I have the benefit of living about 40 miles from the Cincinnati Reds' AAA affiliate in Louisville, so over the past ten or so years I've seen a number of good prospects and future major leaguers come through. Adam Dunn, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce ... hell, I even had the opportunity to see Ken Griffey Jr. on a rehab assignment and Deion Sanders while he was attempting a baseball comeback.
The hype surrounding Adam Dunn and Joey Votto in particular was enormous, but even that didn't compare to how excited fans were about Homer Bailey. Kentucky is Reds country, and the Louisville Bats drew pretty well because of that, but fans packed Louisville Slugger Field to get a glimpse over Homer Bailey.
After the Reds picked him seventh overall in the 2004 MLB Draft, some scouts were projecting Bailey to be a true number one starter, the ace Reds fans had been waiting for. He progressed through the system quickly enough to make nine starts in 2007 as a 19-year-old. He got kicked around a little bit, to the tune of a 4.92 FIP in those 2007 starts, and an ugly 6.41 FIP in eight starts in 2008. Because of those performances, his star began to fade.
Over the past two seasons, removed from all the hype and overwhelming expectations but still just 27 years old, Homer Bailey has begun to hit his stride, posting a 3.97 FIP last season and following it up with his best campaign yet.
Highlighted by his second career no hitter, Bailey has been excellent this season, ranking in the top 10 in FIP (2.97) among qualified starters. The key to his success has been the willingness to mix up his pitches more than he has in the past, relying more heavily on his sinker and splitter according to the data available at Brooks Baseball.
Homer Bailey may not ever live up to the expectations placed on him after being drafted out of high school, but after his initial struggles he has quietly developed into a very solid major league starter. If you look at the numbers so far this year, few have been better than Bailey, whose 3.5 WAR puts him in the top 10 of all qualified starters.
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All stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
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