View Full Version : Great article on Homer Bailey by C. Trent

02-22-2010, 10:59 AM
Bailey bouncing back
By C. Trent Rosecrans, CNATI.com Posted February 22, 2010 12:47 AM ET

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Homer Bailey remembers driving from Louisville to Cincinnati for his big-league debut in 2007 and before he ever crossed the Brent Spence Bridge into Ohio, he saw a billboard with a picture of him and a baseball that had flames coming out of it and the words: "He has come."

"You've got to be kidding me," he remembers thinking. "I'm screwed."

Hardly. Bailey delighted a sold out crowd, earning a victory over Cleveland in his first big league start. The former top pitching prospect in baseball seemed to deliver on his promise, earning two victories in his first three starts.

This was the pitcher that was supposed to be the best home-grown Reds starter since... well, it was tough to come up with a comparison. Certainly no pitching prospect had come with more hype.

In the Reds' clubhouse in Goodyear, Bailey watches the media horde following Aroldis Chapman with a bit of pity for the Reds new lefthander, the latest young pitcher to be canonized before stepping on a big league field.

Video cameras follow Chapman as he goes from stretching to a fielding drill to a bullpen session. The number of pitches he throws is recorded, he's interviewed, his catcher is probed for minute details, hoping the glove can substitute for a radar gun. It's a circus. Bailey's been in the center ring before, and more than happy to be outside the big top now.

"I remember thinking is it that big of a deal how my first bullpen in spring went? I didn't know any different," Bailey said. "What he's going through, it's tough to go through. I think the language barrier makes it easier for him, because he doesn't know what's being said around him. It's not like he's getting online or friends getting online seeing what you guys are saying. He can't read it."

Bailey could. He did. His family did. His friends did. At some point, he even believed some of it.

Drafted out of high school in the first round in 2004, Bailey was the team's top prospect for years, arguably one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and started the Futures Game in 2006, lighting up the radar gun with a 98 mph fastball.

Bailey's star seemed to drop like a 12-to-6 curveball.

After a two-hit, one-run performance in seven innings against Oakland in his third big league start, he was hammered by Philadelphia and St. Louis. His sixth outing in the big leagues still sticks with him - after giving up only two hits and a run in five innings, he was told his day was done. He'd thrown 86 pitches, probably more than he should in five innings, but he had enough to go another inning, even by the most conservative standards.

"(Then-pitching coach) Dick (Pole) told me they wanted to take me out. I knew something was not right and that day I got sent down, and I didn't know what I did," Bailey said. "Was I supposed to win every one? Was I that bad? I didn't understand."

Bailey then missed some time in the minors with a groin injury, finished the season with three starts in the big leagues, winning two of them.

"That season really messed with me," Bailey said.

He wasn't unsure what he'd done wrong, but felt like he was good enough to be in the big leagues and win there. What followed was, in his own word, complacency.

He was just 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA. Why was he complacent?

"Who knows?" he said Sunday, noting the ridiculousness.

Perhaps it was youth, he was just 21, he'd make the big leagues, he was a big leaguer. He'd gotten there on talent and figured life would be easy from there on out.

It wasn't.


In 2008, Bailey went from "He has come" to "He has gone."

Velocity and victories were both in short demand for Bailey, who started the season back in Louisville. As he struggled to get his fastball over the 90 mph barrier, he also struggled to win games. He went from April 30 to September 4, Bailey went 21 starts without a victory - 13 games in the minors in eight with the Reds. In all, he was 0-6 with 7.93 ERA in the big leagues and 4-7 with a 4.77 ERA in Lousiville, an unprecedented failure in Bailey's career.

Looking back at it, Bailey says it's the best thing that ever happened to him.

"I think every player needs it. Go get your ass handed to you for a whole year," Bailey said. "Don't get a win from April until a playoff game in AAA -- see how you react."

Bailey, who struck many as arrogant - and it's unlikely he'd put much of a fight at that claim - was humbled. He started listening to others and more importantly, he started working.

Last season he came into camp in the best shape of his career. He replaced a locker room scowl with a smile and an easy laugh.

The turnaround wasn't immediate, once against Bailey started the season in the minors and was forced to work his way back to the big leagues. Even there, things sometimes went well, sometimes didn't. He wasn't dominating in Louisville, he had a losing record and an ERA of more than four when he was promoted for one game before being sent back down.

He was back with the Reds a month later - faced the Indians, the same team that shelled him in his previous start - and won. In all, he started 20 games for the Reds in 2009, going 8-5 with a 4.59 ERA.

