Last night, Homer Bailey hit heights with his fastball not seen since late 2009. I had hoped to make a grander statement by ending that sentence in "ever," but it's still remarkable that Homer hit 97 on the gun with his 115th pitch.
This isn't the first time Homer has saved his best heat for last. Throughout the second half of 2009, Homer was touching 96-97 and sitting around 94-95, though his fastball velocity tailed off toward the end of the season. During a start on August 23, 2009 - against his favorite opponent - Homer hit 98 with his final pitch of the night.
From September 2009 through June of this year, Homer never really threatened to light up the gun like that again. Throughout much of last season, it was a reach for him to touch 95. All of a sudden, the Flange from La Grange appears to have turned the clock back 3 years in all the places.
As it always seems to go with Homer, I'm not sure what to make of this. Early innings notwithstanding, last night had all the trappings of a start from a pitcher who's at the top of his game: 8 IP, 7 K, 1 BB against a contending team. He reached back and threw gas late in the game, whiffed hitters on his secondary stuff and was able to alternate between three points of velocity - from his curveball to two-seamer - in order to "velocitize" hitters.
This is when The Doubt creeps in again. The Dodgers have been a punchless offense lately, having been shut out 5 of their last 8 games (damn). We already knew Homer's tendency to warm up over the course of a game and we've seen this before. ERA-wise, he's stalled out about where he's been the last three seasons, expect his periphals this year (HR/9, BB/9, SO/9) are all worse than last year.
Chances are, Homer is close to the pitcher he's become over the past few seasons. Because that's how numbers work. But last night was proof enough, at least for me, to say the talent that made him such an exciting prospect is still in there somewhere.