My guest today is Trevor Bauer, who is arguably the very best pitcher in Major League Baseball. In 2020, he had the lowest Earned Run Average of any pitcher and won the National League Cy Young Award, which goes to the top pitcher in the game. I wanted to interview Trevor not only because he’s an excellent pitcher, but because he takes a radical approach to the game. He’s a physicist and a scientist. A scholar and an entrepreneur. And you don’t find that combination very often. Furthermore, he might be the most polarizing figure in baseball. Some people love him; some people hate him. But every fan has an opinion on him. Off the field, he’s the founder of Momentum, an athlete-driven media company that uses storytelling to connect athletes and fans. To build it, he started a podcast and a YouTube vlog where he talks about pitching mechanics and what it’s like to play professional baseball.
Personally, this was one of the coolest episodes I’ve ever recorded. I grew up as an avid San Francisco Giants fan, and I still remember getting to the field early to get autographs and catch baseballs during batting practice. This interview would have made little 8-year old David proud, and I’m lucky to share it with you today. Please enjoy my conversation with Trevor Bauer.
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2:18 – How Trevor would change the way baseball is marketed and to whom it should be pitched.
5:45 – Why updating the game for a modern audience would be difficult, despite what Trevor believes would be a successful move.
11:23 – Why there aren’t many unique fields like in San Francisco or Boston.
15:10 – How baseball is not being evangelized well by the people who could be doing it most easily.
19:51 – How general scientific literacy can and should be improved through sports.
23:28 – What it takes for Trevor to scientifically design his pitches and then implement them in a game.
31:00 – The business of baseball, and how Trevor has learned to maneuver its quirks and difficulties.
37:13 – If he could choose anybody, who else in the sports world and beyond Trevor would want to talk to.
42:15 – How Trevor looks into the future to superpower his game.
48:07 – The dangers of getting too in-depth in analyzing your game, and how it can hurt you.
54:43 – Why you should practice analytically and perform intuitively.
56:13 – What breathing techniques Trevor employs in his game.
58:18 – The different aspects of building a business and how Trevor is handling each element differently.
1:07:30 – Why Trevor’s actual goals in his work and his game aren’t covered by the media.
1:10:44 – How his father helped Trevor succeed in baseball by giving him the tools he needed to work hard.
David: So let’s play a game. So Major League Baseball calls you up one day and says, "Hey, Trevor, we need your help making the game popular, cool for young people again." What do you actually do? How do you actually think of that plan?
Trevor: First, I’ll figure out where the young people are because you have to deliver content to people where they are these days. They’re not going to tune in to a separate platform to get content, there’s so much of it online and so easy to access that people are on TikTok or they’re on Instagram, they’re not really going to be on both of those and then, go to the MLB app and then go to the ESPN app or whatever. So figure out where they are and figure out how to deliver content specific to that platform to them there. That’s the first thing and then the second thing is you got to give people … young people, especially a reason to be inspired, a way to identify with the people that they’re watching. Yeah, I grew up … I was going to Dodger games and I would look out on the field and these guys are superstars, right?
It’s like, wow, it’s like this inspiring moment but they didn’t feel like real in a sense. They almost felt like aliens because it’s like, I had no context by which I had any sort of way to see myself in them, other than that I just happen to play baseball. If I had known what I know now which is like as soon as I got into pro ball, these guys are … they eat the same things, they talk about the same things, they wear the same shoes, they’re humans, they put their pants on the same way everyone else does. Had I had a little bit of context to that, it would have made it a lot easier for me to aspire to be them because I could see myself in them.
So that’s the next thing and then, off-field content. There’s so much on field content already but that’s kind of where it stops. So when the game ends, you lose a little bit of the audience until the next game and baseball is unique in the sense that, we play every single day for six months or seven months or whatever. NBA does a great job of off field stuff. They have fashion. They have culture. They have business dealings. They have entertainment. They’re like really well integrated into that space. I think MMA is like the gold standard here. Obviously, it’s an individual sport, so you can spend more time kind of developing your personalities and your characters because that’s how you sell fights.
People love one guy and then, hate the other guy and they want to see them fight. You can do a lot of that in baseball too. Get players in street clothes, build up their personalities. There’s so many electric personalities that I’m with in the clubhouse that just no one knows about. I’m like, "Man, if the public would just see …" like, "Dude, can you just make the Snapchat videos you send me every night public, you’d be a star." That’s not really the culture right now. The culture is kind of, if you do anything else, if you post on your Instagram a lot, if you’re on Twitter a lot, you’re not focused on your job and it’s unfortunate.
So those are some of the places I’d start. There’s a lot more things that I would do but you got to deliver the content to where people are. You got to figure out how to give the young people a way to identify with the players and then, you need to promote individual personalities, not just the team.
David: Awesome. How about changes to the actual game, maybe pitching clock, 15 seconds, you get the ball back from the catcher and you got to go. I mean, that’s one of my worries about baseball, is just the slowness of it all. A game takes two hours, 45 minutes. You’re sort of sitting there. It doesn’t have this back and forth and it seems to me that sort of speed really helps with keeping the game fresh and alive for people but just because internet … digital speed is very different. There’s not a lot of downtime and if you look at eSports and you’re just sitting watching someone play a video game, it’s … and that’s the sort of cadence and the rhythm that young people are accustomed to.
Trevor: Yeah, I think the attention spans in general in society have shrunk quite drastically. Social media has certainly helped usher in that era. It’s all … if I click on something and it doesn’t load a second or two, I’m on to the next thing. So I certainly agree that upping the pace of the game would help. Now, how to do that is a little … that’s I guess the question, right? I think music in between pitches, some sort of like entertainment in the stadium going on during the game to make the stadium a destination for fans to come back to. If you have live performers, like a DJ, kind of during the game, obviously, whenever the pitcher like steps on the mound to get the sign and get ready to pitch, cut it off, something like that.
Have some sort of different themed nights that you’re playing music in between pitches. I think that’d be one way to make it feel faster paced and more entertaining in person. I think there’s some ways … some stuff you can do with VR cameras to I guess, again in person but also at home. You set up … So there’s a technology that’s on, in Japan where they can actually take a pitcher’s metric. So it’s thrown and within a couple seconds they can … as long as they have the pitcher, themselves digitized, they can flip it and have someone stand in the box and see the exact pitch coming in that was just thrown. So you could have a station or a couple places throughout the stadium where people can come in and do that in between pitches like, "Oh, what was that?"
They’d be in line like they’re watching the game, like stepping the box. So they have a little bit of a break from just sitting in the stands watching the game to actually experiencing what it’s like … at shortstop what it’s like when the pitcher just got hit for a big home run, what did that look like from the hitter’s perspective, stuff like that. Similarly at home, you can put 360 VR cameras at different places where people could tune into different feeds as they’re watching the game. The majority of people now are watching the game at home not coming to the stadium because the fan experience at home is so good, the broadcasts are so good, the clarity is so good and it’s way cheaper.
Going into a game is expensive. If a family of four goes to a game, it’s hard to get to a game for under 180, 200 bucks with a family of four and that’s just including tickets and parking and not a whole lot of … not much like food or anything at the game. So doing stuff there where you have a unique camera angles, where in between pitches, you can flip and say, "Oh, I wonder what so and so is doing in the dugout," and you have a camera there where you can like look around at the dugout, if you have a VR headset. Some stuff like that. I’m generally against changing the rules of the game because as a competitor, I think the product itself is the best it’s ever been right now.
I think the players are the most athletic or the most talented, it’s the fastest, not the speed at which the game is played but when the ball is actually in play, it’s the fastest game that has been. So, people talk about it with a shift all the time, "Oh, well, if you got rid of the shift, it would create more hits and then, create more action." I’m like, "My thought is that hitters are going to … hitters should adapt and create a new skill set by which they can beat the shift and compensate for it because ultimately, I think that raises the level of ability in the game and I could be wrong in this but I think people want to see the best players with the best ability level. Otherwise, they would watch an entertaining minor league game over a big league game."
