Here's a Thought: Stop Believing In Homer Bailey

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJuly 26, 2009

Entering 2007, Cincinatti Reds righthander Homer Bailey was thought to be one of the top prospects in baseball. The big righty threw a mid-90's fastball and a curve that drew rave reviews.

Here we are, 2 1/2 years later, and Bailey hasn't dealt with any injuries, but it's basically time to give up on him.

In saying that, I'm not saying that Bailey has zero chance of ever being a productive major leaguer, because he still does.

What I am saying is that it's time to stop thinking he'll eventually figure it out.

In 2007, the excuse was "adjustment difficulties." In 2008, he was "experimenting with a slider." Now he's "trying to incorporate a splitter."

Can we just all agree that Homer Bailey isn't a major league pitcher?

Bailey's fastball was said to be in the mid-90's, but it actually averages only 92.5 mph. He is up to 93.9 this year, but his 5.85 FIP (5.65 career) clearly indicates the increased velocity isn't helping.

This is particularly problematic because Bailey seems intent on blowing the fastball by hitters.

Bailey throws the heater 70 percent of the time, way above the league average. 

With only slightly-above-average velocity, little movement, and bad command of the pitch, Bailey's heater is easy meat for big-league hitters.

His offspeed pitches are even worse because he lacks command of them, although they have improved in effectiveness this year.

However, Bailey needs to ramp up his usage of the offspeed stuff and throw fewer fastballs if he wants to ever stick in the majors. MLB hitters can hit the ball if it's over the plate, even if it's going 100 mph. 

So Bailey's vaunted stuff isn't really all it's cracked up to be.

Even more troubling is Bailey's effectiveness.

In this study, I found two variables that correlate somewhat to effectiveness—Contact Percentage (the percentage of swings against a pitcher that result in contact) and O-Swing Percentage (the percentage of a pitcher's pitches outside the strike zone that draw swings).

Here's a quick table of Bailey's numbers in those two stats compared to the league average:

                       Contact percent          O-Swing percent
Bailey 2007        78.3%                       22.4%
MLB 2007          80.8%                       25.0%
Bailey 2008        88.4%                       26.2%
MLB 2008          80.8%                       25.4%
Bailey 2009        87.8%                      15.4%
MLB 2009          80.7%                      25.0%

We can see that the MLB average for contact is about 80 percent, and the o-swing average is about 25 percent.

Bailey is well below the average in both marks.

You'd think that for a "wild power pitcher," you'd just see a lack of strikes, but Bailey actually throws a higher percentage of pitches (50.4%) in the zone than the MLB average (49.3%).

No, Bailey isn't getting hurt because he throws too many balls. He's getting hurt because his pitches are phenomenally easy to hit.

That's not an easy problem to fix. The first step is to cut the use of the fastball and throw the supposedly plus-plus curve more. If nothing else, it'll confuse hitters a bit.

Beyond that, Bailey just really needs to fix his overall approach. The fastball-heavy approach is indicative of a pitcher who thinks he can strike everyone out. The contact results show Bailey is far from being anything like that sort of pitcher.

If he makes huge, sweeping changes to his approach, Bailey MIGHT be able to be a fourth starter. And hey, if something clicks, he could be even better.

Right now, however, it's time to stop believing.

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