Should Homer Bailey Start Game 1 of the NLDS After Dominant No-Hitter?

Dan TylickiAnalyst ISeptember 28, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 18: Homer Bailey #34 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning on September 18,  2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

Only three times in modern baseball history have we seen seven no-hitters in a season, and after Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey's dominant outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2012 has become one of those three, the other two being 1990 and 1991.

Clearly, Homer Bailey has a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. While he is set to pitch game 162, he could just as easily be held for the first game of the NLDS, given how he has played.

If just September is looked at, then he seems like an obvious choice. He's 3-1 in six games with 42 strikeouts and an ERA just barely over two. Those are Game 1 numbers any way you look at them.

That being said, if we are looking to the future on what to do with Homer Bailey, while he will be in the playoff rotation, he's not at Game 1 level at all.

What is this? Of those six matches this month, two were against Houston, and two were against Pittsburgh. He also faced the Cubs, and his one bad outing happened to come against the one possible playoff team, the Dodgers, and even they are on the outside looking in.

As nice as September was for him, his stats look less impressive when the competition is considered. Besides, Johnny Cueto is a Cy Young candidate, and Mat Latos has bounced back from a rough start to be a reliable No. 2 man.

There's nothing wrong with being the No. 3 guy in the rotation, and given how he has pitched compared to Cueto and Latos, it's fair.

It's easy to just look at stats and make up your mind on what pitchers should go where, I know. In reality, isn't a hot arm more important than a nice stat line when it comes down to the playoffs?

That's an entirely fair point, and that simply helps the case of Homer Bailey not pitching in Game 1. Latos has a 2.45 ERA since August, while Cueto has an ERA of 3.69, which for him has been bad, especially since his ERA has remained under three all season long.

The Reds' easy schedule in September makes who has the hot stuff rather deceiving, as the only major start separating Latos and Bailey in the hot pitcher category is the Dodgers, whom Latos shut out in eight innings.

Again, all this shows are stats and trends. When you put that first pitcher on the mound, you set the tone for the entire playoffs. Who has the most threatening stuff, and who can lock down opposing batsmen?

The Nationals have Gio Gonzalez and the Giants have Matt Cain for that. The Reds, likewise, have a relatively easy choice here. Who is the pitcher that can strike fear into another playoff team in that first game?

I'll give you a hint: It's not the only Reds pitcher to have double-digit losses this season. That's not to take away from the no-hitter. Nothing can do that.

What Homer Bailey did is strike out 10 Pirates, allowing no hits and only one walk. The only walk came to Andrew McCutchen in the seventh, who is the one guy who had a chance to break up Bailey's perfection anyway.

As great as it was, a no-hitter gives no indication as to how a player will play the rest of the season. Philip Humber has struggled all year, and Johan Santana's ERA was 8.27 in the 10 starts after his no-hitter.

Conversely, Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain have been dominant all year. The perfect game is not why Cain is most likely getting the game one start. It's because he has proven that he can carry the team, especially with Tim Lincecum imploding this year.

I can't say that about Homer Bailey, although the fact that he has had a good September means he will be valuable in the playoffs. In fact, he could be an X-factor, as teams may shrug off the no-hitter as a one-time thing.

Perhaps he shouldn't be the Game 1 starter, but he is a guy to watch in the playoffs, as he could not be hotter than he is now.