In his last nine starts, though, he was finally the dominating pitcher people expected. His velocity was back - his fastball for the season averaged 94.8 mph - and so was his confidence. Even though the results weren't always what he wanted, losing a couple of leads in the middle of games - he learned from those and got on a roll.

From August 23 until the end of the regular season, Bailey posted a 1.70 ERA in his nine starts, the best mark by a starter from that point in the season on.

"There are a lot of good things that came out of that and bad things. A lot of the games that I didn't get wins, whether it was Colorado or Chicago, I beat myself," Bailey said. "I have that much more experience going in. Now I know what pitches to make, now I know what to do. I have a better idea of what I have to do on the mound as far as what pitches to make. It's good, I like that. After the games, I would've done anything to get back out there, but I gave up four or five and now it's a tie ballgame. But now I know, and when I'm in the situation again, I'll know what to do."


A smile comes across Bailey's face when the "Verducci Effect" is mention. First off, an explanation. The Verducci Effect is named after Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci, who first studied the effect of an increase workload on young pitchers. Later, Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll named it the "Verducci Effect" and it stuck.

The Verducci Effect is this: a pitcher under 25 who increases his workload 30 or more innings in a season in which he pitched in the big leagues. The theory, and the numbers Verducci followed, showed a decline in production or injury in the next season. Other studies have called into question this conclusion, but that's an argument for another time.

Last week Verducci published a list of his 10 pitchers at risk, including Bailey, whom he called "the most troubling case" on the list, because Bailey threw deep into games late into the season even though the Reds had no chance of the playoffs. That and the usual mania surrounding Baker's handling of pitchers caused some spotlight on Bailey and the Verducci Effect.

So, anyway, Bailey was asked about it on Sunday.

"I've heard of it, I don't know who this guy is," Bailey said.

Of the concept, Bailey said it makes sense on the surface, with many pitchers getting hurt after an increase in workload. But Bailey, who knocks on wood when he mentions he's never had an arm injury, says he's not sure he believes innings in the game is the sole factor in an injury.

"Everybody's different, the guys, from the little I've heard of it. If you jump so many innings, you're going to get hurt. What were those guys doing during the offseason?," Bailey said. "What were they doing between starts? How was their nutrition? How was their work ethic? Did they go out and not do the work?

"I did it, I worked. I think there may be some truth behind it, but I think sometimes there's no truth behind it. I think it depends on the player."

Bailey's been a critic in the past of coddling of pitchers arms. A big, strong Texan, he points to the Magnetic North of big, strong Texan pitchers - Nolan Ryan. Ryan, now heading up the Texas Rangers, has pooh-poohed the idea of babying pitchers arms, instead insisting pitchers should throw to keep their arms in shape.

"We're not porcelain dolls, we're athletes, we need to be pushed. We need to keep throwing," Bailey said. "I'm big on throwing between starts - not off the mound, but we need to keep throwing a lot. I think as a whole, we don't do that because if you're a first-round pick or highly-touted prospect, they want to baby you instead of pushing it just a little bit. When you feel something, you pull back. It's like a sprinter, telling him to run only twice a week, that doesn't make any sense."

It's noted, at this point, that running is a natural motion on the human body, throwing a baseball is not. Bailey concedes this point, but says the point is the same, pitchers pitch, runners run.


For the first time in his career, Bailey enters the 2010 season penciled into the starting rotation. He's being counted on to, maybe not be the same as he was in the last nine games of 2009, but not too far from it.

That's pressure, but it's not external, it's internal. Bailey's still pushing himself to his own great expectations -- not someone else's.

"Right now it's not about making the team, it's about keeping it. Even though y'all will say it's not earning a spot, to me I'm still earning a spot," Bailey said. "Chances are good I'll be in the rotation, but you've also got Chapman, (Mike) Leake, (Matt) Maloney, Lehr, Sam LeCure - a lot of the younger guys who are coming up. They're fighting for a spot, too. There's probably eight or nine of those and we've only got five spots. In my opinion, whether you're (Aaron) Harang or Bronson (Arroyo) or Johnny (Cueto) or myself or Edinson (Volquez), we're competing for a spot because they're hungry. As long as they're still doing drafts, there's not a guarantee that I have a spot."

That lesson was hammered home this offseason in Texas, where he worked out with tennis star Andy Roddick and the Cardinals' Matt Holliday. Both Roddick and Holliday have achieved heights in their respective careers that Bailey's only dreamed of, yet they were still working hard.

"Andy's a haus, every day he busts it," Bailey said. "Matt Holliday, he was with us every day this year. He just signed a $100-milion-something contract and every day busts it. That's what it takes. I see it right there."

