The Cincinnati Reds need more than a 6-plus ERA from Homer Bailey in 2018
The Cincinnati Reds see Homer Bailey as a veteran with ace stuff. Bailey has two careers no hitters. Beyond that he has been a .500 pitcher.
Bailey hasn’t been healthy for an entire season since 2013. Over the last three seasons, he has only made 26 starts. That is less than a single season’s full number of starts.
In the past three years Bailey also hasn’t finished a season with an ERA below 5..50. When he initially got injured, Bailey was averaging about a strikeout per inning. In his last 125 innings Bailey has just 97 strikeouts.
Bailey isn’t really himself. He injured his shoulder in 2014. Then he underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2015. The starts at the end of 2017 was the most consistent that Bailey has been since the start of the 2014 season.
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While much has been made of his injuries, his control is really the story. Not only did Bailey only strikeout 67 last year, but he walked an incredible 42. That ratio is untenable.
That also leads to too many line drives and fly balls. He had 296 balls in play of his 420 batters faced. 45% of those balls were ground balls, which is good but not good enough.
With Homer Bailey’s reliance on the splitter the Cincinnati Reds need to look at his pitch mix.
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Only fifteen pitchers used a splitter more often than Bailey in 2017. Of those fifteen only two were starting pitchers. Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees and Matt Shoemaker of the Los Angeles Angels are the only two starting pitchers that relied more heavily on the splitter than Bailey.
Bailey doesn’t use a change-up and only throws his curveball 4% of the time. These could be his weakness. He relies on his fastball more than most split-fingered pitchers which could be a fatigue issue.
Given that the Reds don’t appear interested in trying Bailey out in the bullpen, adding a change-up may make the most sense. The Reds need to help Bailey avoid fatigue in a manner besides building back up arm strength. He is 32 and will never have the arm strength he did when he was younger in all likelihood.
Hopefully, Bailey can turn things around. The only Red that makes more money than Bailey is former National League MVP Joey Votto. Bailey needs to try to earn his keep.