Has Homer Bailey Turned the Corner?


We’ve waited. Some patiently, others, not so much. Was his start to 2011 the beginning? Was the end of his 2012 a statement of his true arrival? One can only wonder when it pertains to Homer Bailey.

In a sense, that has made Bailey a bit of an enigma.

May 26, 2011; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Bailey delivers to the plate during the 1st inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He would only go 4 innings and later hit the DL after this outing. (Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE)

For the 2011 season, there wasn’t a better pitcher on the Reds staff through his first four outings than Bailey. Never mind the fact he had a loss in those four games (3-1), Bailey sported a slash against of .198/.230/.281 with a WHIP of 0.885 and throwing strikes at a rate of 65%. Some Reds fans were thinking this was the Homer Bailey the Reds drafted #7 overall back in 2004.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Bailey had started the 2011 season on the disabled list and after his fifth start to that season, found himself a resident of DL once again. Both times were due to issues surrounding his shoulder. When Bailey returned, he was no where near what he was prior to his DL stint. It was the “same ol'” Bailey. Good games, then bad games. No consistency. It was a trend we were used to seeing. A trend that has had some wondering if Bailey would ever reach the heights we had expected from him.

The majority of 2012 was the same. As September rolled around, Bailey sat with a record of 10-9 ( already a career high in wins), and ERA of 4.24 (at that point, a career low), a WHIP of 1.393 and a slash against of .282/.331/.454. Nothing mind-blowing, that’s for sure. At one point, there was chatter that Bailey might not be the #4 starter on the post-season roster should the Reds advance to that point.

Homer “awoke” in September.

In his seven September starts (5 which were quality starts, but one was a four inning, post-season gearing effort against the Cardinals), Bailey slowly started turning into the pitcher many Reds fans thought Bailey was teasing us once again.

As it turns out he wasn’t. For his final month of 2012, Homer was 3-1 with an ERA of 1.85, WHIP of 0.740 and slash against of .159/.210/.253. Also in those seven starts was a stinker against the Dodgers (6.2 IP, 5 ER) and his no-hitter against the Pirates.

That chatter about Bailey being #4 was no longer even in any conversation. The talk turned to which game do you start Bailey? Do you start him ahead of Bronson Arroyo? Do you make sure he starts one game on the road because of his dreadful home/away splits?

And just in case the no-hitter didn’t at least partially convince you of Bailey’s “new found” dominance, his only post-season appearance (which was at home, by the way) yielded similar results: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 SO. That line has some similarities to that of his no-no where Bailey whiffed 10 Buccos and allowed only a walk to Andrew McCutchen in his nine innings.

With the baseball season now wrapped up, we have two “issues” concerning Bailey.

One is the question I posed as the title of this post. Has Bailey (finally in the minds of some Reds fans) turned that corner? During his six seasons as a Reds pitcher, Bailey has a couple of trends that are positive. First, he has decreased his walk rate each season. While to some that’s not a big deal, you know the saying…walks will haunt. Bailey is limiting those.

In conjunction with that, Bailey has improved his SO/BB in each year as well. The strikeout rate has fluctuated, but being buoyed by his continued decrease in walk rate, Bailey has shown us one thing: He is a pitcher.

2007: 5.6, 1.00
2008: 4.2, 1.06
2009: 4.1, 1.65
2010: 3.3, 2.50
2011: 2.3, 3.21
2012: 2.2, 3.23

The other will be should the Reds sign Bailey to a long-term . Yesterday, I mentioned the same concerning Mat Latos. Both Bailey and Latos appear to be long-term deal candidates. Latos does sport the better track record, but Bailey’s growth, particularly over September and into October, could make most of us a bit on the giddy side.

Oct 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Bailey pitches against the San Francisco Giants during Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS at GABP. (Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

You’ve already invested a great deal of effort in regards to Homer and his progress. He will receive a nice raise should you choose to go the arbitration route since Bailey is coming off his finest season as a member of the Reds organization. Bailey made almost $2.5MM this past season. Surely he would get at least another $1.5MM in arbitration. Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors denotes that Bailey could get $5.1MM in arbitration AND that Bailey, as well as Latos, are extension possibilities.

There are some signs that point in the same direction in which Johnny Cueto received his four-year deal. I’m not saying Bailey is Cueto, but I am saying it’s a move the Reds should, at the least, consider. By doing so, you open the doors for potential trades.

No, I am not suggesting the Reds deal Bailey. Not at this point. I do suggest that showing a long-term commitment to Bailey could make some of the Reds young arms more “exposed” to being traded. With Cueto locked up for another couple of years (at least), add the potential of having Latos and Bailey being around for a few years, and, well, you should now get the picture.

You’re going to have to pay the man one way or another. Which route will Reds GM Walt Jocketty and his staff elect to take is another matter.