Homer Bailey Takes Another Step Forward

Since the end of the 2011 season, I have been a fan of Homer Bailey. After that year, I recapped his performance and finished with a command to readers to “go the extra dollar, as 2012 may finally be his year.” My crystal ball was obviously working, as 2012 was indeed Bailey’s breakout year, at least from a surface stats perspective. I then projected his first career sub-4.00 ERA and boldly predicted that he would outperform Ricky Romero.

Earlier, I mentioned that at least based solely on ERA, 2012 was Bailey’s breakout year. However, SIERA suggests that he has essentially been the exact same pitcher since 2010. The only difference was a reversal of fortune. Though he suffered from a bit of homeritis in 2012, his LOB% reached a career high and his BABIP was just a tick below the league average.

This past season, Bailey truly did take that next step forward. His SIERA dropped to a career low 3.39, as his strikeout rate spiked and he posted a career best ground ball percentage, while displaying his always sterling control.

Clearly, the biggest driver of his further improvement was that strikeout rate surge. He had hovered around the league average from 2011 to 2012, but then his fastball velocity jumped a significant 1.6 mph. Previously, his fastball velocity sat in the 92-93 mph range, after declining from a high of 94.4 back in 2009, which proved to be a short-lived peak. Even more exciting is that his velocity actually improved as the season wore on. Check out his monthly trend:

Homer Bailey Velocity

As is always the case with sudden spikes, whether it’s performance related or process-based like velocity, we can never be sure if it’s sustainable. But it certainly helped boost his SwStk% to a career high (in fact, his SwStk% has now increased for an impressive five straight seasons) and likely made his variety of breaking balls and off-speed offerings more effective.

Unfortunately, it appears that this is probably his ceiling. While his current level of performance appears sustainable for the most part, it’s hard to imagine any further upside. That’s okay of course as he should remain a valuable member of a fantasy team’s rotation and appears to be a safe investment, but owners looking at his ERA trend and thinking that he’s on his way to becoming a darkhorse Cy Young candidate will be disappointed.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

13 Responses to “Homer Bailey Takes Another Step Forward”

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  1. potcircle says:

    “Unfortunately, it appears that this is probably his ceiling.”

    don’t know why you would say this – he’s only 27… hell, roger clemens was pretty good for a while, but had his best year at age 35… bailey still has a lot of ways to improve…

    & i love reds pitching this year, because nobody manages pitching worse than dusty baker… when he left the cubs, the team era went from 4.74 to 4.04… and i expect every reds starter to get an extra win or 2 without him…

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    • yaboynate says:

      Mike’s basing his statement on an aggregate pitcher’s aging curve and historical data of how a larger sample size of pitchers similar to Homer Bailey’s skill set have developed at this point in their career.

      You’re basing your statement on Roger Clemens.

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    • Grant says:

      Baker is as old school as it gets. I don’t see why pitchers would get more wins with a manager that isn’t as concerned with the pitching “W.”

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  2. dl80 says:

    Mike, nice article here and good advice throughout. I think it is at least possible that he can improve a little bit, though it would probably be fluky and therefore impossible to predict when.

    Still, he had a HR/FB rate that was basically league average last year (10.2 vs. 10.5 average). Even playing in Cincinnati, it’s possible that a lucky year in that department could bring his home runs from 20 down to the mid-teens. And with a dropping line drive rate, I think that .284 BABIP is potentially sustainable.

    You are right though that he is not likely to get much, if any, better. He does seem to be using a split finger pitch more, which might make the groundball rate improve even a little bit more. The BABIP increase might be offset by fewer home runs?

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  3. Alex says:

    I outperformed Ricky Romero simply by not pitching

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  4. brober34 says:

    I like Bailey. My problem with him is he is too inconsistent. I drafted him last year hoping for a breakout. While he was solid overall, I am in a weekly points league, so the fact that he had as many bad starts (4 ER+) as great starts (2 ER or less, 7+IP) means he hurt me as often as he helped. I ended up trading him to a contender once I determined he didn’t quite become a keeper.

    If he could cut his bad starts in half, that would move him up a bit closer to the top SP’s in my league.

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    • Yup, he definitely was up and down all season since I owned him in a league as well. But I’m not so sure that’s something inherent as opposed to just randomness this year.

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  5. sumfears says:

    He gave up almost double the home runs on the road versus home(while pitching 16 more innings). Is that more of a fluky thing? I know that is influenced by his increased GB%.

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  6. TheNewGuy says:

    He really has the full arsenal. Hard heater, good curveball, slider, split and a sinker. I really fail to understand why he has no further room to grow with those kind of weapons.

    It is always going to be a tough park to become an ace in unless you have huge ground ball numbers which I don’t think Bailey ever will. But I can still see the potential for K’s to increase if he utilises one of his other offspeed pitches more effectively.

    Move to a larger park though (and better defense), and I think ace potential is still very much there.

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