2011 Reds / 2012 Reds

Four pitches

How about this pitcher for the Reds 2012 starting rotation?

• 12-3 win-loss record

• 3.55 ERA

• Walk rate better than Justin Verlander and James Shields

• K/BB better than Tim Lincecum and Jon Lester

• Younger than Felix Hernandez and David Price

How can we acquire this pitcher?  The good news is, we already have (sort of).

If you take away four pitches, that’s Homer Bailey’s 2011 season.

It has often been mentioned how frustratingly close Homer has been to having an excellent season in 2011.  Really close.  He lost to Cleveland on May 21 on a 2-run HR to Travis Buck in the seventh inning.  On June 26, Homer gave up a 3-run HR to Derrek LeeRickie Weeks hit a game-winning 3-run HR off Homer on July 7.  And a couple weeks ago, Shane Victorino hit a 2-run, eighth inning HR for the Phillies that beat Homer and the Reds.

Reverse those four outcomes and Homer’s record would go from 8-7 to 12-3 and his ERA would fall from 4.34 to 3.55.

I’m not saying Homer will ever become a #1 starter.  There’s no guarantee he’ll continue to progress as he has the past few seasons and even if he does keep improving, he could easily top out as a #2 or #3.  I’m not saying that Homer was unlucky or deserved a better fate in 2011.  He threw those four costly pitches.

But, it’s way too early to give up on him, as some have suggested.  Homer is already quite close to being really good.  Four pitches close.

19 thoughts on “Four pitches

  1. Thing is you can’t take those away and Homer while blessed with incredible talent doesn’t seem able to stay away from those type of mistakes. I have seen more growth and maturity from Mike Leake over the past two seasons then I have seen from Homer in that same period.

  2. I like the analysis. Interesting take on what we’ve spoken much about during the season…that Homer seems so close but yet he frustrates unlike anyone else (other than Easy E).

  3. Great post. Pre-August 2009 Homer would get pummeled by gobs of hits and walks. The one thing that has done him in the past two seasons has usually been that one poor pitch, resulting in a multi-run homer (pun!). This is called progress. If he can stay healthy, we should have a quality mid-rotation starter. I would like to see his K/9 get back to the 2010 rate, however.

  4. The Reds should definitely keep Bailey in the rotation, unless they deal Bailey to get Shields.

    The only thing missing from the analysis is that while he could be pretty good, he’s also close to being pretty mediocre. Personally, I’d rather have Lincecum’s K/BB than Bailey’s, even though Bailey’s is better. Bailey’s is subject to more variability at 6.7/2.1 than Lincecum’s 9.4/3.6. And that’s after a great recent stretch by Bailey also, I believe. (Not that I’m opposed to great stretches.)

    Like Peter says, I really want to see that 8+K/9, even at the expense of 3BB/9.

    • Like Peter says, I really want to see that 8+K/9, even at the expense of 3BB/9.

      8+ K/9 is mostly for elite pitchers
      and when I say elite I mean elite

      of the top 13 qualified starters who have been the best this year (aka Haladay, Lee, Kershaw, Sabathia, Hamels, Verlander, etc) the lowest K/9 is 8.01/9 IP

      you can be in the next group of 20-30 starters in baseball with as low as 6.5 K/9
      it would be interesting to look at this thing with a bit more history (as in the last 5 years). Elite pitchers have high strikeout rates.

      I guess what I’m saying is that 8K/9IP would be wonderful and it might make him a tremendous starter but I’m happy as long as he’s around 7

      David, I know you’ve done this in the past and I’m not sure how you did it but you’ve shown the range of FIP/ERA (be cool to do for xFIP) that defines #1, #2, etc starters. Then what would be awesome is look at the mean K rates for those same groups

      just eying up the last 2 years it looks like it’s nearly impossible to be a #2 with a K rate below 6.5

      with this years slight decline in offense It’s hard for me to know what really is, for example a #2 or a #3 starter. We throw this idea around all the time but honestly after the elites like the names I mentioned above I could not tell you if Bailey or Leake or Cueto were #2 or #4 starters

  5. Just an impression, but Homer’s mistakes seem to come when he tries to get too fine. Early in his career he tried to blow it past guys, nowadays he’s trying to be a finesse pitcher. Maybe next year the two will meet in the middle and he’ll find that controlled aggression a guy w/ his arm should have.

