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Homer's Epic Journey

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Homer has been in the Reds organization almost 11 years, and it's been one hell of a ride.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Biographical

Name: David Dewitt Bailey
DOB: May 3, 1986
Born: La Grange, TX
Hometown: La Grange, TX

Tale of the Tape
Position: Starting Pitcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6'4"  Weight: 230lbs

Notes From the Past:

You ever heard the phrase "you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl"?  Well, replace girl with Homer Bailey and that quote rings pretty dang true.  David Dewitt Bailey was brought into this world, or The Heart of Texas, on May 3, 1986 in La Grange, Texas.  La Grange is probably one of the most Texas places you can image, located smack dab in between Austin and Houston, and David Dewitt is literally the only person of note from it.

As many may know David Dewitt likes to go by the name Homer, and Homer is never a good name for a pitcher.  Bailey was nicknamed Homer after his great grandfather, who in all probability was/is one of the most Texan SOBs you have ever seen.  I'm picturing a Sam Elliot in The Big Lebowski, with the attitude of Sam Elliot in We Were Soldiers, and with the fighting skills of Sam Elliot in Roadhouse.  Don't forget the giant chaw in his lip, the Texas state flag shirt, and "Don't Mess With Texas" truck decal.  I bet he also killed wild boar with his teeth, and thought Homer a yellow bellied squirt for hunting with a bow.

Homer Bailey was an exceptional high school athlete, named the USA Today High School Play of the Year in 2004.  Bailey went a perfect 15-0, with a 0.68 ERA, and 201 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings.  It's probably pretty easy to do that when you are 17/18 years old and throw 97 MPH with a knee buckling curveball.  It's surprising he gave up any earned runs at all because what high school kid can catch up to a 97 MPH fastball?  Not many.  Homer Bailey was one of the top high school arms going into the 2004 draft and the Reds drafted him 7th overall.

The Minor Leagues

Homer's story starts simply enough.  What high school player in the first round doesn't completely dominate his competition?  To be a first round pick right out of high school there is a certain excitement and some freakish excitement attributed to that player, especially if taken in the Top 10.  College players are safe, while high school players, if they develop correctly, often become some of the biggest names in the game.  Just look at guys like Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout, Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgardner, and yes even Jay Bruce.

To make things more simple, and to save me some wordage, I'm going to do my best to show case Homer Bailey's early minor league numbers in table form.  You should see how dominant he was in his first three seasons of pro ball.

At first, Homer was the pitcher the Reds thought they drafted.  He used his over powering fastball and curveball combination to embarrass the older competition in his first three years of pro ball.  His strikeout rates were outstanding and he was keeping the walks in check for the most part.  When hitters did make contact, they weren't making very good contact.  Homer just cruised along and posted a 2.50 ERA in 128 innings across A+ and AA in 2006.  At this point Bailey was 1A or 1B pitching prospect in all of baseball.  In the perpetual hell that was Reds baseball at this point in time, Homer Bailey was our Lord and Savior.  Jim Bowden was dicking things up in Washington and there was no way the Reds could screw this up.  Here are the prospect rankings of Homer Bailey by Baseball Prospectus for your view pleasure

Pre-2005: Rated #48 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #38 Prospect
Pre-2007: Rated #5 Prospect

Pre-2008: Rated #9 Prospect

A Major League Disappointment

The hype for Homer Bailey was real and it was spectacular.  I don't think Cincinnati will ever be considered a rabid fan base, but it does love its baseball.  After years of shuffling along with horrible teams because of horrible decisions by Marge Schott, and continued on with Linder and Leatherpants, Reds fans were desperate and Homer Bailey was their Messiah.  I can't remember another player's debut that had so much anticipation and excitement than Bailey's.  I'm surprised they didn't throw him a parade before the start.  If I remember right there were even billboards around the city calling him The One or some shit like that.  It was pretty weird, but if you think about the desperation of the fan base at that time, it might have been justified.  Homer's debut did end in a 4-3 win over the Indians but not so much because of him, even though the first batter he ever faced (Grady Sizemore) struck out swinging.  Homer would eventually last 5 innings, with 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 4 walks, and 3 strikeouts.  The Reds won the game because of dingers hit by Brandon Phillips, Jeff Freaking Conine, and Ken Griffey Jr.  There were even some Stormy Weathers at the end of the night  to keep it interesting.  Ah, it is so nice to reminisce.

The downfall for young Homer was being being rushed through the minors and some maturity issues.  His minor league numbers when hitting AAA in 2007 suggested he wasn't ready.  He was looking like a young fireballer whose off speed stuff wasn't developed and control was suspect.  Homer would shuffle back and forth between Louisville and Cincinnati from 2007 to 2010, struggling with pitches, control, injuries, stubborness, etc.  At this point Homer was a project, one that many didn't know if or when would ever pan out.

So, what changed with Homer?  A lot of it was just slow development.  Being a young phenom and savior for a franchise at the age of 21 is a lot for a young kid.  As a young pitcher, Homer relied heavily on a great fastball and what was consider a plus plus curveball.  However, Homer wasn't given as much development time as other prospects.  Essentially, he didn't have enough polish with his off speed pitches and big league hitters would lay off and wait for the fastball.

Figuring It Out

Like I have said, it took a long time for Homer to figure it out.  It took a long time for the Reds to figure out how to get Homer to figure it out.  Quite honestly it's because Homer wasn't throwing the right pitches.  In 2007, Homer threw mostly fastballs and curveballs.  In 2008, Homer started working on his slider and changeup and almost completely scrapped his curveball.  For the next season or two, Homer would flip flop between curveballs, sliders, and the changeup for his secondary pitch.  The Reds kept pushing the changeup hard, but Homer was never successful with it like Cueto or Volquez were.

