(Ed. Formatting problems fixed. Sorry about that.)
First, I’d like to say I really enjoyed reading the discussion in yesterday’s comments. Work means I’m not going to get much of a chance to chime in on these, but I will read when I get the chance. Now, let’s have an argument.
Okay, I know, I know. Recent performances have pretty much guaranteed Homer Bailey the job as 4th starter. Still, it’s fun to argue, so why not argue? First, let’s start with the esteemed Steve Mancuso and his case for Homer Bailey, then I’ll make the case for Mike Leake.
A reasonable case could be made that Homer Bailey should start ahead of Bronson Arroryo and Mike Leake in the postseason, but he has certainly earned at least the #4 slot. If you favor old-school stats, Bailey leads Mike Leake in W-L (11-9 vs. 8-9), ERA (3.93 vs. 4.69) and strikeouts (142 vs. 112).
Bailey leads Leake in quality start percentage (68% vs. 57%), as well. Six times this year, Homer left the game with a lead that the bullpen lost vs. only once for Leake. He has definitely done better, more often, in giving the Reds a chance to win the game.
Looking at more advanced stats, Homer has an edge in FIP (4.16 to 4.40), BAA (.268 vs. .286) and K/9 (7.06 vs. 6.04). Homer also has a considerable edge in WAR, at both Fangraphs (2.1 vs. 1.5) and Baseball Reference (1.7 vs. .5). Remember that this stat takes into account offensive and fielding contributions, as well as pitching.
Homer is also finishing the season strongly. He has the lowest ERA (1.66), FIP (3.10), BAA (.177), WHIP (.083) and highest K/9 (9.14), on the entire starting staff in September.
Finally, Bailey has more experience, including having already pitched in the postseason in 2010. Homer has quality starts this year against Washington, San Francisco, Atlanta, the NY Yankees, Detroit, the LA Dodgers and the Cardinals. I like his odds better than those for Mike Leake of coming up big on a large stage.
Let me introduce you to my friend xFIP. xFIP is just like FIP (fielding-independent pitching) except that it brings home run rates back to reality. There’s still some debate as to how much a pitcher controls the homers he gives up, but one thing isn’t debated: If more than 10 or 11 percent of your fly balls turn into homers, something weird is going on.
Mike Leake’s HR/FB rate? 17.4 percent. That, Reds fans, is bad luck. It’s also why Mike Leake sports a lower xFIP (3.73) than Homer Bailey (4.10).
Here’s another question: which stat does the best job of predicting future ERA? Is it it ERA, FIP, or xFIP? The answer, you have probably guessed is xFIP. This means that, going forward, we should expect Mike Leake to out pitch Homer Bailey. Even if we want to assume Leake is homer-prone (his career rate is significantly above average), we still have to see this as no more than a wash.
But there’s more to it. Homer, you are probably aware, has had his fair share of injuries. He’s been healthy this year, but if you see the two as, at best, equivalent (I do), why take the chance? Leake has never been hurt. He’ll pass his previous innings high with his next start, but he threw more innings than Bailey in ’09 and ’10. So who’s the better bet to not break down?
Look, I fully understand that this decision has already been made. I also understand that Bailey’s uselessness as a reliever factors in, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather have Mike Leake as my fourth starter because, when I filter out luck, I see a better, more durable option than Homer Bailey.