Analyzing every pitch of Homer Bailey's no hitter

Joe Robbins

"#@&*" -- Homer Bailey

Well, I stayed up all night, but I finally thought of a headline to bait everyone into clicking.

I didn't really analyze every pitch Homer Bailey threw last night. But at the risk of stealing moves from Cy Schourek, I did think for the better part of a scattered hour about how a no-hitter is an appropriate figure for Homer's career. It requires patience and unwarranted faith - unfolding gradually over an entire game and reducing to a simple wish that nothing go wrong.

The career path of a pitcher drafted at 18 often follows this logic. He can spend five years in the minors in which well-wishers are reduced to just hoping his arm still works by the time he's 23.

At the end of a no-hitter, you get a catharsis. And that same catharsis that capped Bailey's first no-hitter last September also doubled as closing beat to the long first act of his career. It rewarded the patience required to follow the throughline of a player who has spent 10 seasons in the Reds' organization and is still only 27. And still only growing into his potential.

There probably is some alarm in our bio-clocks that rings at 27. For some - say Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, for example - maybe it's self-destructive. "You've peaked too soon," it says. For Homer, anyway, it's a signpost in a gentle ascent - marked by fits and starts of maturity.

Then what does this encore mean? Well, if anything, I'm glad it doesn't mean he's too mature to avoid moments like these:

"I just f-in' walked the guy," Bailey said.

This is bad to say because:

  • The children
  • It's kind of lazy to use fuck as an adverb

This was a great moment because:

  • It's how people really talk in moments of high emotion and release
  • Almost any non-canned response from an athlete is refreshing
  • Being asked about the one blemish on a no-hitter is such a Homer Bailey's Career moment. Our expectations - or the media's, at least - were always unrealistic. If Homer is the protagonist, then it's satisfying to see him acknowledge in it a human way.
  • Homer is a churlish, bookish Texan. We like it.

So maybe the first one was a coming out party. But the second one was just to say: "F---!"

Of course, there's all the stuff about this not being a fluke and securing your legacy and that Homer has thrown 319 innings over the last two seasons, with an ERA+ of 113 and a BB/rate of 2.2 and a K-rate approaching 8-per-nine.

Some moments, though, aren't really that rational and don't really require a plumped-up narrative or a careful analysis. Homer is pitching well these days and it allows him to step into some rarefeid space as an athlete. When that happens, the athlete is not owed a Kevin Garnett moment. But, speaking as a home viewer, I also don't want to step down into the sober world of sports platitudes right away.

So, in the spirit of (a part of) Texas, let's keep it weird.

##

By the way, let's see just how rarefeid we're talking here.

Homer joins this list of pitchers with at least two no hitters:

Nolan Ryan (7)
Sandy Koufax (4)
Bob Feller (3)
Larry Corcoran (3)
Cy Young (3)
Jim Bunning
Steve Busby
Mark Buehrle
Carl Erskine
Allie Reynolds
Warren Spahn
Bill Stoneman
Bob Forsch
Pud Galvin
Ken Holtzman
Randy Johnson
Addie Joss
Dutch Leonard
Jim Maloney
Christy Mathewson
Hideo Nomo
Virgil Trucks
Johnny Vander Meer
Don Wilson
Roy Halladay

That's 9 Hall of Famers, 2 future Hall of Famers (R. Johnson and R. Halladay) and maybe one career you might call unsuccessful, by pretty strict standards.

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