2011 Reds / Reds - General

Facing Facts with Homer

I have been putting off writing about Homer Bailey. He draws such strong opinions and his performance has been so inconsistent that writing about him is daunting.

It is, I think, safe to say that we have all been disappointed in Bailey. He’s been hurt or ineffective for much of his time in the majors. Certainly, he was rushed. I won’t argue that. The Reds could have handled his situation much better, but at some point, we have to ask ourselves if Bailey will ever become the pitcher we thought he would be.

First we should talk about the kind of pitcher Homer has been. Despite his stuff, he is not a strikeout pitcher. Last year is the only season he has posted an above average K/9 rate. There’s no discernible up or down trend with strikeouts, so we should probably figure that, at least for now, his career numbers (which have him close to the average in strikeouts) are what we’re going to see.

One positive sign has been the steady decline of his walk rate. He has walked fewer batters every year, and this year he’s made a very nice step forward. His current 2.58 BB/9 is well above average. Sadly, there isn’t much beyond his walk rate to really hang your hat on. If you look just at his numbers and forget about the potential, you’d be forced to conclude that Bailey is, for better or worse, average. Certainly, other big time pitching prospects have done worse, but that doesn’t make Bailey less disappointing.

But there is a ray of hope that goes to the unpredictability of pitchers. Baseball-Reference, as I’m sure you’re all aware has similarity scores for all major league players. I don’t normally reference them because they often claim that wildly different players are “similar.” Bailey’s comps are instructive, though. Through age 24, his top three comparables are Jason Schmidt, Jamie Moyer, and Roy Halladay. After that you’ll see some bad pitchers and some pitchers you’ve never heard of. It’s an eclectic group.

If you look at the numbers for the other players, it’s easy to see the comparison, and anyway, it’s a familiar story. Pitcher has lots of potential and is given many chances to prove himself. He succeeds and becomes Roy Halladay or fails and becomes Ian Snell. And this is why it’s time to face some reality with Homer. He might figure it out, he really might. If he does, it might happen next year or it might happen in five years. The results are good enough that someone will find a place for him to pitch. The question is whether or not the Reds should.

Homer’s name was thrown around a lot in the recent trade speculation. Many of us came down against trading him (I count myself in this group), but I don’t think that was the correct viewpoint. The signs point to the most likely career path for Bailey being that of a #3-5 starter – not the ace we’ve all been hoping for. If you can get someone who still sees that potential and is willing to pay for it, I think you do it. There’s a reason we all know the phrase “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect. Bailey has maybe a 10% chance of being what we wanted to be before the Reds lose him anyway. Pitchers are hard to project, and eventually, the results have to outweigh the projections.

9 thoughts on “Facing Facts with Homer

  1. @Myles: That’s not really what he’s saying though. Bailey is a #3 or #4 pitcher right now. That doesn’t mean give up on him. Just tempering expectations. His future is still bright but he no longer has a high ceiling. He’s kind of the anti-EV who I’d say is the opposite.

    The think that is striking about Bailey is the dramatic drop in velocity. He was hitting 95+ consistently and apparently hits 91-92 now. What happened? Is this just a temporary thing or are the accumulating injuries taking their toll? Is this an organizational philosophy of turning power pitchers into contact pitchers? If so, this organization sucks at developing pitchers.

  2. This is a great description of how the Reds and their fans should view Homer Bailey as a pitcher moving forward. He’s clearly not the prime prospect he was originally thought, but he still could become a high end #2 or extremely high end #3. Right now, he’s a solid 4th or 5th starter in the big leagues.

    Either way, Homer has turned out to be something. Let’s hope he keeps progressing like this blog post talked about.

  3. Looking forward to the day when people quit setting up the strawman of “all those people who still expect Homer to be a #1.” Strawmen are set up because they are much easier to knock over.

    I doubt there is a single person here who hasn’t already recognized “the fact” that Homer isn’t going to be a #1. If someone here within the past year has said he’s going to be a #1 pitcher, I’d like to be reminded of it.

    If Homer is going to be a #3 fine, and hopefully he’ll improve with maturity to be a #2. He is still young and relatively inexperienced.

    Homer has been working on being a “pitch to contact” pitcher, so that he can pitch deeper into the game. If you look at what he actually says, you’d see that. It fully explains the decline in K/9 and the even more rapid decline in BB/9.