While that may be true locally, you might go to your local minor league stadium to watch a game because it’s most accessible and it’s cheaper. I don’t see people tuning in to watch minor league broadcasts. I think they’re tuned in to see the best of the best. So anything that raises the skill level in the league, I think is beneficial. So those are some of the things, I don’t think a pitch clock … I’m not much a fan of that in the sense that there’s a certain cadence and a certain rhythm that you get into when you’re like locked in and focused on something with your catcher, that I think it would be a little bit distracting in some ways.
Now, certainly there’s pitchers that take 45 seconds or a minute but like Yu Darvish, I think was the pitcher that took the most time in between pitches this year but he finished second in the Cy Young Award and he was excellent. So do you want to penalize … if that’s his cadence and rhythm that works best for him, do you want to penalize him by putting him on … because so many people are tuning in to see him throw pitches in a rapid fashion or they’re tuned in to see him strike a bunch of people out and be nasty. So, guess it depends on what you think people are watching and how you want the product to develop.
David: Yeah, one of the things that I really wish that you would get from baseball was more personality in the way that the fields are designed. I grew up going to Oakland A’s games and I grew up going to San Francisco Giants’ games. The Giants’ stadium was so much cooler, right? You got 421 yards out the right field corner then you have 309 to hardcore right fields, right down the line and so Barry Bonds would just rip them, pull them down the line and hit them into McCovey Cove. Then, there’d be a whole series of things that would happen when the ball went into McCovey Cove. Then, the right field sort of angles and it’s brick so you get these weird bounces. Then, you go to Wrigley, you’ve got the IV in the outfield.
You go to Fenway, you have the green monster out in left field. These stadiums have so much personality and then, on the other side of the bay, you had Oakland A’s, which was fully symmetrical, wasn’t that exciting and one thing that I would love to see from ballpark designers is make the fields cool. It seems simple to me but it’s almost like a thing of once you get a lot of people who are designing something, people can’t really agree, the simple field is just … I don’t know, I guess kind of easiest to agree upon but if it’s one person who’s just trying to have fun, trying to make, I mean, this is an entertaining product. That’s the goal of creating baseball, make the fields cool.
Trevor: Yeah, I can see that. So like the ivy and the brick, from a player’s safety standpoint, I’ll play devil’s advocate here, having players run into the wall can be a little bit tough on those harder surfaces. So, again, it kind of comes down to, are you there more to see the entertainment of the ballpark, the funny bounces, different stuff or is seeing someone rob a home run at some point, like equally as entertaining because the more creative you make the field, the harder it is for players to adjust as they go on the road. So the less opportunities you have to interact with the wall, interact with a home runs, stuff like that.
So just to play devil’s advocate a little bit but I certainly like the idea of making the surrounding features of the field interesting like the things that stands out about San Francisco’s park to me is … I mean, there’s a lot but there’s the huge … the glove and the Coke bottle and some of these elements and then, like you say you go to a place like Oakland and it’s like, well, I mean, I get it’s a football stadium and this and that but there’s nothing that like … as far as the entertainment in person for the fan and just the visual of it, there’s nothing really like that. So definitely agree on that side. Unfortunately, stadiums are around for like 30, 40 years and don’t change over a whole lot.
So once you get one, the novelty of it wears off somewhat quickly relative to the lifespan of the stadium itself. I mean, like playing in Atlanta, their new stadium, it’s awesome. Some of the areas around it, building up … I love stadiums that are kind of open in the outfield or have some sort of visual out and they have a skyline behind or they have some sort of like hotels, they have something back there, because it gives a super visual … like it’s super appealing visually. So yeah, I see that, I think that’s something that can be done. It kind of goes back to the in person experience with the fan. I’m big on finding a way to get fans back to the stadium, making it cheaper to get fans there, making it more accessible to them because ultimately, I had so many good experiences with my dad going to the games.
The other experiences we have were listening on the radio and no one listens on the radio anymore. So it’s a little bit different now when you’re on your phone streaming and it kind of breaks that in person type of feel of being at a baseball game.
David: Yeah, I remember so distinctly every year, we would go to Yosemite National Park as a family and then, my dad would organize a big trip. It was always the first week of October, so it was always early playoffs. I so distinctly remember, right by the river in the middle of the park was the only place where you could get a radio signal. What we did was we took the antenna on the car, my dad drove an old station wagon, this thing was ancient. Then, we put a clothes hanger on the top of the car and every year, we did it because that was the only place in Yosemite where we could listen to the game and you know, Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper, long time Giants announcers, it was epic.
The question that I want to ask you is, growing up, one of my favorite books was called The Physics of Baseball, 160 pages and I didn’t like physics at all but what happened was, once I got into physics of baseball, all physics just lit up. The way that the ball curves, the way that spin rates work with speed, that work with atmosphere, stuff like that, fascinating. I think that in some way, if we want a more numerical society, which I think is on net, very good, how can we teach people through the game of baseball, maybe use TrackMan. Maybe talk about some of the stuff that you’re talking about earlier with that Japanese technology, of having all the numerical speed, spin rates, all that sort of stuff and actually have kids revel in the mathematical beauty of the sport.
Trevor: Yeah, I think it’s a big thing. Something that I was really impressed with over in Japan when I was there last off season is they’re huge on the education surrounding the data. Their culture, their fans want to know more about it. Here, I think one of the biggest things that I hate about the current game is the kind of old school baseball people that talk down on the current game. I don’t know how you’re supposed to have interest from a young fan when they tune into a baseball game and the announcer is like, "Well, back in my day, we hit behind the runner and we play baseball, and these guys just strike out too much." It’s like, "Okay, now I’m not interested in the product."
Same thing with analytics, it happens all the time. It’s like, "Oh, these news, spin rate guys and launch angle swings and this and that, it’s bad for the game." It would just go on and on and on, because it’s not their baseball that they remember. So I think it kills fan interest and then it also kills the interest in being educated about the numbers. So I think we’ve done a terrible job as an industry as far as educating the public and the fans about what they mean, how they’re beneficial, why they should care and what’s exceptional and what’s not. Half the time you’re showing slow motion video on a broadcast and the announcer has absolutely no idea … he’s never looked at slow motion video.
Has no idea he’s like trying to talk his way through it and can’t deliver a clear message so how do you educate your fanbase to care about something that’s integral to the game right now and will be forever after this point without having your announcers, your spokesperson, your sales people in a way, know the product well? So I think that’s a huge disconnect. There’s certainly some good ones out there and it’s really refreshing when you hear them call a game because you’re like, "Wow, that’s actually valid insight, they’re educating the public while they’re …" it’s a very unique skill set, how you can weave in education with entertainment.
It’s certainly possible and I had the same type of experience as a ninth grade. I didn’t know anything really about physics or anything like that. I took an AP Physics class with a man named Martin Kirby. He was talking about how … he made class fun instead of like, if you drop an object off a cliff, it’s like, if a baby falls from two feet, how high would the baby bounce and just little things like that, that appealed to ninth graders and we think it’s funny, right? All the lessons that I learned about Newtonian physics, I saw, I’m like, "Oh, wow, a particle or like an object traveling through the air. I can figure out the launch speed, if I know the distance," and I was like, "Oh, I can apply that to long toss or oh, I could apply torques and stuff like that to my pitching delivery."
So I started trying to apply physics and that’s really what launched my whole scientific method driven research and development project on myself for the next … I mean, it’s been … because I was 14 at the time so more than half my life that I’ve been doing it. That one class, that one education technique that he used to just make physics fun, completely changed my baseball career. I think that that’s something that should be and can be applied to the larger fan base. If you find ways to weave education and entertainment together.
