Will Carroll’s recent statements of concern over Homer Bailey stirred quite the discussion on Tuesday. He also stopped by for a bit in the comments.

Will was kind enough to come to the Redleg Nation studios for an interview. After 30 minutes of makeup application, he sat down for some questions…

RN: To give us an idea of where you are coming from when evaluating a young pitcher, what do you base your evaluations on? Mechanics? Performance? Scouting reports? What you’ve personally seen?

WC: All of the above. Most of mine is focused on mechanics due to what I write about. I’m always looking to see how risky a pitcher is and since his HS days, Bailey has been an inconsistent, high effort pitcher. Talented? Absolutely, but risky? Absolutely.

RN: Before the season, where did you rank Homer Bailey among the top minor league prospects who had pitched at AA or higher? Who did you rank above him and why?

WC: I ranked him overall in the top tier, below Hughes, Lincecum, Andrew Miller, Gallardo, and Danks and on the same plane as Hochevar, Buchholz, Hurley and Adam Miller. There are some younger guys like Kershaw and Erbe that I haven’t seen, so I didn’t include them though the reports are very good. Remember that I’m ranking based on risk, not talent. A guy who’s got electric stuff but high injury risk could end up like Felix Hernandez (that’s pretty good) or like Jeff Niemann (not so good).

RN: This is the most excited Reds fans have been about a pitching prospect in over 20 years. Other than the standard concerns with a young pitcher, what more should we be concerned about with Bailey?

WC: It’s his inconsistency. Whether it’s a delivery that never looks the same way twice (just watch his external rotation or his elbow placement compared to the acromial line) or his high effort when he decides to throw the ball by someone — and he can — I worry about how much that takes out of him. The lack of control is going to lead to higher pitch counts and while the organization has certainly watched those counts closely, it’s backed off of pitcher protections since Krivsky came in. All in all, I’d say that Bailey doesn’t seem to have much idea of how to pitch out there and that hasn’t improved during his time in the organization. He’s got great stuff, but there are lots of guys with great stuff out there.

WC: Here’s a question for the Reds — there’s a motion analysis facility there in Cincinnati with some of the best technology in the world. Why hasn’t the team sent Bailey — or ANY of their pitchers – there?

RN: Well, at this point, what can be done? Is it feasible to redo his mechanics at this point? Or should the Reds just get what they can out of him while they can? Or would moving him into the pen lessen the risk a bit?

WC: There’s always small adjustments, but mostly, I’d try to find what position is the closest to hitting the following:
1) feels best
2) gets best results
3) most biomechanically sound.

1 and 2 should be relatively easy to determine and 3 is easy enough, if the Reds are willing to spend a little time and money. (Again, it’s right there in Cincy …)

No way on the last two — the guy is too valuable. Bailey has a chance to be a franchise level pitcher and you don’t get many chances at those. Even if he hits the upside I expect for him (which is lower than almost everyone else, admittedly), he’s a solid 3 that could fit nicely behind Harang. Pen? No, way too valuable.

RN: If Homer Bailey were your pitcher now, not 3 years ago when he was drafted, what would you do?

WC: Find out how biomechanically sound he was and work from there on consistency. From pitch to pitch, not just start to start, Bailey looks like a vastly different pitcher. You don’t have to change anything … actually, he needs to stop changing!

RN: Are there any other Reds minor leaguers you’ve seen that you like or dislike?

WC: Livingston’s useful. I don’t know why Saarloos is at Triple-A. I’ve heard good things on Johnny Cueto but haven’t seen him. Haven’t seen anyone at Dayton. The problem isn’t that they don’t have much top-level pitching, it’s that they don’t even have the five starter/middle relief types.

RN: How do you feel about the organization backing off the pitcher protections since Krivsky came in?

WC: I’m no advocate of pitch counts in professional baseball, but the Reds, like every other team, has no logical development system. How does a pitcher go from one level to the next? What is each pitcher doing to improve? Do they know? Can it be explained or is it baseball’s normal “I know it when I see it” reasoning. I’m singling out the Reds here a bit, but it’s everyone. I know of one organization that has a player program that’s individualized and written out so that there’s no confusion. I don’t have any good reason as to why it’s just one. If the Reds wanted to do one thing that would help more than anything else in winning, that would be it. Have a plan.

RN:To be fair to Krivsky and the Reds, how would you know if there is a program or not? You asked questions above like “How does a pitcher go from one level to the next. What is each pitcher doing to improve? Do they know?” Unless I’m misunderstanding, it sounds like you don’t know. It’s possible the Reds don’t have a plan for the advancement of
pitchers. But it’s also possible they do and keep it to themselves.

WC: As I said, it’s not just them – it’s everyone. Twenty-eight teams don’t have a defined program. The Reds aren’t one of the two teams. Period. And yes, I’ve spoken to enough people in the organization that I can say that with confidence.

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32 Responses

  1. rickNmd

    Good reader. I’d be intersted to know more about that biomechanics stuff. Is it proven to work or is it hocus-pocus like a lot of Tom House’s theories–stuff that sounds good but few people use and has no history of making a difference or imprint.

