Homer Bailey Arrives

Homer Bailey is pitching like an ace. In his seventh professional season, everything has come together for the one-time fifth-best prospect in baseball. It’s been a long rise to the top for Bailey, who didn’t have a sub-4.00 ERA until his sixth professional season. While his 2012 performance was a major step forward, Bailey has managed to get even better in 2013. Through 90 innings this season, Bailey has nearly matched his season-high in WAR. His 2.68 FIP rates 11th among qualified starters. Bailey may have taken a while to reach meet his lofty expectations, but the wait is well worth it given his current performance.

Many pitchers would have been content with Bailey’s 2012 numbers, but Bailey couldn’t have been fully satisfied based on some changes he’s made this year. If you had to nitpick two areas where Bailey could have improved in 2012, it would have been upping his strikeout rate and cutting his high home run rate. He’s managed to meet both challenges.

Asking a pitcher to start striking out more hitters isn’t usually a fair request. But whether through luck, or hard work, Bailey has been able to help himself in that category. Some of his increase in strikeouts can be attributed to a jump in velocity. Bailey’s average fastball velocity has jumped from 93.30 mph to 94.22 mph this season. Bailey chose the same offseason training program he used prior to the 2012 season, which focuses on shoulder health. He also reportedly entered 2013 with 10 extra pounds of muscle so he would hold up over the course of the season.

On top of that he’s also utilized a different pitch selection. He’s relied less on his four-seam fastball, mixing in more sinkers and splitters. Brett Talley pointed this out a month ago. This change has played a large role in Bailey’s improvement in both areas. The splitter has been a decent strikeout pitch for Bailey in the past, but it’s become an elite weapon for him in 2013. Bailey’s whiff rate with the pitch has jumped from 15.77% to 21.72%. Combine that with the fact that he’s throwing it more often, his usage has jumped from 9.30% to 14.52%, and that explains some of the jump in strikeout rate.

While throwing the sinker more hasn’t helped as much in the strikeout department, it has helped Bailey increase his ground ball rate. Bailey’s ground ball rate has jumped to a career-high 49.2%, almost a 5% improvement on last year. It’s probably not a coincidence that, for the first time in his career, Bailey is suppressing home runs at an above-average rate. Throwing the splitter more also helps in this area, as it has the highest ground ball rate of all his pitches this year.

The change in repertoire seems like a deliberate play by Bailey to cut down on his home run problem. After last season’s step forward, Bailey did not get complacent, he studied his game and worked even harder. With Johnny Cueto sidelined for much of the year, the Reds needed a pitcher capable of posting ace-level numbers. They haven’t missed a beat behind the improved Bailey.

*As usual, much of the research used here comes from BrooksBaseball.net.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

31 Responses to “Homer Bailey Arrives”

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  1. Jason Castro's mother says:

    Comp for Bailey going forward in a keeper league? Cole Hamels? Gio Gonzalez? Who is he going forward?

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  2. Blockhead says:

    He’s still bad at pitching with runners on which is why I’m not trusting his FIP until he learns to pitch out of the stretch.

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    • johnnycuff says:

      career FIP/xFIP with bases empty: 3.98/4.04
      career FIP/xFIP with men on base: 4.12/3.97

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      • Blockhead says:

        2013 LOB%: 67.4
        Career LOB%: 69.8

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      • Giovani says:

        Bases Empty 226 42 12 2 2 15 52 0 0 0 .201 .261 .283 .526
        Runners On 139 38 8 0 3 8 35 6 1 6 .304 .341 .396 .704
        RISP 80 25 4 0 2 4 17 2 0 1 .342 .367 .438 .775

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      • johnnycuff says:

        you can’t just throw out (badly formatted) numbers with nothing to compare them to.

        bailey career vs 2012 MLB AVG/OBP/SLG (2013 is basically the same)

        bases empty:

        .249/.308/.398 (MLB)
        .254/.313/.391 (bailey)

        men on base:

        .251/.330/.405 (MLB)
        .269/.343/.445 (bailey)


        .244/.339/.400 (MLB)
        .253/.332/.424 (bailey)

        so going by results it does look like you gentlemen are correct and there’s something there. his FIP and xFIP stay about the same because his HR and FB rates don’t change significantly, however, his walk rate does go up and his GB rate goes from 45.4% -> 40.8% -> 39.8% (GB rate isn’t included in FIP or xFIP). those former ground balls seem to turn into LDs, which means a lot of bases clearing doubles.

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  3. Sgt Hulka says:

    Thinking of offering my only closer, Mujica, for him in a 15-teamer and punting saves. Is that a fair offer?

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    • Sgt Hulka says:

      Soooo, Mujica for Bailey? Enough, not enough, fair, unfair?

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      • Stond Jays Fan says:

        I would never trade you Homer Bailey for a closer. But that’s just me.

        Ive punted saves before at this time of the year before. I’ve had varied levels of success. Mainly good.

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  4. Brett says:

    Just traded Shelby Miller for Homer and Cole Hamels in a 12 team mix (non-keeper) league. Worth it?

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  5. Jayson Nix says:

    Would you move Samardzja or Greinke for him?

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    • steve-o says:

      Are you being facetious?

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      • Jayson Nix says:

        I wasn’t. With Bailey’s excellent peripherals and Greinke’s velocity decrease and crap peripherals… I think its a valid question.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      Move Greinke (overrated), not Samardzija (Very good).

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    • Jason Castro's mother says:

      Valid question indeed. I like Bailey as much as Greinke and Samardzija.

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    • Bill says:

      Two seasons ago, I didn’t think Lincecum’s decrease in velocity would cause that much trouble, so I traded for him my keeper league. Suffice it to say, I’ve regretted the trade. So, I think I would trade Greinke for him, however I think Greinke’s perceived value is such that you may be able to get some additional valuable pieces for him. I’d ask for Bailey and a mid tier outfielder.

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  6. Jacks says:

    Last year, it was his propensity to hang his baby hump curve that prevented him from making a full step up. I’d see that little baby breaking ball get hammered again and again. That’s backed up by data … Check out his CB run values last year. This year it’s a positive run preventing pitch.

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  7. Jeff says:

    Moore or Bailey?

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  8. Julian Atehortua says:

    Would you move Harvey for Strasburg and Bailey?

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  9. taylor gang says:

    he got lit up by a braunless brewers squad. hes isnt good @jeffjalaba

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    • 123 says:

      getting tired of all these dumb “player A finally arrives” articles…

      clearly these bozos didnt watch the post season… or the game where bailey throws a no no…

      bailey was probably the best pitcher in sept and july of 2012…

      these articles are usually 9 months late…

      for instance… matt carpenter finally arrives…

      how about wowing these players when we see em. after seeing baileys sept and 2012 post season u had to keep bailey in ur fantasy league…no brainer…

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      • Jake says:

        Jose Bautista arrives.

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      • Bill says:

        Lots of players finish seasons strong, but it turns out to be nothing more than a hot streak and not a sign of “arrival”. Three months plus a strong finish to the previous season is much more indicative of a true breakout.

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  10. 12 says:

    yay homerbailey isnt good right…. smucks

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