David: Yeah, you know, golf does a really good job of some of the things that you’ve just said. Golf, you watch and some of the announcers are lunatics when they look at slow motion video but it’s actually gotten a lot better. I spent … I played college golf. I, for a while, managed the, believe it or not, the world’s largest collection of slow motion golf swings. I would travel the country, I’d take videos and I would study those and then, when I was in high school, my junior senior year, I was working with one of the top golf instructors in the country. We were taking Titleist Performance Institute ideas and then we’re throwing force plates on ourselves.
We’re standing on force plates. We’re wearing all those computers and then … it was called a K-vest. That’s what it was called. So, it would go on your … one sort of around your waist, another on your chest and then-
Trevor: We used to use K-vest in baseball.
David: Same thing in baseball, right.
Trevor: Yeah. I know what K-vest is, yeah.
David: Yeah, and so you get to see all this and what was really cool was when there were things that were really counterintuitive, that in retrospect are just totally obvious, right? So to take an idea from your world, people always talk about, "Okay, the arm should speed up and accelerate before your foot hits the ground." No, your foot has to hit the ground. Once it does, you actually have the … the body can move and it has the force that it needs to basically … you go from ground to shoulder I guess it would be and then the shoulder can accelerate. Things like that, that are either counterintuitive or once you get it, you’re just like, "Of course it works like that."
Trevor: Yeah, there’s so many of those in pitching, in the delivery. There’s so much bad information out there about it in the first place, that you need to have your … a long arm or you got to throw with your legs and all these bad like teaches and what do those mean, first off and then no, those are just actually wrong. A lot of people … there’s two that I’ll talk about. I’ll talk about release point, people think that you release the ball. You don’t actually release the ball. The ball flies out of your hand due to inertia at the point in which your arm … the arc of your arm is changing directions and of course, that would be the case because that’s when the forces are the greatest, right?
If you have a lever swinging out around here, the ball is going to eject as you come around because at some point, the inertia of the ball overcomes the finger strength and the ball projects to the plate. It seems like semantics in a way, but it’s not because if you think of a release point, you’re thinking of actually having to do something to like, release the ball. Whereas, if you think of it as an ejection point, then you just set your grip, you’re like, "Oh, it’s going to eject at some point and you throw it," and that’s actually the most efficient way for your body to stay healthy and to make this ball spin. The way you want it to is to not attempt to do anything at the end, just set your wrist and lock the grip in and then just throw.
Similarly, with release point, like, "Oh, you got to keep the release point the same so the hitters can’t see it," but no one stops to think that the hands moving … this is the fastest occurrence in all of sports is like how fast the arm is unwinding in a pitch. The rotational accelerations and speeds and stuff like that are ridiculous. There’s no way … I mean human is seeing about 30 frames per second, from an eyesight standpoint, there’s no way to see what the actual release point is. So, we don’t have a ton of good ways to measure these things yet but some of the initial studies are like, "Well, hitters can’t see within like a three ball width. They can’t tell the difference between like three ball widths in any direction."
So now do you have to have your release point be exactly the same for each pitch? Why don’t you sculpt your release point within that window to optimize for the pitch movement because hitters can’t see it anyway? You think about it that way and you’re like, "Well, of course, they can’t. It happens way too fast. Everyone thinks they’re still chasing this like, "Oh, make your release point exactly the same." I mean, baseball is littered with things that kind of makes sense when you don’t have the full understanding but now with technology, to be able to measure things, we know them to be objectively false.
David: Dude, the very pissed-off-ness that you have with baseball being archaic, with it not being numerical, the level to which you are pissed off with that is also the level to which you have an advantage in what you do.
Trevor: Yeah, I think so. Less so as time goes forward because more and more people are becoming initiated. It was 2013 … I think it’s 2014 that I purchased an Edgertronic camera, 2012 or ’13, I was the first person with a portable TrackMan unit to measure some of this stuff. So I had a huge early mover advantage at that time because I had been studying slow motion footage for five years before anyone else knew the thing existed. So I’ve already figured out all the different, I guess, control points for how to shape a pitch, how to design a pitch. I’ve already designed two or three pitches in a lab that I’ve added to my arsenal and used in a game, by the time some people were even seeing Edgertronic footage, slow motion footage for the first time.
David: Talk about that. How do you design a pitch in a lab?
Trevor: Everything that I do … pretty much everything I do in life goes back to my engineering process, my problem solving process which is identify where you are, be a good self-evaluator, be honest with yourself, know exactly where you are and then, design out in your head exactly where you want to be to like the littlest detail and then, you have your end points. Now, you just create a process and you go, "Okay, well, I’m here and I need to get there on this skill set so how do I like wind my way up there, while I need to improve on this metric or I need to improve on that metric or I need to …" so you can design a process and then you iterate. So it’s, where are you now, where do you want to be, design a process, iterate the process.
So, when I look at the pitch, I’d say, "Okay, what does my arsenal need?" Well, I have a breaking ball that generates a lot of swing and misses but I can’t throw it for a strike very often so I’m behind the count, so I need to throw something for a strike that’s not a fastball but something that’s a breaking ball that I can easily throw for a strike. Well, okay, if I’m going to do that, I probably need to minimize the overall movement of it because the more the ball moves, the harder it is to control. So I need something that basically just spins like a football. It’s called a gyro ball, a gyro slider, that I can just throw it and go straight and then, it just drops with gravity.
It looks kind of like a fastball. Okay, so now I know exactly what the pitch is that I want, that fits in my arsenal. Well, what does that look like? How fast is the spin? What’s the spin axis? Okay, I throw 95 and my curveball is 78, so I need something kind of in the middle speed wise, so that I … there’s some deception there. I can’t just sit on one speed or the other, they have to deal with three speeds. So in the middle of 95 and 78 is 87, 86 to 88, somewhere in that range, right? Okay, I know that’s the speed. Now, let me look at the pitches all around the league and who has the best gyro slider, how fast does it spin? Is it slow spinning? Is it fast spinning? Well, that one tends to perform better if it spins faster, so the top end of that category is like 25, 2600 about, if you go over that it’s super elite so that’s my goal.
I’m shooting for a gyro slider with … like football spin basically from a direction standpoint at 86 to 88 with 2600 spin rate. Okay, now if I can measure what I throw, pitch to pitch, I can try this. I can try that. I can try the other until I replicate something that’s close. Okay, let me drill that in. Okay, now, how do I hybrid it. So then that’s the iteration of the process, getting close. So I did that with my gyro slider. I did that with my sweeping slider. I did that with my two seam. I’ve attempted to do it with my changeup multiple years, although that’s the one that I think … because of some of the adaptations that have happened to my shoulder over the course of throwing for an entire lifetime, I just personally, anatomically I struggled to do a changeup.
David: Why? Explain that. Wouldn’t a changeup just be … like explain the shoulder point, but also explain the nuance of the changeup. For me, I just see a changeup as something that goes slower, whereas I see a slider … when I think of slider, I think of some lateral curve.
Trevor: Right. So to start with the first one, anatomically speaking, the more you throw, the more your shoulder adapts to what it’s being asked to do, so I go into external rotation a lot. So I have a ton of lay back in my right shoulder. I can externally rotate my right shoulder along ways. I can’t externally rotate my left shoulder nearly as far. A lot of that is because just over the years of throwing, the bone structure will actually slowly kind of … it’s called like retroversion of the shoulder so it’ll actually morph to allow for the range of movement that you’re forcing. So basically the simplest term is your body adapts to the stimulus that you give it. So the external rotation is tied to the supination direction of the forearm, which is basically like if you have your hands kind of out in front of you and you turn your hand to face the sky, that’s the supination direction of the forearm.
