Bailey delivers a pitch during the 1st inning of last night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Vincent Pugliese-US PRESSWIRE)

Homer Owns Pittsburgh. Time for Opponents to Worry?


Before I begin to gush about Homer Bailey, I will make a confession. Those that have visited here in the past know I am not Bailey’s biggest fan. I’m not his worst either. I do know that Homer is not a guy to come out of the bullpen. He is a starting pitcher. Consider this a mea culpa.

Okay.

To put it bluntly, Bailey flat out owns the Pittsburgh Pirates. There’s no other way to put it. Last season, we saw his counterpart from last night, Charlie Morton, completely baffle the Reds. Prior to last season, Morton could barely get a Reds batter out. Bailey is a contrast in that the Buccos have never hit Bailey. Well, maybe once.

Proof.

W L ERA GS CG IP AB R ER H HR BB SO SO/BB WHIP BAA
Career 29 26 4.75 88 2 498.2 1932 282 263 523 61 188 383 2.04 1.426 .271
Pirates 6 0 1.79 8 2 55.1 195 11 11 41 3 17 45 2.65 1.048 .210
All Other 23 26 5.12 80 0 443.1 1737 271 252 482 58 171 338 1.98 1.473 .277

Two complete games in his career and both against the Pirates. I’ll add on here.

Of the eight starts against the Prates, three have come at GABP. Knowing the reputation of GABP, some would surmise that’s a partial reason for Bailey’s success when he faves the Buccos. Not entirely true.

W L ERA GS CG IP AB R ER H HR BB SO SO/BB WHIP BAA
GABP 2 0 1.86 3 0 19.1 72 4 4 19 3 6 24 4.00 1.293 .264
PNC 4 0 1.75 5 2 36 123 7 7 22 0 11 21 1.91 0.917 .179

Yes, the Pirates have gotten to him a little more at GABP, but three of those four runs came in one game…in September of 2009. And you may have guessed (as is the case for most pitchers in comparing their performances at GABP against the other ballparks around MLB), Bailey lifetime splits show he does pitch better away from Cincinnati.

As has been touted over the past year or so, we could be witnessing the turning of a corner for Bailey. I have been a little hesitant to buy into such claims. I’m getting to the point where I believe we are. His outings may never look the prettiest, but when you check out his line at the end of game, you’re a little mystified at his performance. You could have sworn he was in more trouble that he appeared.

One aspect that may be aiding Bailey is that he has found a touch more velocity on most of his pitches (as denoted by Mike Podhorzer on Fangraphs). I say most because he’s lost velocity on his changeup, and that’s not such a bad deal. Here’s a comparison from last year to this year…

Four-seam: 2011 – 92.2; 2012 – 92.6
Two-seam: 2011 – 91.5; 2012 – 92.6
Slider: 2011 – 85.8; 2012 – 86.7
Curve: 2011 – 76.8; 2012 – 77.1
Changeup: 2011 – 86.6; 2012 – 85.4

As you would imagine, there is more to this. With this “new found” velocity, Bailey is throwing more fastballs (both four- and two-seamers) and less breaking balls (sliders and curveballs). With the disparity between his fastballs and changeup increasing, he’s using that pitch more.

A small set-up here. Again, comparing 2011 to 2012, Bailey’s SO/9 has decreased (7.23 to 6.46) while his BB/9 has increased (2.25 to 2.59). Sometimes, that doesn’t translate to good pitching performances. Yes, we’ve seen over the past couple of years where Johnny Cueto has blown that theory out of the water, too. Now, Bailey takes on that challenge.

The biggest difference may be related to how opposing hitters are faring against him and I’m not referring to batting average against only. Here’s Bailey’s career numbers in regards to opponent’s plate discipline (via Fangraphs).

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
2007 29.4 % 60.6 % 44.3 % 60.0 % 87.4 % 77.9 % 47.6 %
2008 26.0 % 69.1 % 48.3 % 71.8 % 94.6 % 88.7 % 51.7 %
2009 25.9 % 64.0 % 45.2 % 70.5 % 88.8 % 83.6 % 50.6 %
2010 27.6 % 65.7 % 47.0 % 68.0 % 87.7 % 82.1 % 51.1 %
2011 29.8 % 66.5 % 47.8 % 60.2 % 89.5 % 80.2 % 49.0 %
2012 30.9 % 66.3 % 48.7 % 59.9 % 88.2 % 79.3 % 50.4 %

Take that table and add this…

F-Strike% SwStr%
2007 54.6% 8.9%
2008 57.8% 5.4%
2009 55.7% 7.9%
2010 60.4% 8.4%
2011 62.4% 9.3%
2012 66.7% 9.9%

Swinging more, hitting the strike zone more, throwing more first pitch strikes…and making less contact.

Opposing hitters are swinging at more pitches and those are outside the strike zone. Hitters are swinging at almost the same amount of pitches within the zone, but making less contact on those.

Bailey’s lifetime numbers prove that the Pirates are a team that when he faces them, he performs exceptionally well. He’s also exhibited the same, arguably even better, success in facing the Houston Astros (4-0, 1.60 ERA, 0.921 WHIP in 5 starts). Too bad Houston’s leaving the division.

The majority of the other teams have had their fair share of success against Bailey. There could be an evalution going on here.

Bailey does own the Pirates (and the Astos), but I doubt either city will elect him mayor.

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Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds Homer Bailey MLB Pittsburgh Pirates