Homer Bailey, in a return from yet another injury, threw 91 innings in 2017. While this was again a truncated season for Bailey, he also registered as the pitcher with the 3rd most innings on the team this year. Weird season.
It’s difficult to speak with conviction on Bailey, in terms of things we know. If his pitch velocity and movement were not in line with past healthier seasons, then the differences are minimal. It’s customary for pitchers to have limited pitch counts upon coming back from injury, but Bailey was throwing 100 pitches by his third start (with the first two starts ended by ineffectiveness rather than caution).
Bailey’s major problem, from the view of an outsider, is that he didn’t have the requisite control to succeed, throwing just under 62% of his pitches for strikes, comparing unfavorably to rates of 66%-67% when Bailey was at his best. We saw this show up dramatically in the metrics: Bailey gave up 11.1 hits per 9 innings, 4.2 walks per 9 innings, and 6.6 strikeouts per 9 innings, none of which are encouraging. One of the most discouraging things in looking back at Bailey’s numbers is that even in many of his good starts, there were very few signs of dominance. As an example, if I told you that Bailey had a start where he threw 117 pitches over seven innings with four strikeouts and three walks, you would probably assume it was a labored, middling performance. Instead, it was Bailey’s 2017 exit performance, a four-hit, no-run performance that mmmmaybe benefited from some good luck.
Our only hope for Bailey’s resurgence is that this year was full of the requisite growing pains and that he’ll suddenly become more efficient, will become way less hittable, et cetera. What else can you say?
Bailey has started 192 games for the Reds, compiling a 66-63 record and a 4.42 ERA (91 ERA+). His 2017 season included a 6-9 record with a 6.43 ERA (68 ERA+) over 18 starts. He has thrown just 125 innings in the past three seasons and is under contract for at least two more years. He ticks down slightly on the list of all-time Reds, moving from #226 to #228.