So that is also tied in with breaking balls because your hand has to be kind of like supinated to be able to throw a breaking ball whereas a changeup is tied to pronation, which is tied also to internal rotation of the shoulder. So I’m very good at externally rotating and supinating because that’s what I’ve done my entire life. I’ve never really like done a ton of pronation or internal rotation. So I have very limited internal rotation, structurally speaking, on my right shoulder relative to my left but I have a lot more external rotation. So, on changeup in order to … and this lead into the second point, in order to make a changeup good, it needs to be slower, for sure, you would think, it’s not actually true.
The movement profile of the changeup is actually the biggest thing. So if you look at someone like Zach Greinke, he may throw a fastball at 88. He might throw a changeup at 88. There has been times where he’s throwing a fastball 88 and followed up with a changeup at 89, which I guess at that point is a sinker, he calls it a changeup and the way he throws it is like a changeup grip so that plays. I mean, Luis Castillo throws changeups at 92 miles an hour. Now he throws 98, 100, so there is a little bit of speed difference there. It’s mainly the movement profile of it and you can think of it as like … the same type of thing is like a gyro slider. So, if you have a fastball that comes out and you just imagine it’s like a straight line, you want something that starts out on a straight line and then like deviates from that late enough where the hitter can’t make a change in his swing to compensate for it.
So it’s like, "Okay, well, I want something that comes out straight and drops with gravity, because that’s the way to hold the fastball line the longest." If you have any sort of downward movement to it, it’s going to deviate or you’re going to have to throw it on a different trajectory out of your hand. It’s like a curveball, you have to like throw the curveball up, so it breaks down a little bit. So you want something that basically has no component of front spin or backspin. You just wanted to drop with gravity and then you want something that moves a little bit. So it’s probably … instead of the gyro slider that goes straight, the best access for a changeup is basically with the axis pointing straight up to the sky, so the ball is completely spinning sideways.
If you can do that, then increasing the spin rate a ton makes a lot of sense, because you’re not going to create any lift but if you can’t quite sidespin it, then it’s like, okay, well, what’s the balance between taking speed off so it’s in the air longer, so gravity pulls it down more, so that gives me more movement that I want. Also, if I spin the ball slower then less Magnus force, less overall movement so the ball is going to drop more. If I tilt the axis down or if I spin direction, it gets more towards sideways, that also gives me more like drop or less lift, it gives me more movement, perceived movement to the hitter. So those are like the three control points and then what makes a good changeup, well, can you do all three? If you can’t do all three, can you do two of them?
A lot of people can do one, they can throw it slower. People can figure that out but it’s hard to figure out how to throw it slower and spin it slower and spin it sideways or if you spin it perfectly sideways, spin it super fast. There’s a lot of nuance and complexity with the changeup that no one talks about because in old school baseball it’s like well, you throw it slow and you pull your wrist down or whatever and that was their changeup. It’s a little bit different these days because you have to have objectively … you have to have the pitch that’s objectively good in order to get big league hitters out because they’re so prepared and they’re so good. So it’s just raising the level league wide.
David: I want to switch gears here a little and talk a little bit about the business of baseball and then some of the business ideas that you’re really focused on. What has been the most surprising thing about getting into major league baseball and realizing, "Hey, this is actually a business." I mean, one of the things that you’re really focused on is one year contracts. Maybe we can start there and end up in some of the ideas about business and how that interacts with your life. I mean, maybe even get into trades, like in normal life and most professions, you don’t wake up one day and say, "Hey, you were in Cleveland. Now, you’re going to Cincinnati."
Trevor: Yeah, the trades part is always interesting. I try to explain it to fans all the time and put it in terms that they would understand, which is exactly like you said, if you’re working a job like let’s say, you live in Cleveland and your family lives there and you have a house there and your kids are in school. You come home every night, you cook dinner, you have a family dinner. You’re living your normal life, you work your nine to five job. Monday morning comes around, you walk into your job and your boss says, "Hey, can I talk to you for a second?" You’re like, "Yup, sure what’s going on?" You’ve been doing a good job. You’re like, not really expecting anything. He says, "Hey, you’ve been traded to our California branch. You have 48 hours or you have 72 hours to report to work there. Good luck. Thank you for your work here."
That’s very jarring, right, 72 hours to be in California, reporting and doing your job in a new office. So now, it’s like, "Okay, well, I have to go home and do I bring my kids with me? Do I schedule flights? How do I get my stuff there? I got to find housing. I guess I got to get a hotel while I’m at work so that I can find a place to live. How do I travel? When do I get another off day so I can bring all my stuff across country with me or do I do that now?" All these questions happen. No one really goes through that and then, basically the next thing is the California office expects you to perform at a higher level than you were performing because that’s why they traded for you amidst all these different things.
So trades are super jarring. Fanbases don’t understand all the stuff that goes into it. I tried to make a video of what it looks like to get traded and all the things I have to think about it so fans could kind of see like, "Oh, wow, I never thought about that. I never thought about that. I never thought about that." They can have some sort of understanding but yeah, at the end of the day, it just goes back to baseball being in business, right? It’s like, "Hey, this is the best thing for the business and employees are at the mercy of how the decision makers make the decisions." If they want to lay people off, well, it’s like you get cut or you get released. Those are kind of the parallels.
David: So how do you actually deal with this? Do you have people who you hire who maybe take care of all these things? Do you only live in temporary housing? I mean, I remember in San Francisco, there was an apartment complex, across the street from the ballpark where a bunch of players lived and presumably they had month to month, maybe day to day rent, where you could get traded and you’d be right out, it’d be no problem and then, maybe the Giants actually paid for that, then you’d reimburse the Giants or something like that. Tactically, how do you deal with these things?
Trevor: So if you’re lucky enough to have a good agent, your agent will help do some of these things. They’ll help figure out where you may live. They’ll find you a hotel in the new city. They may help ship your car at different points, coordinate with the clubhouse staff of the former team to then take your car and ship it out so you can get around because that’s the other thing, your car is in whatever city you’re in and you go to a new city and you’re expected to live and get to the field but you don’t have a car. So, yeah, agents will help with it. There are rules in place by which the team reimburses players for your first seven days of hotel. So you’ll get seven days in wherever the team hotel is in the new city, that you’re actually at home. So, if you join the team on the road, that doesn’t count your seven days.
If you go home and it’s three days at home and then you go on the road, you come back, you still have four days and that’s reimbursable but there’s not a ton of infrastructure by which to handle the family situation and the moving of the stuff. That’s kind of left to the player or I guess, sometimes the players’ agent would assist in that if … again, if you have a good agent and there are some good agents out there. Certainly there are a lot more not so good agents than there are good ones.
David: I’ve always wanted to ask this, but why do baseball players chew so much tobacco?
Trevor: Man, I don’t know. I’ve never chewed tobacco. I think it’s gross. I don’t dip. I’ve never done it. I think it’s just kind of a cultural thing. You grow up watching these guys on the screen and you just get this image of a baseball player with like a big lump of tobacco and like a char or whatever. So young kids are like, "Oh, well, I’m trying to like pattern my game after my favorite player and he’s got this thing, and that’s the look of it and he go to college." I think the other part of it is the stimulant obviously, right? Playing every single day … back in the day, you had greenies and you’d have these amphetamines that are in the clubhouse, so it would be … there’d be a bowl of them.
The culture back then was like, all right, you have a day game and you roll out a day game at four and you’re like, "All right, I’m going to go have a good night with my boys." So you end up out of the bar, you end up at the club, you end up at a party, you’re doing whatever you’re doing and you realize it’s like 8 AM and you’re like, "Okay, well, I got to get to the field at 1 so I guess I’ll … I’ll just keep it going. I won’t sleep," or you have a night game. You go out, you got to dig in the next day, you roll in having not slept and still hang over and you’re like, "Well, I got to get up for the game. I got to get through this," so you take some amphetamines and you go out there and you’re on your greenies and you go play. That used to be it.
