February 19, 2014

Is Homer Bailey now an "elite" pitcher?

In his team-by-team preseason preview, that's what Jonah Keri says of Cincinnati hurler Homer Bailey, now in line to get $17.5M a year from the Reds, or $18.5 with the buyout, or the option year being taken up, if reports are true.

Besides, who am I to argue with Keri, who was sooooo right NOT that A.J. Burnett's new contract is fantastic NOT. (Still time to vote on how bad that baby is, at top right.)

Bailey did cut his WHIP and raise his K/BB rate last year, but, elite?

It's in part the old "inflation of adjectives" which is a career occupational hazard of sports and entertainment writers, and which I wish I could permanently eliminate with some transcranial magnetic stimulation.

So, with allowance for inflation, is Bailey well above average?

Uhh, not yet. One good season, above-average but well above average, does not make for a well above average future. Especially not when it took Messr. Bailey until age 27 to produce that season.

On WAR, yes, he broke the 3-WAR mark last year, but even allowing for early years overpay, he's being paid to do almost that well through the life of the contract.

And, then, there's "homer" blogs. One blog notes he pitched better this year at Great American even though it's hitter friendly, than he did on the road. Er, a quick glance at splits shows that he's 20 points better on ERA+ for his career at home than the road. Pure puffery to say he did better last year at home.

Meanwhile, since Jonah loves him some Fangraphs more, let's look at Bailey there. He had a career low in fielding-independent pitching, tis true. Again, looking like progress. But Steamer and Oliver both expect a moderate amount of regression this year.

And, was this a better investment than going shorter-term, say 4/$50, on Bailey and at the same time, although he's a year earlier in the arbitration cycle, trying to do something similar with Mat Latos? When you're a mid-market team trying to be fairly selective with mid-level veteran talent, you've got to be careful not to put too many eggs in one basket. If not Latos, a similar deal for Mike Leake, at the same point as Latos on the arbitration cycle, could have been pursued immediately.

Or, another option? Lock up both Latos and Leake and let Bailey walk.

Of course, the real answer is for new Reds manager Bryan Price to not be Dusty Baker, to put his foot down, and move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, until he simply screws up.

I know that the Reds were probably worried about Bailey walking after this season, if they didn't do something soon. That said, I see nothing in his past to indicate he's going to do so much better this year as to have commanded a vastly greater contract nine months from now. And the Reds could always have put the 1-year qualifying offer sticker on his head otherwise.

I don't know, but I think it could well become a moderate overpay.

1 comment:

PDiddie said...

He's certainly getting paid like one, but I still won't draft him as elite in any fantasy league. Speaking of that, do you play? Let's compete in a league somewhere.