Cincinnati Reds in Review: SP Homer Bailey

Last winter, Homer Bailey was the recipient of the most eye-popping contract around all of baseball. He had inked a 6-year/$105 million deal to stay with the Cincinnati Reds, the only club he has ever pitched professionally for.

The deal was met with an uproar from Reds faithful and baseball “experts” alike claiming the money was far too extravagant for a pitcher who boasted a 49-45 career record at the time of the extension. What the Reds front office had done was sure up a piece to the future they knew they could keep, and were projecting to be even better than he was. Sometimes, as a small-market club, risks must be taken in order to see any significant pay-off.

Homer Bailey – Starting Pitcher

I was sitting in my living room one morning when I heard the news: the Reds were trading Homer Bailey to the Chicago White Sox for Jermaine Dye. I knew of Bailey as a big time pitching prospect, but here was Dye, this gigantic man who could club home runs to all fields. I was enamored; I wanted Dye for Bailey.

Thankfully, as you may well know, the deal fell through. These things happen in life, and especially in baseball. Here we are, over six years removed from 2008 when Bailey made eight starts for the Reds to the tune of a 0-6 record with a 7.93 ERA. Who could have known that same pitcher would ink the club’s first $100 million contract for a pitcher in their history?

You know what they say about first-round draft picks—they get more chances than anybody else. Whether or not that’s justifiable, it’s completely factual. Had an undrafted free agent posted those numbers, he would have been whisked from the face of the organization. Fast-forward to the off-season entering 2015 and kids have Homer Bailey bobble heads in their room and adults are wearing his t-shirt.

To start 2014, Bailey was initially set back by groin injuries he suffered while in Spring Training. For whatever reason, inking a deal that made a country boy from La Grange, Texas, extremely rich caused resentment. All of a sudden, the fan base expected Bailey to become Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens, or both. It never happened.

Through April, his ERA was above six. Through May, just above five. Through June, nearly halfway through four. Through July, barely a shade over four. Two starts into August where his season would end, a productive 3.71. Bailey getting healthy was the ultimate difference in his performance. That is, until he wasn’t healthy anymore.

Bailey would make his last start of the season on August 7 at home against the Cleveland Indians. He was also pitching his best baseball of the season. He had gone three straight starts of going at least seven innings pitched yielding just a run or less, and six of his last seven starts were of the quality variety.

Health is an impossible aspect of the game to predict. After consecutive 200+ inning seasons, Bailey dipped below the number for the first time since 2011. Still yet to even make so much as an All-Star Game, Bailey is on the short list of pitchers projected to make a major leap into that next bracket; should he stay healthy, of course.

Bailey’s Stat Line:

9-5, 3.71 ERA, 145.2 IP, 124 K, 1.23 WHIP, .247 OAV, 97 ERA+, 3.93 FIP

Top Homer Bailey Moment:

Another unspecified reason Bailey received the money he did was based predominantly on two starts. His two no-hitters that he twirled in as many years have ensured him a career in baseball until he wants to give it up, because he will also hold that moniker of having “no-hit stuff” due to the fact that he has, well, you know, thrown two of them.

His most recent came against the San Francisco Giants in 2013. But on June 29 of this past season, Bailey found himself facing those very same Giants again–the eventual World Series Champion Giants nonetheless.

Through six, it was just a walk to Gregor Blanco that he had allowed. After retiring the first two in the bottom of the seventh, Buster Posey would slash an opposite field single to end any hopes of a repeat performance.

It may not have been a no-hitter, but his win over the Giants on that day would be his only complete game shutout of the season. The fact that he did it against the team that would eventually go on to raise the World Series trophy only makes it all the more impressive.

Low-Point of the Season for Homer Bailey:

In the midst of finally hitting his stride, Bailey’s season was over in the blink of an eye. The Reds’ hopes were slim regardless, but once Bailey went down, they were put on life support.

Homer would have surgery to repair a torn tendon in his forearm, a similar procedure that former teammate Jonathan Broxton had just a year prior. The surgery sidelined Bailey for the remainder of the season, and the hope is that he will be ready to go in Goodyear, Arizona in just three months time.

Final Grade: B-

Even when he Bailey wasn’t posting sparkling statistics, he never stopped competing. A true bulldog on the mound, Bailey still doesn’t so much as pitch as he does attack hitters. With a fastball that showed the ability to creep into the 97+ MPH range as his arm got warm towards the conclusion of his starts, Reds fans can’t help but salivate over what Bailey may bring to the table in 2015. As long as he stays healthy.