Bailey's not done the work before and seen the results. Not even the guy with a fireball on the billboard can do it on talent alone, it's all about the work you put in. Preparing. So even as most of the clubhouse had cleared on Sunday, Bailey was still working out, running and lifting weights.

"The game always knows -- I was never a believer in that. I thought that's just superstition. No, the game knows. You didn't work like you were supposed to, you were given a gift. You didn't put in the work, you didn't prepare. You're going to have to earn these," Bailey said. "You aren't winning these close ones. The game knows. Don't think for a second it doesn't. In my opinion, the second you get complacent, it's going to let you know.

"I learned the hard way. I'm not saying I'm going to go out and win 20 games, I'm not. Let's be realistic. I do know now that whatever I do during the season or from this season on, and even last season, I can at least say I gave it everything I had. That's my mindset I take. You're here for this many hours, get something done today. Every day, doing the drills, every day working out hard. That's the lesson I learned. The game knows."


02-22-2010, 11:04 AM
"Everybody's different, the guys, from the little I've heard of it. If you jump so many innings, you're going to get hurt. What were those guys doing during the offseason?," Bailey said. "What were they doing between starts? How was their nutrition? How was their work ethic? Did they go out and not do the work?


Couldn't have said it better myself.

02-22-2010, 11:11 AM
And an article from Fay:

Bailey hopes for carryover effect
By John Fay • jfay@enquirer.com • February 21, 2010

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – After Sunday’s workout ended, while other pitchers were relaxing or eating, Homer Bailey decided to do a little extra work.

He went to one of the mounds in the batting cages and worked on his footwork. He wasn’t throwing. He used a towel instead.

“I was working on balance and follow-through,” Bailey said. “The towel helps with resistance. It slows you down.”

Bailey, 23, a right-hander, had a breakthrough at the end of last season. He went 7-5 with a 4.53 ERA overall, but he was as good as anyone in the majors for the last five weeks of the season. He went 6-1 with a major-league best 1.70 ERA after Aug. 23.

Still, he didn’t come to spring training expecting a spot in the rotation to be handed to him.

“I think I have the same mindset as last year,” he said. “That’s never to get complacent and try every day to get better, even if it’s just little stuff. Nothing is ever guaranteed.”

That’s why he went back out there Sunday. His bullpen session was fine.

“I just don’t want to have to think about (balance) in a game,” Bailey said.

Bailey has long been the most ballyhooed pitcher in the Reds’ system. He was rated as the top prospect in 2004, ’05 and ’06. He made his major league debut 36 days after his 21st birthday on June 8, 2007, when he beat the Cleveland Indians 4-3.

But his results were spotty in 2007. He finished 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA.

Then came 2008. It was disaster by any measure. Bailey went 0-6 with a 7.94 ERA with the Reds. He was much better in Triple-A, going 4-7 with a. 4.77 ERA.

He had a decent spring last year – 0-1, 2.61 ERA – but he wasn’t really given a chance to make the club.

He went to Louisville and pitched so-so. The Reds called him up for a spot start. He lost to Cleveland 7-6.

But something clicked when he returned to Louisville. He went 5-0 with a 0.81 ERA over six starts.

The Reds called him back on June 27. Again, success eluded him. He was 2-4 with a 7.53 ERA over 10 starts.

Then he ran off the 6-1 streak.

Why then?

“A lot of it is just getting comfortable,” pitching coach Bryan Price said. “It’s not easy to come into a big league clubhouse and feel like you belong, regardless of the success you have in the minor leagues. Sometimes, you’ve got to have patience with young pitchers. You’ve also got to understand that they’re young people and aren’t quite as ready.

“He’s like most guys: He bounced up and down a bit before he finally figured it out.”
Part of figuring it out was confidence.

“A long time ago, Tommy Agee said the hardest part about being in the big leagues is feeling that you really belong,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the former major league outfielder. “Everyone thinks they belong in the big leagues but until you have some success, you really aren’t sure.”

Part of figuring it out was command.

“It’s just not a matter of trusting your stuff,” Baker said. “It’s a matter of having your mechanics together to throw strikes. You can trust your stuff, but if you can’t throw it where you want it, it doesn’t matter. You have to be able to throw it where you want it most of the time. Nobody can throw it where they want it all the time. If they did, nobody would hit. But you’ve got to throw it where you want it most of the time. You’ve got to have yourself in the right mechanics to be able to do that.