Around the 2009 season the Reds signed a career minor leaguer named Justin Lehr and invited him to camp.  Lehr only pitched 65 innings for the Reds in 2009, but stuck around the organization until 2011. He may not have had an impact on the mound, however what he taught Bailey may have been even more important.  Right around the 2010 season he picked up a new pitch from Lehr.  Suddenly, Homer started throwing more two seam fastballs/cutters.  Homer throws the pitch just as hard as his four seam, but it has much more movement and keeps hitters on their toes.  Homer started throwing more sliders and two seamers to compliment his four seam fastball, while throwing some curveballs and changeups to keep hitters honest.  It also helped when his average velocity climbed 2 MPH in 2012 and 2013 to 94 MPH.  All told, Homer started to look like a different pitcher statistically and his seasons improved.

A Major League Success

In 2012 and 2013, Homer Bailey became one of the most stable pitchers for the Reds and in MLB baseball.  Homer would throw over 200 innings both seasons with mid 3 ERAs, K/BB ratios above 3.0, showing good control and the ability to strikeout major league hitters.  He would also put up some of the most dominating performances we have ever seen as an organization.  The end of 2012 is when Homer would really turn it up a notch and had arguably the best two consecutive games anyone has seen since Johnny Vander Meer.

Homer's final regular season start of 2012 would see Homer Bailey throw the first ever no-hitter in PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Bailey struck out 10 in 115 pitches with one walk to Andrew McCutchen.  This was the first no-hitter thrown by a Cincinnati Red since Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988, and the first against the Pirates since Bob Gibson did it in 1971.

Homer would capitalize on the momentum in Game 3 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, in what was unfortunately a valiant losing effort, and his only playoff start to date.  Homer would pitch 7 innings, giving up 1 earned run, and striking out 10.  The performance was almost on par with his no-hitter, but maybe more impressive because of the national stage.  The Reds would lose a heart breaker in the extra innings, and I know we don't talk about the rest.

In 2013, Homer was even better than 2012 lowering his ERA, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, and raising his K/9 by a whole strikeout per 9.  Homer was beginning to look like one of the steadiest pitchers in the National League, and then he went and did something again.  Homer went out and pitched another no-hitter, this one against the San Francisco Giants on July 2, 2013, best Tim Lincecum who would pitch a no-hitter 11 days later.  Homer completed the no-hitter in 109 pitches, walking 1, and striking out 9.  He was helped out with some timely defense, especially his best friend Joey Votto.  Homer would accidently drop the F-Bomb on cable television after the game, and Paul Daugherty got his panties all wadded up in a bunch.  It was pretty funny.

Gettin' Paid and 2014

After the 2013 season the Reds were faced with quite the dilemma.  Homer Bailey was in his walk year at the age of 28, and the Reds had to decide whether to extend him or let him walk.  The decision was made more difficult with Cueto, Latos, and Leake looking at free agency at the end of 2015.  The Reds decided to lock Homer Bailey up to a 6 year $105,000,000 deal with a one year mutual option worth $25,000,000 or a $5,000,000 buyout.  It was a lot of money and the deal was skeptical at the time, but Jocketty and his team were impressed by Bailey's improvements and were looking for more in the future.  However, the injury plague of 2014 struck.  Homer still pitched well, but not as well as he's shown.  He only pitched 145 innings because of various injuries and underwent flexor mass surgery at the beginning of the 2014 off season.

Contract

Second year ($10,000,000) of a 6 year $105,000,000 contract with a $25,000,000 mutual option and a $5,000,000 buyout.

Stats

Baseball Reference

Fangraphs

Scouting Report

via The Baseball Cube

control k-rating efficiency vsPower
42 72 54 48

2015 Projections


IP ERA FIP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 LOB%
Steamer 167.0 3.66 3.72

2.47

8.10 1.00
72.4%
ZiPS 172.3 3.54
3.76 2.40 7.82
0.99
74.0%

PITCHf/x Profile, Brooks Baseball (Major Leagues)

Looking At 2015

Homer Bailey wasn't as good in 2014, but to act like he was bad is a misnomer.  Maybe the season was a disappointment but Homer struggled with injuries much of the season.  It is definitely something you don't want to see from a guy you just locked up for north of $100 million, however if Homer Bailey is healthy he still has all the tools to be a solid #2 pitcher.  He isn't Johnny Cueto, he isn't Max Scherzer, but Homer Bailey is still a skilled member of this staff.  Hehe, I just used member and staff in the same sentence.

The Reds need Homer to be healthy, and Homer is finally doing spring training preparations.  Just the other day Homer Bailey threw two innings in a minor league spring training game.  He struck out two and gave up one walk and hit each.  Before this Homer spent most of his time throwing off flat ground, long toss sessions, and some bullpen work.  The process is a slow one, but seeing Homer on the mound throwing to real hitters is the step in the right direction.

Since Homer is just now getting on the mound it is expected that he will miss the first 2-3 starts of the season.  That's not a big deal.  A whole month may be, but just a couple starts are easy to fill.  Typically, teams will fill that spot with an up and coming minor leaguer and the Reds have plenty of those.  A young kid with something prove and who still has options is usually the best choice.  Giving a Holmberg, Axelrod, Iglesias, Lorenzen, or Moscot a small chance wouldn't hurt any ball club.  Instead, Bryan Price is enamored with the stupid Jason Marquis.  The former St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Cub looks to be a lock to start the season in Bailey's spot, and maybe continue in the rotation if he pitches well.  BARF.

Hurry back Homer and please be the pitcher that $100+ million should pay for.  I don't care if you are hog tying consenting club house attendants, or riding a mechanical bull in your front yard listening to Travis Tritt and slamming some Lone Stars.  Just come back, pitch, and be good.