Now obviously, greenies are illegal now. So the stimulants of choice are caffeine, energy drinks and tobacco that kind of people will dip. It will give them this kind of jittery high and the more you do it, the less stimulated you get by those doses and then you can go down the line and down the line because getting through 162 games in 182 days can be tough, especially if you have to play every day. It’s a little different for pitchers, given that I pitch every fifth day, so I have four days in between where I can just like zone out and relax. Position players, I mean, they may play a 14 inning game that ends at 1:00 in the morning and have a noon game the next day, on getaway day. It’s like, they got to get up for it somehow or they sleepwalk and you lose badly and that’s not good.
David: Who outside of the world of baseball do you admire? I mean someone that comes to mind for me … and I don’t know if you guys have a relationship, but I feel like you guys should be good friends is Bryson DeChambeau and golf.
Trevor: Yeah, I’ve never met him. I’m trying to at some point. I’d love to just sit down and hear him talk about golf because I think there’s so much to be learned and just hearing people who are excellent at what they do talk about what they do. Similarly, I’d love to sit down with someone like Saban or Bill Belichick, even though I’m not a huge football fan but just hearing them talk about … you don’t get to that level of excellence without being able to organize people and interact with people and have a repeatable process and those are some of the things that I’m super interested in right now. Elon Musk is another one, just from a work ethic standpoint, I think his mind is fascinating. So that’s kind of one outside of sports.
Anyone who’s elite, I’m a big fan of greatness. People who are elite performers in their field, so Tom Brady. I’d love to talk to Tom about just what he does, what it’s like, what his process is. Business leaders like Ray Dalio. I’d love to talk to Ray Dalio and just understand like … Steve Cohen is a great example. I mean, this man has built a billion dollar, a multi-billion dollar empire for himself. You don’t get there without being able … to be excellent in many different fields and have a lot of different really interesting attributes. I’d love to just sit down and get a data dump in a lot of ways like, how did you do this? I love reading books that people have read, the people have written about their successes like Peter Thiel and Patrick Bet-David and Ray Dalio, like I mentioned and some of these other guys, it’s like-
David: What did you get from Peter Thiel?
Trevor: Just the way he looks at competition, I think is a big thing. It’s like, because everyone … it’s going back to something we talked about earlier, you would think that these things are true because they make kind of intuitive sense until you realize that, of course, they don’t make sense. Everyone thinks, "Oh, I’m going to get into business, I’m going to compete with these guys and I’m going to work my way up and stuff like that." He’s like, "No, that’s stupid. Why would you want to compete in a competition trap?" It stifles the profit and you want to be able to get to a monopoly state. I’m like, "Oh, yeah, of course. From a business standpoint, why would you want to compete with anyone? I don’t want to have competitors."
So just shaping the way you look at things of like, "Okay, can I escape the competition trap? Is this a monopolistic idea or is it a service business?" Do I really want to put all the work into it? If the potential for the valuation of the company is 10 or 20 million or do I want to try to pick something in a different industry where the potential valuation is 10 billion?" I mean, just the way he looks at it from that, it’s very rigid, it’s very well-defined and I appreciate that because that’s kind of how my mind works. I’m kind of black and white. It’s either this or it’s that. It’s just right or wrong or whatever the case is. There’s not a whole lot of gray in the middle. So I appreciated that part of reading his work.
David: Yeah, there’s something actually very Thiel-esque about you in terms of he looks for a secret. That’s what he’s always looking for. He’s trying to … his famous question is, what is something that you believe to be true that other people would think is crazy? Nested within that is some kind of secret, some kind of special insight that you have about the world. Yours is … one of them, at least is that there’s basically all of this information out there that pitchers aren’t using. I think that one of the ways that progress actually emerges in the world is when something goes from being not understandable to being very understandable, extremely fast.
Let me give you an example. Take something like Uber. I remember when I was in high school, I waited like 45 minutes for a taxi that never came and I was pissed off, I was furious. I called the taxi company at the time and I said, "Hey, where is my cab," and they said, "Oh, we have no idea." Then, in the snap of the finger two, three years, all of a sudden, Uber is everywhere and Uber headquarters has a direct map of where all the Ubers are and they can merge that with some kind of heat map of where all the people who want Ubers, also are. So they can look at music festivals, they can look at sporting events, they can look at places that might be particularly popular with restaurants.
Then, all of a sudden, you go from a place where we have no idea where the cab is to, "Hey, we can match you. We can pair you and we have tons of visibility into-"
Trevor: Now, you pull up your phone and you’re like, "Oh, I see, he’s right here on the map. He’ll be here in a few minutes."
David: Exactly, right? So, for you … we’re talking about this earlier, right? Humans see it, say 30 frames per second, all of a sudden you can see it thousands of frames per second and then with something that is … I guess in some way we see in three dimensions but for the purpose of this conversation, it’s kind of two dimensional and what you can do is you can pop into three dimensions, right? You can rotate, you can actually look at, numerically what’s happening in the body, see what’s happening from all these different angles based on cameras and that’s actually a very Thiel-esque secret that you have.
Trevor: Yeah, the way I interpret that side of things, I try to look to the future and I say okay, like … so I’ll give a baseball example to illustrate this. If you take the best player, the best pitcher from 2000 and you put them into today’s game, what does that look like? Is he good? Is he the best? Back then it was like Mark Prior, right? It was Kerry Wood, it was Pedro Martinez. It’s like, okay, Mark Prior was ’94, ’95. He had a good breaking ball, probably objectively right now is … he may not be the best, who knows, he was good. He had a huge strike zone and he was the best. He put that ’94, ’95 starter with one breaking ball, not really a third pitch that like didn’t have the greatest command into today’s game. He’s like, a three starter or four starter, maybe a bullpen guy.
The human genome didn’t change. We didn’t change as humans in the past 20 years. So the question then becomes … so Mark Prior went from being elite 20 years ago to being let’s say, he would be an average pitcher today but nothing changed, so how do you take the average players of today and make them like the best player of today? What’s the difference between Mike Trout and your run-of-the-mill outfielder? Because humans are capable, clearly of doing what Mike Trout does because in 20 years, if you just play this out the way it goes, it’d probably be less than 20 years honestly, because technology just advances and accelerates.
You play this out, it’s like, okay, in 20 years, Mike Trout will be an average player or would be, Mike Trout now would be an average player in 20 years. How do you get all the average players now to be Mike Trout’s ability level? Is it strength and conditioning? Is it nutrition? Is it knowledge and understanding? Is it biomechanics? Is it … and you just go down the line. Again, it’s the start point and the end point. Well, you start with your average player and your end point is Mike Trout and you look at how do I close the gap between all of these different skill sets that Mike has? How do I close the gap in power? How do I close the gap in defensive ability and let’s create systems by which we can train the average player to be able to do those things because that’s where it’s going.
So then, that creates the secret, right? It’s like, "Oh, I can see in … right now what’s going on is this thing and so, that’s going to carry the next three to five years, as teams figure it out, as players start to just dive into that and understand it." Well, there’s these other four or five things that are going to come after that. Like we found out middle 20 teens, that velocity was important because we had pitch effects and we could start measuring how fast everyone actually threw in one database where we could compare and run some regressions on it. Then, we figured out that velocity itself wasn’t the only thing for a fastball, you have to have the movement profile, so that ushered in the pitch design era, which we’re still in the super beginning of.
Not all teams even have high speed cameras. Not all teams understand pitch design and how to actually train it and stuff like that. You have teams that are actively fighting against it and refuse to let players use data like that. So we’re still in the beginning stages of the pitch design but then the next progression is like, "Okay, well, now you have a fastball and you have another pitch. Well, what do you do with it? How do you be consistent every day? How do you stay healthy? How do you like all these different things that no one is addressing directly yet, because they’re still kind of on the lower hanging fruit?" So those become my secrets.
