’s dive into the at-bat.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
Bauers had seen every single one of Verlander’s pitches with ease all night. Verlander needed to be precise and strategic on how he approached this one, but he let this fastball sail above the zone for a 1-0 count. I had no clue where he would go next.
Pitch 2 (1-0 count)
At this point, it was clear that Verlander was nibbling. The 40-year-old had begun to lose his command in this inning as he approached the 100-pitch mark and had little room for error. Luckily for Bauers, this one was a few inches inside and he had himself a 2-0 count. This was the 21st pitch Bauers had seen from JV on the night – that is a lot!
Pitch 3 (2-0 count)
This was a chance to plop a loopy curveball in the zone when he was behind in the count but like I said, his command just wasn’t there anymore and he held it a bit too long. With a 3-0 count and man on third, the expectation was for Bauers to be aggressive. The Yanks needed to get this run in and nobody had been better against Verlander all night.
Pitch 4 (3-0 count)
Typically, you won’t see a hitter swing at a backed-up slider, but Bauers was on everything! Once again, he put on a great swing but didn’t get the result he wanted. Verlander was going to challenge the zone and this was Bauers’ final shot to turn all these great swings and takes into a hit.
Pitch 5 (3-1 count)
There it is! After seeing 24 pitches, Bauers finally turned a swing into a knock and tied the game up for his team. Amusingly enough, this was Bauers’ lowest exit velocity (95.9 mph) of his three against JV on the night. What a great day at the plate for the Yankees’ outfielder. This a great example of a day where a hitter might not have had lofty results, but proved that they are a legit threat at the plate.