“Like they say, sameness is greatness. If you can do the same thing all the time, you have a chance to be great. Look at Greg Maddux, look at Albert Pujols. They look the same all the time.”

In pitching, they call it a “repeatable delivery.” It’s important. That’s why Bailey took the extra time Sunday.

“It’s a whole new season,” Bailey said. “We’ll see how spring training games go, but it’s a clean slate. It’s not what you did in the past; it’s what you can do today and tomorrow. That’s the way I look at things. Whatever happened last year, happened last year. I’m more interested in what I do this year and how this team’s going to do.”

Bailey is going to be in the Reds’ rotation this season. But he doesn’t want the job simply based on last year.

“It isn’t much about getting a spot; it’s if I deserve it,” he said.


02-22-2010, 11:15 AM
Sure seems like we're watching Homer Bailey grow up before our eyes.

02-22-2010, 11:18 AM
"Andy's a haus, every day he busts it," Bailey said.

I don't think that's the word he used.

02-22-2010, 11:25 AM
I'm pretty excited about Bailey for the first time in years.

02-22-2010, 11:35 AM
I don't think that's the word he used.

C Trent def needs an Texas to English dictionary.

That would be "hoss".

And, absolutely phenomenal read from C. Trent. The thought that Bailey has really had the light come on with regard to the work that has to be put in to help him make that talent pay off puts a spring in my step.

02-22-2010, 11:40 AM
I agree that this way a very good article, but at the risk of hijacking this thread, if a John Fay article had this many typos, he'd be taken to task.

Homer Bailey
02-22-2010, 11:40 AM

Chip R
02-22-2010, 11:41 AM
Last season he came into camp in the best shape of his career. He replaced a locker room scowl with a smile and an easy laugh.

Wrong thread! ;)

I heard today that MLB now has a policy that prohibits weapons - including knives with over a 4" blade - in the clubhouse. Now Homer can't bring in his hunting knife anymore.

02-22-2010, 11:51 AM
Great article. As much as any one player can be a key, I think Bailey is there with Bruce as that guy for us. I really do think he turned that corner last year and while I'm realistic about the range of possibilities, I would not be surprised to see him be the ace of the staff this year. Particularly with Chapman around, it seems Bailey is being somewhat overlooked.

02-22-2010, 12:00 PM
Sure seems like we're watching Homer Bailey grow up before our eyes.

I think you've hit it right on the head. To me, last season, that was a huge difference, especially if he was smacked around in a game. I felt you could tell this was a different, more mature player. And I love the hunger he describes up and down the rotation. Produce or else, which Baker said in a comment from some column today (I think he was talking about Hanegan).

02-22-2010, 12:03 PM
I heard today that MLB now has a policy that prohibits weapons - including knives with over a 4" blade - in the clubhouse. Now Homer can't bring in his hunting knife anymore.

Yep, and Ryan Franklin has problem with it.

"There are a few guys that screwed it up for everybody," Franklin said. "If it wasn't for the NFL guy a couple years ago bringing a weapon into a nightclub ... you've just got to be smart."


02-22-2010, 01:11 PM
* No guns allowed in big league clubhouses. Homer Bailey said he was fine with that, and if Homer is fine not being armed, I guess we all are. Homer actually prefers a bow to a rifle, but says he hunts with a rifle when he's throwing, because he doesn't want to mess with his pitching.


02-22-2010, 01:59 PM
Yep, and Ryan Franklin has problem with it.

"There are a few guys that screwed it up for everybody," Franklin said. "If it wasn't for the NFL guy a couple years ago bringing a weapon into a nightclub ... you've just got to be smart."

Yes, Ryan, and being smart means you realize that not being able to bring your hunting rifle to your PLACE OF WORK might actually be a good idea. I hope he's able to concentrate on his pitching this season despite the lack of weapons in his locker.

Caveat Emperor
02-22-2010, 02:19 PM
Great article. As much as any one player can be a key, I think Bailey is there with Bruce as that guy for us. I really do think he turned that corner last year and while I'm realistic about the range of possibilities, I would not be surprised to see him be the ace of the staff this year. Particularly with Chapman around, it seems Bailey is being somewhat overlooked.

Bailey and Bruce are the wild-cards this season for the Reds. They're both impossible to project because they've shown off all-world talent and all-nightmare basements.

The difference between a Reds team that contends and a Reds team that limps to a 4th place finish is likely in whether or not Bailey continues to develop into a TOR starter and whether or not Bruce bounces back to become the masher he was in the minors.