I’m like, "Okay, I see the future in 10 years, people will be worried about this. Let me build an infrastructure to handle that so that I’m the one they’re coming to, when they start worrying about that." With the camera I saw it, like Driveline built the infrastructure around the Edgertronic camera. Even though, I was the one that introduced the camera to Driveline, they had the infrastructure to capitalize on it and now they’re known and they’ve ushered in the pitch design era and that’s what one of the things they’re really known for. I was the one that developed a lot of that functionality but I didn’t have the infrastructure to capitalize on it personally.
So, that’s one of the things that I’m looking to do right now in the business world is to create those infrastructures so that when those revolutions come along, I’m the one that’s leading it and from a public facing standpoint.
David: Yeah. So lots here, so let’s get into business, I just want to say one thing about sort of the biomechanics of what you were talking about. One of the ideas, which I think you’ll appreciate that Bryson has is he has … and I don’t know that it would work in baseball due to just the differences in biomechanics between baseball and golf but he’s really into this idea called end range of motion and I’ll send you a video about it with him talking to his coach. So one of the things, for example, that he figured out, is that he could turn his arm to a place where he just couldn’t turn more left and then he would move his wrist back and then he ends up at a place where his arm can’t go any more left, so we literally basically can’t miss the ball left.
Then, what he’s trying to do is if you take an average golf swing, I’m just making this up now right, you have 80 variables. One of the things that he’s doing is he’s trying to reduce the number of variables in his swing as much as possible, so that he gets to a place say … ideally, where there’s like six variables in his golf swing and then, what you can do is when you’re struggling, when you’ve made bogey, bogey, par and you’re a little bit frustrated to over in the last three holes, then you can go back to those variables and actually fix in real time. So what you can think about is … I guess the baseball equivalent is, okay, so you’re missing high today? What are the three variables that cause you to miss high and then how do you get to a place where, I guess there’d be three levels?
Level one is how do you fix it after and at bat while you’re actually on the hill? Level two is, okay, you have an advantage over other people where you can go into the locker room and watch videos between the second and third inning, if the one, two, three there at bat and you’re number nine, so you’re not hitting for a little while. Then, third level would be okay, we actually have to wait until after this game. If you can basically move up into three to two, two to one, then you’ll end up having a big advantage.
Trevor: I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.
Trevor: Do you want to make that change? Do you want to be in level one? Now, you can have the ability to be but do you actually want to be there? When you look at a performance mindset standpoint, making a physical change like that is an internal focus, you’re focused on how your body is moving and a lot of times it’s very narrow because your body doesn’t get out of whack so much. It’s not like you take a golf swing, and then the next one, you swing the club over your head, right? You take a golf swing and then the next one is so slightly different that the ball slices. I throw a pitch and it goes where I want it and the next one I missed by two feet but the release point … the timing of it is like so minutely different that you can’t see it with the naked eye. So now you’re in a very, very narrow internal mindset.
That’s choking territory. That’s when you get the yips. That’s when you no longer can focus on playing the game. You can’t think about where you’re trying to throw the ball, you can’t think about some of these other things because you’re so internal that your reaction time goes down, the actual efficiency of your movements goes down because the way the body has to function at high speeds like that, it’s a bottom up system. Your foot hits the ground and it’s not like your brain says, "Okay, my foot hit the ground," because you have to take the information, the foot hits the ground that has to get transmitted to the brain, the brain has to say, "Okay, now stabilize the foot and send that back down," it’s way too slow.
So what actually happens is the neurons and everything and the muscle at that site, handle the variability there to stabilize the knee because they know that that’s … you’ve trained yourself to do that. The point of that is when you start thinking, narrow, internal, now you’re trying to shift to a top down system from a bottom up system and that’s where you get people to get the yips and they choke and their abilities go away. The best place to be in for performance mindset is a very narrow, external mindset, where it’s like, "Okay, I’m going to throw this pitch at 100 miles an hour to that exact spot and that’s all I’m thinking about is like that spot or like, I’m going to hit this ball at a 20 degree angle, over there and I can see the trajectory in my head, and like, that’s what I’m going for."
That’s when you get people that are in the zone or they’re locked in or those types of terms. They have no idea what’s going on. They don’t hear the crowd. They don’t have any … They can’t tell you why they made a decision because they weren’t focused on themselves. They weren’t thinking about the internal process. It was so external, they were so locked in to the surroundings and interacting in those surroundings and that’s when you see the best performances. So the question then becomes, do you want to try to make changes in game or not? Now, I fought this battle, I have the ability to make changes pitch to pitch but it’s terrible for me. So basically, what I do now is I’m like, "Okay, well, what I have today is what I have today. How I’m moving today is how I’m moving today."
David: When you make that decision, is that a decision that you make when you show up at the field and you start warming up two hours before or is that a decision that you make once you get on the hill and it’s the bottom of the third?
Trevor: Yeah, once you’re in the game. So leading up to it, I’ll be like, "Oh, I don’t feel like I’m moving well here. I need to like do this drill because I’m still warming my body up. I don’t care necessary a long toss, where the ball is going or whatever like that." Once you’re actually on the mound in the game, it’s like I got what I got right now and I got to figure out a way to compensate for my lack of command. Well, I don’t have a feel for a slider today so let me figure out how to make it work with the pitch I do have feel for, and stuff like that. So that’s something that’s very interesting to me, is the mindset of it all. So my way around that is to build such a robust system, while still accomplishing the end goal, that you can handle a bunch of different environments and a bunch of different movement patterns and still do that.
So what that might look like is, if you only ever throw off a mound and you only ever throw a fastball, when the mound digs out a little bit, it is a little bit different than before and you’re asked to throw a breaking ball, your system can’t handle that input. So who knows what you’re going to get as an output, you break your system. However, if you’ve thrown off a mound that’s dug out in a whole bunch of different ways, it’s tilted one way, it’s tilted the other way, you’ve thrown up the mound, you’ve thrown down the mound, you’ve thrown a bunch of different breaking balls, you’ve thrown with your eyes open, your eyes closed, when I open, when I closed, your left leg is super fatigued.
Your right leg is super fatigued, maybe you’re super fatigued as a whole, so you throw after a workout. Maybe you’re super fresh. Now, you’re expanding the number of inputs that you can put into your algorithm that spit out the correct answer, which is I threw this pitch to the spot that I wanted with the metrics and the speed that I want, the quality that I wanted. So that’s how I approach my training is keep the end goal the same, which is always to hit a target with a specific pitch, at a specific velocity and quality but change the environment. When you look at skill development, there’s like really three things you can change.
You can change the environment that you’re in, you can change the activity that you’re doing or you can change the system, the system would be your body so that’s partial fatigue. The activity you’re doing is throwing or swinging or shooting a basketball or whatever and then, the environment is how the mound is, is it hot, is it cold? Is the mound dugout or not? Are you on flat ground or whatever? So, I try to always change one of those things in my training so that I’m constantly building a much more robust system so I don’t have to think about, "Oh, I’m off here, I’m off there." I get off in a wider range of areas and still, I didn’t even noticed because I’m hitting … I’ll go back and look at video after the game, I’m like, "Oh, wow. My mechanics were shit today."
I’ll change them in between but I didn’t notice that they’re bad in the game because I was able to accomplish the goal of what I was doing.
David: Yeah, so I have an idea about this, and this is actually after spending a lot of time studying Bryson. This is where I ended up and it’s an idea that I call the practice analytically, perform intuitively, which is exactly what you’re saying. So when you’re not on the field, you’re super analytical, you’re looking at numbers, you’re basically … you could almost think of breaking things down, where you’re looking at specific aspects of your performance and you’re focused on those. Then, you’re very quantitatively driven and then, once the lights come on, you’re on the mound, you are fully intuitive. That’s what you’re saying here that once you get out there, everything … all the analytical stuff goes away and you begin to just focus on what you said.
I want to get a 90 mile per hour slider over home plate, bottom right side, it’s a two one count and I want to kind of fool them with a little swing and a miss or something like that.
