It is hard to believe that the perpetually disappointing Homer Bailey is still just 25. It feels like he has been around forever, continually failing to live up to all the hype he once garnered as a top prospect. I had once thought he was overrated and was not too excited about his prospects, but I have become cautiously optimistic, once again thinking this may finally be the year. Will it be?
IP: 180. Yes, he’s the fifth starter and the average fifth starter pitches fewer than 180 innings. However, he has the potential to be one of the best fifth starters in baseball, meaning his innings pitched per start will be higher, and also he will be skipped less frequently. He threw 162 total innings last year, so no concern about the apparent jump if you are only looking at Major League innings.
LOB%: 71%. For a young pitcher with only 436 innings under his belt, I kept his LOB% projection the same as my expected LOB% formula spit out. Considering this just about matches what he has posted the last two years, this looks like a reasonable level to me.
GB%/LD%/FB%: 43%/20%/37%. His career LD% is a relatively high 21.5%, but given his innings total that basically amounts to just two full seasons, I will chalk most of that up to poor fortune/random fluctuation. League average mark among starters last year was 19.9%, nearly identical to my projection. He has generally been close to league average in terms of ground ball and fly ball rates as well, so that should be expected to continue.
HR/FB%: 11%. He was hurt a bit by an 11.5% mark last year, but the previous two seasons he posted rates just below 10%. However, the GABP has boosted homers by righties and lefties by 31% and 9%, respectively, over the last three years on average. So a projected mark a bit above league average seems like the right call.
BABIP: .300. His career BABIP is a slightly above league average .308, but that was inflated by a ridiculous .372 mark in 2008. Aside from that year, he has posted marks between .280 and .315, a pretty normal range. The Reds ranked fourth last year in UZR/150, so a strong defense behind him gives him a bit of upside here.
BB/9: 2.8. He posted a career best 2.3 mark last year, which continued the trend of improved control every year he has pitched. Of course, every trend will typically reverse at some point, and given his good, but not great F-Strike%, this is likely the year that reversal takes place.
K/9: 7.5. His SwStk% improved for the third year in a row and [small sample size alert!] he posted an excellent 9.4 K/9 in 29 September innings. With less reliance on his fastball and throwing his slider more frequently, a bump in strikeout rate should follow.
With all the metrics I project manually completed, it is time to unveil my full projected stat line and compare it to the other projection systems.
Overall, my projected line is the most optimistic, though not by much. It is understandable why the computer projections only project 160-166 innings, though I am a little surprised that the fans only project 162. Maybe the shoulder injury from last year is a factor, which admittedly it should be. All projections assume a high BABIP, which seems wrong when you look deeper into why his career BABIP is slightly higher than league average. We all expect some control regression, as well as a strikeout rate spike. In addition, we all expect improvement over last year, though stop short of projecting a full breakout.