    Whether “pitch to contact” is a necessary phase that he’ll build from to increase his K/9 eventually, we’ll have to see. If he stays the way he is now, I’ll take that.

    Roy Halladay. Repeat. Roy Halladay.

  4. @reds_fan: @Steve Mancuso: The comments from each of you fully explain why I’ve avoided writing about Bailey.

    reds_fan – I think, right now, a solid #3 starter is his realistic ceiling (keyword: realistic). Not a “high-end #2.” It’s just my opinion, but that’s where I stand.

    Steve – Bailey has only had a drop in K rate since last year. It’s his BB rate that has declined consistently (I noted this in the article). Also, I don’t believe ever claimed people thought Homer was going to be a #1. I’m sure some people do, because the only reason you aren’t open to offers for Homer is “potential.” Are you telling me there weren’t a bunch of people saying we shouldn’t trade Homer? Because there absolutely were. I brought up Halladay because it’s a possible outcome. I also think it’s the least likely. So far, Homer has been a banged up #3. I can’t see hanging on to him if you can get anything decent in return.

  5. Digging a little deeper…may be it’s a catcher issue, not a pitcher issue? Or, may be it’s a managerial issue. May be just “communication?”

    In the last two seasons, Bailey pitching to Hanigan: 123 IP, 3.03 ERA. I’ll take that in almost any time.

    • From baseball-reference.com: Homer Bailey-catcher ERAs

    career:
    Hanigan 176 IP, 3.93 ERA
    Hernandez 78 IP, 7.09 ERA
    Ross 43 IP, 8.79 ERA
    Miller 39 IP, 1.38 ERA
    Valentin 23 IP, 1.93 ERA

    For 2011 only:
    Hanigan 50 IP, 2.68 ERA
    Hernandez 23 IP, 7.83 ERA

    For 2010 only:
    Hanigan 83 IP, 3.24 ERA
    Hernandez 25 IP, 8.42 ERA

    In quotes from the past two seasons, Bailey has talked about how well he and Hanigan “communicate.” My guess is Dusty if forcing the issue with Bailey and Hernandez. Their last game together went quite well.

    For 2011, team ERA with Hanigan is 4.01; with Hernandez it’s 4.00.

  6. @Steve Price: Yeah, I didn’t touch on the catcher issue because I’m not sold on catcher ERA, plus, we’re dealing with a pretty small sample there. I just don’t quite buy that he can be that radically different of a pitcher depending on who’s behind the plate. If he is, then they need to give Hanigan a raise or something.

  7. To me it’s not so much catcher ERA–it’s chemistry and confidence. Plus, the fact that Bailey has mentioned it publicly–he hasn’t criticized anyone, but he’s publicly stated on at least three occasions I know of (two this year) that he and Hanigan “communicate” well.

    As far as “sample” sizes go–we’re talking nearly two full seasons–you’ve got 123 innings with one catcher and 78 for the other catcher, with consistent ERA’s over the two seasons for each. Also, Hernandez nor Ross were known for their defense–they are/were considered offense-first catchers.

    I do think the Valentin/Miller stats are too small of a sample for credibility (Valentin was also offense-first). As far as Miller is concerned—Bailey pitched well in Louisville with Miller catching, too, so I give those stats a little more credibility than I normally would.

    If there was inconsistencies in the past couple of years with Hernandez/Hanigan and if Bailey hadn’t recognized Hanigan publicly a few times I would discount it more. However–this information is rather strong.

  8. @CP:

    He’s saying he would deal Bailey for an anchor for the pitching rotation. That’s what I think they need to do. I think Bailey’s *ceiling* is maybe 4th best starter on a team that can win a World Series. Right now he’s yet to prove he can be an above average major league pitcher for one full season. He’d be lucky to turn into Bronson Arroyo.

    To win it all in 2012 we have to have 2 strong guys to add to Cueto, assuming one is willing to put up with the growing pains from Leake and Wood who both appear to have higher ceilings that Bailey. One of those guys could potential be Chapman if the club was smart enough to start working him towards being a starter tomorrow morning (which they’re not). So that means at least one top flight pitcher is needed. Bailey should be a part of that trade. If he needs to pitch to Hanigan make Hanigan a part of the trade too.

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