  2. doug

    I know for a fact that Will is right about the Reds not really having a set plan from talking to several players and their families.

  3. Chris

    Do you mean House or Mike Marshall? House seems a lot closer to the mainstream. But I’ll admit, I get totally lost in these mechanical discussions.

  4. DevilsAdvocate

    Will Carroll reported today that Juan Castro is out for the season. (non-subscription BP article)

    Carroll also mentions Bailey briefly, and brings up a point that I’d been thinking about – why are the Reds putting him in AAA to keep him on a pitching schedule, when that only ups his innings pitched for the year? If they want to continue keeping him from going more than 30 IP beyond the previous year (which I think Krivsky has talked about previously), then this puts him that much closer to that limit.

  5. doug

    Well, if I were to set up a plan for a system I would go into each season with individual reports for each player. Let them know what you want them to work on, set goals for them on specifics of their game.

    I know that the coaches at each level writes up a report after each game and send it off to higher ups, but from what I have heard, there isn’t a lot of communication from the higher ups to the players, even through the managers.

    I understand that you hire a manager for your teams because you have faith that they can work with your players, but each player is different and needs to work on different things.

    There is a lot more that I would do, but thats a start.

  6. hammer1

    I’ll guess the two teams that have an organizational ‘defined program’ for pitchers are Oakland and the Mets. Rick Peterson seems like the type that would implement that. Just a guess though. And it may only be one of those because Will mentions only one team first, then said the Reds weren’t one of the two teams that have it, so not sure if it is one or two teams.

  7. rickNmd

    Leo Mazzone has a program based off the teachings of Johnny Sain.

  8. rickNmd

    I’ll also add I’m dubious about a so-called “plan.” Dan O’Brien had a plan and it sucked.

  9. DevilsAdvocate

    I don’t think O’Brien gets enough credit for his farm system plan. Did his major-league team suck? Yes. Did he make a number of poor GM maneuvers, trades, etc, and then not make some at all that everyone knew had to be made? Yes. And did the prospects/players hate his minor-league plan? YES, they sure did.

    But, O’Brien had very specific remedies to the problems he saw with the farm system, and while his “take the first pitch no matter what” rule still seems silly, it doesn’t seem to have hurt anyone’s development too much. Votto certainly seems to be doing fine, after being one of the more outspoken guys on that rule. And the tandem pitching system did exactly what it was supposed to – it babied the lower minors until the pitchers got up into the higher levels, and it absolutely worked to cut off the rapid flow of prospects being sent to Kremchek for surgeries. O’Brien also is responsible for some pretty decent amateur drafts, chiefly the ones that netted Bailey and Bruce.

  10. preach

    Carroll also mentions Bailey briefly, and brings up a point that I’d been thinking about – why are the Reds putting him in AAA to keep him on a pitching schedule, when that only ups his innings pitched for the year? If they want to continue keeping him from going more than 30 IP beyond the previous year (which I think Krivsky has talked about previously), then this puts him that much closer to that limit.

    I was thinking about this as well. Perhaps it is an opportunity for Homer to throw a game and relax a little in hopes that he brings a less anxious attitude back to the bigs after the break. Of course, if he should happen to get lit up at AAA……

  11. Y-City Jim

    It Carroll’s statements are valid then what does that say for Ted Power and Dick Pole?

  12. Chris

    I’m not sure it says much about those two guys, Y-City. Any organization-wide pitcher development program would require approval/implementation beyond those two.

    And I agree with DA – I’ve yet to see anything to prove that O’Btien’s minor league plan “sucked.”

  13. Chris

    As for Homer, I’d like to see the Reds give him about 7-8 more starts, then put him in the bullpen for the last six weeks. That should put him right at the appropriate innings total for the season, but avoids having to shut him down in September.

    They could use Bailey’s spot to sort out Livingston, Dumatrait, and whatever other candidates they have for Lohse’s spot in the 2008 rotation.

  14. Y-City Jim

    But if Bailey is as mechanical flawed as Will states, what are Pole and Power doing about it? Isn’t that their role?

  15. GregD

    Chris, if they went that route, they could hold quite a few auditions at the end of the season. They could take the same approach with Belisle, who hasn’t pitched a starter’s workload in quite a while. They could also have Lohse’s spot if they are able to trade him.

  16. David

    First of all, Carroll specifically said that most teams don’t have plans in place. Were the Giants going to leave Lincecum in AAA with a .063 ERA because their plan saidhe shouldn’t be moved into the rotation until May 15, 2008? Of course not. Players dictate promotion based on performance not the completion of a relatively arbitrary set of goals. I would be exceedingly interested to know which clubs have a plan in place. It would say something if the teams were Kansas City or Baltimore rather than a Detroit/Minnesota/Atlanta.

    Secondly, with the Reds’ playoff aspirations over, there is absolutely no reason to leave Bailey in Louisville as part of some sort of planned development. There is nothing Bailey would be better served learning at the AAA level.