Trevor: That’s a very simple way of putting it, very easy to understand and it encapsulates everything. Yeah, the more … I guess it brings in one of the areas that I think is most important in baseball right now, which is I consider them to be interpreters where you can speak nerd and understand all the data and you can distill it into a very simple message to communicate to the athlete and you can speak nerd and you can speak athlete. Those people don’t exist a ton right now but that’s like the arms race in baseball. If you can get one of those guys a pitching coach or a development coach,
David: Have you ever heard of The Inner Game of Tennis?
Trevor: Yes, yes.
David: Right, because that’s all the way on the opposite end. It’s really cool, so you got to watch the YouTube video. There’s like a 10 minute YouTube video where he comes out, there’s a bunch of old guys and gals, and they’re just hitting and it’s just boom, hit, boom, hit, boom, hit. Isn’t it interesting how like both ideas work and you just … they’re sort of just like tools in your toolkit, right? You want to be able to draw from this sort of very intuitive sense and then, you also want to be able to draw from the very analytical sense. Have you experimented with any of maybe Bob Rotella’s ideas or something like that?
Trevor: I’m not familiar.
David: Bob Rotella is a sports psychologist, really influential in the world of golf and I don’t know if my golf coach got this idea from him but one of the things that I was trained to do is when I was in the heat of the action, four by four breathing, four second inhales, four second exhales, do you do anything like that with breathing techniques?
Trevor: I do a lot with breathing techniques. There’s some good research around after an intense workout that people who are able to shift themselves, the parasympathetic nervous system state the quickest, get the most adaptation out of the workout. Also from a recovery standpoint, if you can come out of the sympathetic system like in between innings and get into parasympathetic state, you’re better off. I do it before bed to again, help turn my mind off and like shift my nervous system, so I actually get … when I’m consistent with my breathing routines, I see a massive uptick in my sleep quality, stuff like … during exercise, cadence breathing, during cardio and stuff like that. So I have a very detailed like breathing routine that I go through, like throughout the day.
I didn’t think it, I was like … I breathe, what difference does it make and then, I did it and I was like, "Wow, I just got done doing an intense workout and I did this thing in three minutes into my 20 minute breathing session, I feel like I want to go to sleep. Wow, this stuff is like really interesting." It’s like, I started buying in and then I started applying it. I’m like, "Okay, I feel it. It makes intuitive sense to me now. I get it. I see the data on it. I know it works but I didn’t believe that. Now I do." So yeah, I do quite a bit of breathing stuff.
David: So I want to talk about some of your business ideas for long term and it seems like there’s a couple ideas that you have, and maybe we can even use a Thiel framework to think about how you’re going to build a billion dollar company with whatever you do. One has to do, I think with sports science. The other has to do with some kind of media property and one of the big advantages that you know, that you have is just kick ass distribution, where you can build up your audience through being a professional ballplayer and then through that, you end up using that audience, that distribution to automatically grow whatever it is that you’re building.
So what are the different ideas that you have? How do you think of them, sort of from I want to make money with this on one side of the spectrum to I’m just really excited about this and psychs me up to make this a part of my life?
Trevor: Yeah, so I care about the baseball industry tremendously because it’s given me so much in my life, from a life experience standpoint, a financial standpoint, just a life enjoyment and relationship standpoint, I’ve met a ton of great people. I have a fantastic relationship with my parents and a lot of that was built through baseball and going to tournaments and growing up and stuff like that. So it’s something that I want to see continue and have that happen for a lot of other people. So I look at … I see inefficiencies. I guess that’s how I’ve always looked at my career because when you identify where you are and where you want to be, you immediately see the inefficiencies and you attack them. So that’s how my mindset works.
So looking at baseball as an industry right now, it’s like, "Okay, well, we got to promote the game to a younger … we got to attract a younger fanbase, so how do you do that?" Then, that’s like the media side of things and I think on the player side of things, well, if players are going to be doing media more to attract the younger fanbase, well, then how do you capitalize on that, right? How does that benefit each player because some players are motivated by money, some players by the fame, some players by life experience, some players by families, some players by charity. So, having a one size fit all where, "Hey, everyone do content."
It’s like, well, some people don’t want to do that because they value other things but if you can explain to them how doing this will allow them more experience and more enjoyment in the things that they want to do, they’re a lot more likely to understand it, and to do it. So you have kind of the media creations for the marketing side of baseball and then I have an entity that helps build brands and market players and find those opportunities and stuff like that in the middle. Then you have the health and physiology and performance and analytics side of things where, right now, one of the big things is like players don’t have access to the same data that the teams do. So when you walk into a negotiation, teams have access to like all this huge data set where you can say, "Oh, well, if you look at these metrics and these metrics are actually trending down, so you’re not worth as much as whatever."
That’s not good for the player. So finding ways to fix that, there’s a lot of other like issues with data and all that, that I see going to the future and then, you have player representation where I mentioned earlier about agencies like nowadays, players are valued in a way that’s … computer basically spits out like, "Okay, this Player’s stats were this, he’s this old. These are the trends. These are the underlying metrics and he’s worth X." The agent walks in and says, I am worthwhile. It seems like, "Sorry, it’s X or we’ll find someone else that will take that." So the days of hardcore negotiating for the masses, I’ll say is pretty much gone.
Players usually just accept the contracts that they’re given and you have stories of players getting the same exact contract offer from five different teams and people will scream collusion, but to me, it’s just like, "Oh, that’s what the data says and everyone is looking at things the same way." So from a player representation standpoint, if I go play better, I get paid more money. Now my agent gets paid more money. If I play worse, I get paid less, my agent gets paid less. How does that make any sense? Shouldn’t the agent get paid for the work that they actually do for me, if I suck and I have to accept the deal? So I switched agencies to Luba Sports because Rachel’s model is much more aligned with like, I get paid for the work that I do and I can then custom fit your experience with the agency to be exactly what you want but also exactly what other players want.
So that’s another inefficiency that I saw. So as far as that kind of escaping the competition trap, in some ways, baseball as an industry will never … it’ll never be large enough to truly have some sort of monopolistic state. I mean, MLB itself is a monopoly. They literally have an antitrust exemption but my companies will never be that in just baseball, so I have to find a way to get outside of baseball. So it’s one of the reasons that I’m excited for what Rachel is going to do with our agency, because that transcends all sports and sports is a worldwide industry, right, so you can apply that model over. That’s why I’m excited for the media side of things with momentum because some of these things we’re doing in baseball, you can apply to any sport in the world.
So you start looking at that and saying, okay, there’s a chance that a monopolistic state there because this is a worldwide industries. You have a commodity, you have a product that is hopefully will be unique enough that no one else can really do. So you can actually get to that monopolistic state. Certainly, on the data side, the health physiology and data side, the idea is to … if we can make the top 1% of performers in the baseball industry, X percent better, how valuable is that to the top companies in the world? Hey, Apple, I can make your employees 7% better. How many billions of dollars is that worth to them?
Of course, business is a worldwide industry, so when I see it, I’m like, "Okay, well, I use baseball as a conduit to change baseball because that’s what I’m really passionate about." Give players a better experience and after I’ve really rolled the snowball down the hill, and it’s gaining steam, then I expand to other sports. Then, I expand to business, then you expand outside of the US and like that’s kind of how I see the progression of it and who knows if either of them will hit or any of them will hit but that’s how I see it.
David: Yeah, I like that. There was a study, I read one time about LeBron James is … what he gave the city of Cleveland and in terms of bars and restaurants and tourism, LeBron was bringing some number that far exceeded what he was being paid and I think that could be part of your pitch that you’re creating value that you’re not capturing in the sense that you’re doing things and you get paid by the team but you’re bringing value to the city and maybe there’s an opportunity there, cities very famously … and there’s a lot of debate around this, I think for good reason, pay for stadiums to be built. Right, like a city say I know just that the San Francisco Giants Stadium costs 310 million dollars. I don’t know what the city paid, but say they paid 50, 100 million dollars for that.
