Homer Bailey Takes Another Step Forward

Since the end of the 2011 season, I have been a fan of Homer Bailey. After that year, I recapped his performance and finished with a command to readers to “go the extra dollar, as 2012 may finally be his year.” My crystal ball was obviously working, as 2012 was indeed Bailey’s breakout year, at least from a surface stats perspective. I then projected his first career sub-4.00 ERA and boldly predicted that he would outperform Ricky Romero.

Earlier, I mentioned that at least based solely on ERA, 2012 was Bailey’s breakout year. However, SIERA suggests that he has essentially been the exact same pitcher since 2010. The only difference was a reversal of fortune. Though he suffered from a bit of homeritis in 2012, his LOB% reached a career high and his BABIP was just a tick below the league average.

This past season, Bailey truly did take that next step forward. His SIERA dropped to a career low 3.39, as his strikeout rate spiked and he posted a career best ground ball percentage, while displaying his always sterling control.

Clearly, the biggest driver of his further improvement was that strikeout rate surge. He had hovered around the league average from 2011 to 2012, but then his fastball velocity jumped a significant 1.6 mph. Previously, his fastball velocity sat in the 92-93 mph range, after declining from a high of 94.4 back in 2009, which proved to be a short-lived peak. Even more exciting is that his velocity actually improved as the season wore on. Check out his monthly trend:

Homer Bailey Velocity

As is always the case with sudden spikes, whether it’s performance related or process-based like velocity, we can never be sure if it’s sustainable. But it certainly helped boost his SwStk% to a career high (in fact, his SwStk% has now increased for an impressive five straight seasons) and likely made his variety of breaking balls and off-speed offerings more effective.

Unfortunately, it appears that this is probably his ceiling. While his current level of performance appears sustainable for the most part, it’s hard to imagine any further upside. That’s okay of course as he should remain a valuable member of a fantasy team’s rotation and appears to be a safe investment, but owners looking at his ERA trend and thinking that he’s on his way to becoming a darkhorse Cy Young candidate will be disappointed.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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10 years ago

“Unfortunately, it appears that this is probably his ceiling.”

don’t know why you would say this – he’s only 27… hell, roger clemens was pretty good for a while, but had his best year at age 35… bailey still has a lot of ways to improve…

& i love reds pitching this year, because nobody manages pitching worse than dusty baker… when he left the cubs, the team era went from 4.74 to 4.04… and i expect every reds starter to get an extra win or 2 without him…

10 years ago
Reply to  potcircle

Mike’s basing his statement on an aggregate pitcher’s aging curve and historical data of how a larger sample size of pitchers similar to Homer Bailey’s skill set have developed at this point in their career.

You’re basing your statement on Roger Clemens.

10 years ago
Reply to  yaboynate

Pump Bailey with T along with some other things and he might improve through age 35 as well.

10 years ago
Reply to  potcircle

Baker is as old school as it gets. I don’t see why pitchers would get more wins with a manager that isn’t as concerned with the pitching “W.”