    Last, with our medical staff I understand why you want to be more cautious, but how long will Bailey be a Red? We probably aren’t going to afford him at FA if he pans out so worrying about long term mechanics like Carrol is doing isn’t necessarily the concern of the organization. What does Zito’s contract equate to in Bailey’s FA year? Keep him healthy in our window. Not the window once he becomes a Yankee or Red Sock.

  17. Chris

    Jim, I thought you were talking about the other half of his statement.

    I’m not sure Will’s primary concern is a flaw in Bailey’s delivery, as much as it is repeatability. Yeah, the pitching coaches are somewhat responsible for that area. I read in the paper today that Bailey had “fixed” something in his mechanics before the D-Backs start.

  18. Chris

    David,

    1. “Let his health be someone else’s problem” is a pretty silly plan, in addition to being somewhat questionable, morally. Bailey will be a Red for what – 6-7 years, at a minimum? Any arm problems he’s going to have would manifest themselves in that window.

    2. I’m quite certain that the sort of “development plans” Carroll was referring to are more sophisticated than “Promote on May 15, no sooner nor later.”

    I suspect it is something like, “Homer, we need you to focus on (1) getting ahead of batters, (2) being more efficient, (3) developing that change-up, and (4) holding runners.

    Nothing is set in stone, and assuming you’re doing okay in all other aspects of the game (also written out somewhere), you’ll be eligible for promotion if you (1) throw XX% of first-pitch strikes; (2) average XX pitches per inning; (3) establish command of the change-up (as determined by your manager and pitching coach); and (4) show that you’re at least average at holding runners (also evaluated by the staff).

  19. Chris

    GregD,
    That’s a decent point about Belisle. He’s never thrown > 85 IP in the bigs, and he’s over 100 this year. But, he’s 27 years old, and he’s thrown between 159-175 IP three times in the minors. You don’t need to apply the +30 (or is it +50) guideline to Belisle.

  20. BBB

    I saw a special on Mark Prior his rookie year. it was about him and his personal pitching coach using some of this mechanics technology. it went on to say that Prior had perfect mechanics and had less than a 1% chance at getting injured, or something crazy like that. 🙄 goes to show you that you just never know with pitchers

  21. DevilsAdvocate

    I remember the talk of Prior and his perfect mechanics. But it was chiefly used as an excuse to abuse him with a heavy workload very early on. Many commentators said something along the lines of, “Well, if anyone can withstand Dusty Baker, it’s Prior and his exemplary mechanics.”

  22. rickNmd

    What proof do you have that O’Brien’s silly-ass plan worked?

    There have been stories the past couple of years about the players being glad to be out of those shackles–in fact, wasn’t Bruce the focus of one of those in spring training this year?

    And wasn’t one of the first things Krivsky did was junk that plan? Pretty sure Tim Naehring and Johnny Alamaraz criticized it as well.

  23. Chris

    I have the exactly same proof that it worked that you have that it “sucked.” Zero. The difference is that I never climbed online and pronounced it a success.

    For what it’s worth, the tandem starter idea wasn’t O’Brien’s “silly-ass” idea. (Check out Naehring praising it here)‘s It was actually invented by former Astros/Oakland/Detroit pitching coach Bob Cluck, and also used by Texas/Oakland/SD development guru Grady Fuson. I doubt you could find a “baseball man” who’d criticize either one of those guys.

  24. Chris

    And I have no idea why Jay Bruce would feel “shackled” by a program directed at pitchers.

  25. DevilsAdvocate

    No, that was the part of the plan that reportedly dictated all hitters must take the first pitch of their at-bat. And that idea was kind of “silly-ass,” especially once the word got out to opposing pitchers, but it didn’t seem to permanently hinder anyone’s development.

    As far as the tandem starter thing for the lower minors, I still think it was exactly the right thing for the Reds organization at the time, and it’s still sort of the de facto arrangement for the GCL Reds and Billings. There can be no doubt that the system lost no decent pitching prospects to arm problems while it was in effect, and I have to believe that the tandem starting in GCL, Billings, Dayton, and Sarasota had something to do with that. I don’t care whether the pitchers liked it or not; it got the results that were desperately needed.

  26. doug

    Jay has never said anything about the first pitch thing… he was only under the restrictions for half a season.

    Joey Votto made a decent ‘stink’ about the take a first pitch thing though.

  27. Chris

    Thanks for the clarification, DA. The take-a-pitch thing is much more liable to mockery than the tandem starter plan. I don’t think it harmed anyone, but “silly-ass” might be in the right neighborhood.

    (The most bitching was from the Dayton Daily News’ Marc Katz, who didn’t like covering a lousy team).

  28. Bill

    I wanted to agree with Doug. I’ve been amazed how little the players (at least the ones I’ve talked to) are told about what to work on in order to improve. They don’t seem to be actually “coached”. (This is hitters and pitchers.)

    And as for the tandem pitcher idea, universally (again, at least the ones I’ve talked to) everyone hated it and felt that it required them to throw MORE , not less than the regular system.

  29. greg

    So, Saarloos = good but Bailey = not good? You’re kidding, right?

    Prior had perfect mechanics, and he’s having a hard time wiping his ass these days his arm is so messed up.

    Homer needs to learn to throw a changeup and curve. Not real complicated stuff.