02-23-2010, 01:30 PM
From SI:

Reds banking on Bailey to provide wonderful life-support
By Albert Chen

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A steady rain fell as the manager and the GM stood side-by-side, arms crossed, watching the home bullpen. It was a Saturday at the Reds spring training home and in front of them a quartet of young Reds hurlers were unleashing fastballs through the cold morning air. Dusty Baker turned to Walt Jocketty. "You got to like our young pitching," the manager said.

Dusty's right. The Reds are a popular sleeper pick for a reason. An organization on the rise, Cincinnati -- yes, Cincinnati -- is home to one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball. Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez have already arrived. Aroldis Chapman is here. Travis Wood, Matt Maloney, Brad Boxberger and Mike Leake are on their way. But this year the most important young Red -- and, perhaps, one of the most important players in the N.L Central -- isn't the Cuban-born phenom or the fireballer they call Little Pedro. "Homer Bailey is going to be the difference-maker for the Reds," says a National League scout. "They've got a lot of pitching talent there now. But Bailey might be the most talented."

David DeWitt "Homer" Bailey, Jr. Remember him? First-round draft pick out of La Grange High School in Texas, can't-miss kid with the golden arm, Savior of Cincinnati. Cocky and brash gunslinger with the electric 98-mph heater and the wicked 12-6 curve. In the summer of 2007, around the time Bailey was promoted from the minors and about to make his much ballyhooed-debut at the Great American Ballpark, there was a big billboard that was up for a few weeks along an Ohio Interstate. On it was an image of Bailey throwing a baseball with the words HE HAS COME. "I'm screwed," Bailey thought to himself as he drove past it one afternoon.

He was screwed. He wilted under the bright lights; he had an erratic rookie season in 2007, and he was a disaster -- 0-6 with a 7.93 ERA -- in 2008. The Cincy media started to turn on him; suddenly the brash gunsliner was just an arrogant s.o.b. He sulked, he brooded. "There was so much pressure on him," says Reds pitcher Aaron Harang. "To come up as a 21-year-old and have so much expected of you. There's no doubt it got to him."

But here he is now, still only 23, relaxed and humbled and poised for a breakout season. Last Saturday morning, a crowd of reporters zeroed in on Chapman's locker after the 21-year-old prospect threw his second bullpen. A few lockers down, Bailey, happily skating under the radar this spring, could only laugh at the Chapman circus. "It's not easy, what he's going through," he says.

Bailey wears cowboy boots, goes boar hunting, drives an F-150 diesel pickup truck, and enjoys reading Stephen Ambrose history books, sometimes at his locker. Late last summer, as the Reds stumbled to another losing season, Bailey quietly showed he also can be one of baseball's elite pitchers. "Over the last six weeks of the season, he was one of the best pitchers in the National League," says Jocketty. Believe it: Bailey was 6-1 with a major-league best 1.70 ERA in his nine starts after Aug. 23.

Last year, everything changed for Bailey when he asked Justin Lehr, his teammate at Triple-A Louisville, to show him how to throw a split-finger pitch. One afternoon before a game in May, Lehr taught him the grip (to move his index finger on the seam and his middle finger just off it) and Bailey soon started throwing it. "I still remember the first time he let one loose," says Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet, who managed Bailey for three seasons. "I was like, 'What was that? Holy smoke!' It came out of nowhere." With his new weapon, Bailey was lights out to start the year in Louisville. "Game after game, he was the most dominant I'd ever seen him," says Sweet about Bailey's summer in Louisville, where he posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out 86 hitters over 89 2/3 innings.

This was the Homer Bailey that everyone expected to see three years ago. This was the La Grange legend that had a 41-4 record, a 0.98 ERA and a preposterous 536 strikeouts in 298 innings over his high school career. This is the pitcher that Cincinnati, looking for its first winning season since 1999 and its first postseason appearance since 1995, needs at the top of its rotation. "We're counting on a great season from him," says Harang. "He's changed his attitude and his approach to the game."

This past winter Bailey worked out in Austin, Tex., alongside Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday and tennis star Andy Roddick. But the offseason was memorable for other reasons: in October, a string snapped on his hunting bow, slicing his hand. (Seven stitches were required.) In December, he dropped an 84-pound weight on his left hand.

It was almost a disastrous winter, but now looking back, Bailey laughs. It's spring now, and a big season lies ahead. There are no billboards. There's no pressure. "He's finally comfortable," says Reds infielder Paul Janish says, "No more speed bumps."


02-23-2010, 02:46 PM
I had forgotten about him developing a split finger fastball. Has there been more learning on that pitch now that helps stave off the injuries that occurred with a number of pitchers when that was a newer pitch?