I doubt you would find a Reds fan that could say at one time or another that hasn’t doubted Homer Bailey. If we play word association and I ask you to use one word to describe the six years Bailey has been a member of the Reds, what would you say?
One response might be “disappointing”. Some might say that since Bailey was the 7th overall pick in the 2004 draft, you should expect more from that high a pick. Here’s what Bailey has produced in those six years.
No, 2008 wasn’t pretty, but there are some positive trends displayed here.
1. With the exception of 2007 to 2008, his WHIP has improved each year.
2. With the same exception, his ERA has decreased each year.
3. Bailey’s SO/BB ratio has improved each season.
No, he doesn’t strike out opposing batters at the same rate he once did, but Bailey is also more in command of his pitches with the improvement in his walk rate. Make no mistake about it, he can still get a strikeout, but Bailey has learned to pitch.
If I dare you to come up with another word, you could say “inconsistent”, and I will not argue that choice either. We’ve seen both sides of the spectrum from Homer. One outing, he infuriates us. The next, he tosses an extremely well pitched outing. 2012 was a microcosm of that inconsistency for Homer. No more proof is need than to peer at his monthly splits.
Same applies for the slash against…and practically any other numbers you want to consider.
The light at the end of the tunnel? There is possibly a light.
Bailey was the Reds best player (not pitcher, but player) for the final month of last season. Look at those numbers from September/October again. Aside from one outing where the Los Angeles Dodgers got to Bailey, no other team could touch him. Just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Another positive spin is that Bailey produced his highest ground ball rate (44.9%) since his first season (46.5%), which was only 9 starts. Homer Bailey is learning to pitch.
If you want to get a feel for what 2013 projects for Bailey, look at last year as Bill James (via Fangraphs) figures it will be much of the same as 2012. A few numbers here: 12-12, 3.86 ERA, 1.28 WHIP.
Here is something that could give us all a case to pause here.
Last season Bailey hurled a total of 208 innings. In looking at his big league totals above, that is a far cry from his previous high of 132 in 2011. Some might refer to this as a “red flag”. Every year, SI’s Tom Verducci has his “red flag” list. Could Bailey be on this list for the upcoming season?
Possibly, but 2012 is not the first time Bailey has gone over 200 innings in a season. It’s been a couple of years, but he did so in 2009 when he threw 89.2 innings in Louisville to go along with those 113.1 he tossed for Cincinnati. Still, with 132 innings each in 2011 and 2010 (in 2010, he had a little rehab time in the minors, too), you could have some concern over being extended by as great a margin as Bailey was last season. Going from 132 innings to 208 is a far jump. You could look at how that much of an innings increase affected Mike Leake last season.
The upside to that is Bailey exhibited no effects from having the extra workload especially during 2012′s last month and even with his playoff start.
The biggest question will be if Bailey continues to progress as he did in last year’s final month. Can Bailey take from that and be the pitcher many Reds fans have longed for since when he was that #7 overall selection?
There has been the chatter about the Reds exploring a long-term deal with Bailey. He does have one more year of arbitration after 2013, but after that, he would be eligible for free agency. With the arms of Tony Cingrani and Daniel Corcino maybe one year away (maybe more, most likely less), you could almost portray 2013 as the biggest in Bailey’s career.
Repeating his 2012 wouldn’t hurt, but an improvement and continuing the consistency Bailey displayed from 2012′s final six weeks sure would go a long way, both in the short and long term.