  6. But here’s the question and, I think, the problem with this kind of analysis: What happens if you do this to other pitchers? Take away 4 HRs allowed from just about anyone and the numbers get a lot better. His HR rate isn’t appreciably odd. In fact, it’s pretty in line with what he’s always done.

    I could also point out that his BABIP has been better than his career would indicate.

    Also, he gets hurt all the time.

    It’s an interesting take, but I’m just not sold.

  7. @Jason Linden:

    I think it’s the context of the home runs that is the primary point of the post. It’s one thing to give up four solo home runs, but it’s another thing to surrender up four multi-run home runs with the game on the line.

    I understand where you are coming from, however. I mean, if you take away all 40 of Bronson’s bombs, he’s actually had a pretty decent season.

  8. Barring a trade (or three), it looks like the Reds will need Homer in the rotation next year. Hopefully he will grow past the “one bad pitch” syndrome like he apparently has the too many walks phase.

    I still maintain that if it falls that way, he could be a closer used in the way the Reds have used CoCo, i.e. one inning, starts the inning. In nearly every situation it should be possible to prestage a scripted warm up for him in that role just like when he starts.

    Also necessity is the mother of invention. With the maturity of seeing his shot for longevity in the majors is as a bull pen guy, Homer might figure out how to get warmed up a lot quicker (seems to me that if he would only be throwing two pitches instead of four that would be a pretty big step in shortening his warm up right out of the chute).

  9. @PeterNincompoop: Yeah, I just don’t by the faltering under pressure stuff. I tend to go with Neyer’s argument that these guys have been under pressure their whole lives. If it was going to break them, it would have already.

    This is a long way of saying, if Homer had given up those HRs a few innings earlier, we’d just think he was having a mediocre season.

  10. Okay, so I looked some stuff up, and I need to at least slightly revise what I said earlier. 58% of HRs are solo, in general. Homer has only given up 4 of 12. So, given average luck, you could make a case to give him a few runs back, but only a few.

  11. @Jason Linden: More interesting than the home run business is the 6.7/2.1 K/BB. Where is that going next year?

    Taking 4 HRs away is not really fair.

    I also hate the pressure stuff, as everyone here knows.

    • More interesting than the home run business is the 6.7/2.1 K/BB. Where is that going next year?

      that’s a good question. His SO/BB ratio has been very different the last 3 years

      this year I have a feeling the change is because his slider has been so much better and he’s thrown it a lot more

      6.7/2.1 K/BB this season
      8.26/3.30 last season
      6.83/4.13 in 2009

      we all remember Bailey use to have control issues. This seems to have improved dramatically. But is that the cause of the lower K rate

  12. @mike:

    I agree with you in regards to his slider. It has been a tremendous weapon for him this season. Of all the pitchers in the NL with at least 100 innings, Bailey’s slider has been the 8th most valuable (compared to the other pitchers sliders if you go by Fangraphs pitch value system. For some perspective, Kershaw’s slider ranks number one at 23.8, whereas Homer’s is 12.4. It’s important to note that there is about 100 inning difference between those two pitchers.

    While asking for Bailey to maintain a K rate that he had in 2010 is probably asking a lot, it’s true that even in the 7-range he should do fairly well (if he keeps the walks down).

    Now if only Cueto could get his K rate up…

  13. In the expansion era(1969 and after)there have been only 79 pitcher seasons age 25 and under to pitch at least 100 innings and match Bailey’s K/W; BB/9; and K/9 ratios.

  14. There is no reason to give up on Homer. I was very impressed when watching him live at Coors Filed last week. He is so close now … he has largely done what he needed to do – cut down on walks and come up with a plus breaking pitch.

    I would only be OK with a trade of Homer if it was part of getting one of the best pitchers in the majors, like King Felix.

  15. To everyone commenting on your dislike of such an analysis because of course a pitcher looks better when taking away his 4 worst pitches:

    I think Steve knows the fallacy of such an argument, and is clear to point out that he’s not arguing that Homer doesn’t deserve those pitches to be a part of his 2011 record. To me, he’s saying that if you’re 4 bad pitches away, you’re pretty close, and given his age, it’s not time to give up on Homer. Every team needs a middle of the rotation guy.

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