What words would you use to describe Homer Bailey?
Talented. Aggressive. Loaded with potential. Ambitious. Those are obvious. When I think of Homer Bailey, I think more along the lines of:
Moody. Domineering. Manipulative. Perfectionist. Impulsive.
I’m not Doctor Phil. I don’t have a Ph.D; I hardly paid attention in any Psych or Sociology classes in school – showing up was pretty much the hardest thing you had to do to land an A in those classes . But even the most elementary understanding of the human psych makes it possible to ascertain what’s going on when Homer Bailey takes the mound.
Rather than spend time rehashing Bailey’s somewhat disappointing career to this point, let’s just zoom in on last night’s most recent unraveling.
Two outs. Ryan Braun stands on first after just singling up the middle. Aramis Ramirez stands in. The inning hadn’t been perfect to that point. The first two batters in Morgan and Weeks really made Bailey work for those first two outs. Braun is the 2011 MVP – a base hit from Braun should surprise you no more than a base hit from Votto, at any interval in the game. He’s that good. But I digress.
Two outs. Braun at first. Every pitching coach in America, at any level, whether he’s mentoring a major league ace or a knothole stud, would instruct his pitcher to focus on getting the last out. Especially with the struggling .218 hitting Ramirez. Homer Bailey was throwing his fastball at an unprecedented velocity of 96 mph. Conventional wisdom says, just get the 3rd out – get the guy at the plate.
Then Homer’s daunting personality emerges – a dark, domineering side of him that bares its miserable self whenever things go slightly awry. He walks a batter. Someone steals a base. One of the eight gloves behind him commits an error. That’s when Homer Bailey tries to channel his inner Nolan Ryan. He tries to manipulate the situation. Maybe he’s bigger than the situation. If someone gets on base, he has the power to pitch all around around the strike zone, the batter will undoubtedly chase his incredible stuff. Or, maybe he’ll just take it upon himself and cut the runner(s) down. He’s Homer Bailey. Former #1 prospect of this entire organization. You don’t disrupt his flow. He disrupts yours.
At least that’s what he thinks. I think.
So instead of coming right after the .218 hitting Aramis Ramirez, he decides to throw over at Ryan Braun. In all fairness, Ryan Braun is no slouch on the bases. Four steals in five attempts – he can take a bag. So maybe a throw over was warranted.
Homer Bailey settles in to pitch to Aramis Ramirez to the tone of thousands of boos for repeatedly trying to pick Braun off. He shakes off Mesoraco nearly a hundred times, rears back, and nails Ramirez on the elbow.
That’s all it took.
The next guy walks. The next guy deposits an 0-2 fast ball into center field to plate two runs. I’m not going to seriously try to advise a major league pitcher how to throw to a batter with an 0-2 count. But I do know there were safer options Bailey could have tried in that situation. Consider what was happening to Bailey all night with two strikes. All of the damage amassed under Bailey’s watch came with two outs, two strikes.
Check out any other Reds starter in this situation. At 0-2, they’re comfortable with wasting a few pitches. Maybe they’ll bounce one in the dirt. Maybe they’ll work the outside of the plate – try to get someone to chase.
But perfectionist Homer Bailey has only one thing in mind – striking the batter out, right now. That’s why you didn’t see many waste pitches from Bailey. That’s the only possible way you can justify the pitch to Lucroy. Bailey was throwing his fastball faster than he ever had. Perhaps he thought he was invincible – most pitchers that can paint corners at 96 mph are.
Homer Bailey wasn’t painting corners.
Bailey just gave the Reds four consecutive quality starts before last night’s debacle. Anyone who is remotely considering replacing this guy needs to have the space between his ears examined. He is unquestionably one of the best pitchers in this organization. On the other hand, that’s precisely why he continually finds himself in these kinds of situations. The relationship between Dr. Jekyl and Homer Bailey is a frustrating one – at 26 years old, Bailey has to find a way to quiet the monster who tries to manipulate any dangerous situation with errant pitching and questionable pick-off attempts. You could sense the frustration from Mesoraco, whose forlorn body language only helps illustrate a story we’ve heard a thousand times.
If there was a Pitching for Dummies book, Homer would do well to read it. Relaxation is an art. Only by mastering it can one enter cruise control. See Johnny Cueto. Dealing with stress comes naturally for some – for others, it’s a chore.
He’s entirely too talented to continue mentally melting down at the first sign of trouble. His talent is unquestionable. His decision making under pressure is worthy of a study grant.
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