Holy moly, the Cincinnati Reds' Homer Bailey tossed a no-hitter Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. You read that right folks. Mr. No-No Bailey's no-hitter is proof that you NEVER give up on a top arm too early.
Homer Bailey began his professional career as the seventh-overall pick in the 2004 MLB draft. The young phenom would progress quickly and be named Cincinnati's top overall prospect by Baseball America andBaseball Prospectus prior to the 2007 season. Baseball America billed him as "the next great Texas fireballer in the tradition of Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens," while also naming him as one of Major League Baseball's top five prospects.
But my oh my how one can fall from glory at lightning speeds.
Homer Bailey's second professional season of 2006 saw him post a 2.47 ERA with 156 K's in 138.2 innings pitched at Single-A and Double-A. Fans and media alike, clamored for the then 20 year old kid to make his debut.
As the start of the 2007 approached and Baseball America, scouts and fans where all singing their praise of the young right-hander. Little did they know that the next six years would be a roller coaster ride full of ups, downs, trade declarations and disappointments.
As the 2007 season approached fans and media alike clamored for his Major League debut. But when Homer Bailey finally hit the scene, he did so with a thud that would have knocked King Kong on his backside. He would post a 5.76 ERA in nine starts during the '07 campaign and follow that up with a 7.93 ERA in eights starts during the '08 season. These not-so Ryan and Clemens like stats brought out the pessimistic personalities of many.
Bailey would continue to show slight progression for the next three seasons. He posted ERA's of 4.53, 4.47, and 4.43 from 2009 to 2011. He would even improve his WHIP by nearly 10 points in each successive season. But the hype and buzz that he had created as a young prospect had long dissipated—the fans had grown impatient, the media had grown impatient, and it even seemed as though the Cincinnati Reds had grown impatient.
Rumors surfaced on Fox Sports in 2011 when Ken Rosenthal reported that Bailey was being shopped for Ubaldo Jimenez. Before the 2012 season began, Reds beat writer John Fay speculated that Bailey could be moved in order to make room for a possible Roy Oswalt signing. Let's also not forget that Homer Bailey was not even guaranteed a spot in the Reds' starting rotation this year. He, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Tomko and Jeff Francis were all battling it out for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.
But in the end the Reds stuck with him and it has paid off in 2012. Bailey has been amazingly consistent this year. He ranks second on the club with 21 quality starts. Johnny Cueto leads the pack with 22 and ace-in-the-making Mat Latos ranks behind Bailey with 18.
We should also not forget that Homer Bailey is but 26 years old. It can sometimes be easy to get frustrated and give up on top arms that do not develop quickly. You need look no further than the top of the NL ERA leader board at examples of arms that were thrown to the curb only to pay dividends to the next team waiting in line.
R.A. Dickey didn't hit his stride until the age of 34. The Rangers, Mariners, and Twins had all given up on him. Now at 36 he owns a 20-6 record with a 2.69 ERA for the New York Mets. Kyle Lohse would spend seven years frustrating the Twins, Reds, and Phillies. Then at 29 years old, the Cardinals took a shot on him in 2008. Lohse has not looked back since. He owns a 16-3 record with a 2.77 ERA this season.
Homer Bailey is having his breakout season. He owns a 13-10 record with a 3.75 ERA as well as that always elusive no-hitter. Bailey dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night. On September 28 of 2012, Homer Bailey lived up to the hype—he was Nolan Ryan-like—he was Roger Clemens-like.
The patience of the Cincinnati Reds paved the way for Bailey to produce one of only 15 no-hitters in team history—the first since Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988.
Homer Bailey's no-hitter is proof to NEVER give up on a top arm too early. This career defining moment may just be the spark that sets off career full of highlights. Bailey's next stop—playoff dominance? We will see.
You can follow Josh Ramsey on Twitter @JRamCincy