One of the things that would be really interesting is what does it benefit the city of Anaheim to have Mike Trout? What does it benefit Los Angeles to have LeBron James. I know it far exceeds what they get paid and wouldn’t it be interesting if a city started also contributing to a player’s salary?
Trevor: I think the perfect example of that is what happened with Kobe earlier this year. I mean, you had crowds of people for three days standing outside of Staples Center, not knowing like what to do and just being there in the moment. How much impact is that, one player, that man had on, how many people’s lives in LA? I mean, I grew up in LA. I wasn’t really a basketball fan but I’m a Kobe fan. I rooted for the Lakers because of Kobe. I love the Mamba spirit. I latched on to that, right? How much impact does that have on just the life, not even in a monetary sense, right, but just the life of the people that live in the city. I think it’s a fantastic point and that’s something that I’m trying to actually … that’s something that’s actually in my free agent pitch is like, "Hey, this is the on field value."
Look at all this off-field value that’s been brought to the city or brought to the organization. I mean, I did a vlog for this season. I was releasing two, maybe three times a week and if you scale out the number of views that we got on YouTube, if you would scale that over the course of a full season, because we only got about two months but if you maintain that pace for the course of a full season, I was tracking it to be like 7.5, eight million views on YouTube and I know these are different than ratings on TV, obviously. If you look at the ratings of an organization like the Reds for 162 game season, they’re pulling in about eight million views on TV or viewership numbers.
So just being able to … you have one player that’s got this content, that’s generating … everything, it’s about my life playing for the Reds, right? So now you double your … I know it’s not a one to one comparison but as a way of thinking about it, it’s like now you double your viewership. You just doubled your ratings because a player carries around a thousand dollar camera and puts it up on YouTube, right? How much value does that bring to the organization? It’s hard to say. What are TV ratings worth? I mean, that’s the area where you get … the organizations make the majority of their money is from the TV deals. There’s got to be a tremendous amount of value there and just like, the way a team can inspire a city like, I was in Cleveland when LeBron won the championship when he came back three, one against the Warriors. I saw one and a half or two million people-
David: The Iguodala block.
David: My goodness. I’m a Warrior fan and it still pains me.
Trevor: Yeah, I pitched on the day that the parade was so I couldn’t get to the stadium, I had to have a police escort take me all sorts of different ways around downtown Cleveland to get me into the stadium because there were so many people, and the parade was so important that like the baseball game that day, didn’t matter if the starting pitcher couldn’t get to the stadium or not. That kind of influences … It’s crazy when you see it. It’s there. I know it’s there and that’s what we’re trying to help convince players of that it’s there and that it’s valuable and contract negotiation is valuable to them and stuff like that. I mean, there’s no doubt like you see it.
David: What is something … you’re written about the media all the time, what is the biggest thing about you that people miss? What is the thing that a part of your story, a part of your personality, the part of who you are that isn’t being told right now?
Trevor: That isn’t being told or that’s being told completely wrong,
David: I’ll take either.
Trevor: Isn’t being told, I guess is probably my passion for helping people? I don’t think it’s a very clickbaity, view driven title or article, right? I love helping people and basically everything I do in baseball, while it benefits me and my career, it’s with the intention of then, on the back end, like implementing it into the industry and helping the next generation of players, next generation of coaches, next generation of kids and stuff like that. It doesn’t … I get talked about as being selfish. The reputation of being like a bad teammate and all he cares about is his stats and business, he doesn’t hang out with his teammates or whatever.
The way I see it is like the future of, if I hang out with my teammates only and I don’t do business, I can impact, let’s say, 26 people, 25 other people in a clubhouse in a year. So if you multiply that by 20 years, I can impact 400 and … was it 440 or something like that? Whatever the number is, 100 people, right? Let’s just call it 500 people. I can impact thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people, if I build an infrastructure in business that can help baseball players. I can impact people on other teams every year and not just my own. If I’m out there with content, if I’m on Instagram, I get messages from players fairly frequently.
It’s like, "Hey, can you take a look at this video? What do you think? Blah, blah, blah," like okay, there’s a need for this. People are looking for information, let me build an infrastructure. Let me automate these processes so I can help many more people than I could, if I just hung out with my teammates in the clubhouse. While in the moment, it might seem that I’m selfish, that I’m not hanging out with them that I’m off doing business stuff, that has the appearance of just helping me. Those products, those systems, that time spent, will help so many people down the line. I guess that’s … I get a little bit sensitive about that because when players tell me I’m selfish or I’m not a good teammate, I’m like, "Dude, I’m trying to help you. You may not see the vision but this is to help you."
Momentum exists not for me to like blow up myself and be a superstar in the media or whatever. It’s, I’m leading this charge strictly to like, try to push the narrative forward that other players can do this. Ideally, we’d work with all of you guys. We’d create content for all of you guys and all of you guys would get this benefit. That’s how we want it to be structured but someone has to be the flag-bearer, someone has to break that barrier down and that’s … I don’t mind breaking barriers. I’ve taken, the arrows in the back, my entire life for different things that I’ve done. So I’m comfortable in that environment.
So, if I can do that and help other people, that’s the motivation but a lot of times it comes off as like, "Oh, Bauer is being smart with his business side of things and it’s going to help him or he’s selfish, because he’s doing business stuff." It’s not about the people that I’m trying to help.
David: What do you think … your dad has always been a pitching coach for you. What do you think has made that partnership so successful in terms of your relationship, how you’ve thought about … I mean, I’m sure there’s been moments where it’s been really tricky and difficult. There’s no doubt that that’s the case. So, what has allowed you to maintain that relationship and have it be both loving and productive?
Trevor: There’s there’s two things that go into this. He taught me from a very young age to look to the future, that it’s not about the now, it’s about what you’re trying to build for the future. The goal was always to play on the high school team. So if I didn’t make the tournament team now or if I didn’t have the best outing today, it was like … it doesn’t matter because you’re not in high school yet, like are you getting better to get towards your goal? So that took a lot of the pressure off of like the day to day stuff, where he was not pressuring me to like I go 0 for three in a game and he’s yelling at me. You see that with a lot of dads and it’s like, they want to push their kid and right now, right now because they care about their kid.
They want them to be good but a lot of times it can ruin the relationship. My dad was never pushing me in the moment. If he pushed on anything it was … then, the second thing that I wanted to talk about, it was to do the work. I grew up in Los Angeles area. My dad worked in New Mexico. So every Sunday night, he’d fly to New Mexico. Go to work Monday through Thursday and he’d get back Friday morning, like 3 AM. So the message was always, "I’ll support you in baseball, I’ll pay for you to be on the travel team, I’ll pay for lessons, I’ll pay for equipment, if you do the work to get better in between. I’m not going to pay just to take the same lesson over and over and over if you’re not improving."
From a very young age, I had to internalize my process. I would ride my bike up to the park, it was a couple blocks away with buckets of baseballs on my handlebars and go work out on my own because I wanted the pitching lesson. So, I knew I had to go do the work, so I could continue having the pitching lesson. So in that way, he never had to push me. He never had to yell at me to go to practice or anything like that, because I’d internalize wanting to go to practice. So his role was always supportive and like, "Hey, what if we tried this and what if we tried that?" He’s a chemical engineer so he has the same mindset that he instilled in me, "Where are you? Where do you want to be? Design process, iterate."
So, he was always doing that. He didn’t know anything about baseball when we started but he taught himself like he’s reading books. He was trying to help his kid do well and at the end of the day, we ended up like, knowing quite a bit about something that we started off knowing nothing about. It was that process of learning together, that was really special.
David: Trevor Bauer, this is ridiculous interview. Thank you very much. I really enjoyed it, man.
Trevor: Yeah, thanks for having me on. It’s a lot of fun. I’m sure, we could go for a lot longer.