While Homer hasn’t helped my case in his first two starts in Louisville, I’m undaunted in my quest.

An umpire tossed him out tonight (without warning) in the third inning for beaning a player after giving up a home run to the previous hitter. He had walked three in 2 2/3 and allowed two homers, so the argument could be made that his command wasn’t sharp to start with.

I’m not one to argue with the logic that he needs to prove it at AAA before making it to the majors, but if Darnell McDonald, Daniel Ray Herrera, and Paul Janish can make the team out of spring training due to “good springs”….how does that not apply to Bailey?

As for Earl Weaver’s usage of his young pitchers. I’ve found the older we get, the more selective our memories become.

Most of us “long for the days” when players remain with their teams instead of constantly moving around. Fact is, players today actually remain with their teams longer than they did in days of yore, we just don’t remember it that way. Reds fans (and Dodger fans) remember the 70’s teams, which were actually the exception in major league history. Those players did stay together, but you won’t find the same consistency in other decades. One change: star players do seem to change more, and that may be what makes us feel the way we do.

Well, the Orioles pitching of the 70’s was exceptional, too. The Orioles rotation of that period was similar to the Braves rotation of the 90’s: the best in baseball (Dodger fans may argue…). But, that doesn’t mean that Weaver wouldn’t give kids a chance. In fact, he gave them lots of chances, but with him in control rather than leaving them to the minor league coaches. He kept fewer pitchers than some major league teams and let his pitchers hurl more innings (having the DH helped here). He was known to favor lots of platoon players, and he used them in platoon roles as hitters, but he didn’t make lots of bullpen changes. He used the bullpen to pitch his young guys lots of innings…for relievers, that is, while they learned the big leagues and gained enough confidence to be successful.

By the year, courtesy of baseball-reference.com

1971…four twenty game winners (Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Dobson)….not much room for youth here; except that Palmer was still just 25

1972…SP-Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Dobson…four big winners return, however Weaver found time to pitch 25 year old Roric Harrison 94 innings with 2 starts, and 21 year old Doyle Alexander 106 innings with 9 starts. In the offseason, the O’s traded Dobson (16-18 record) and Harrison to the Braves for slugger Earl Williams opening a spot for Alexander in 1973

1973–SP–Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Alexander (age 22, 26 starts, 174 IP), Jesse Jefferson (age 24, 15 starts, 100 IP). Alexander/Jefferson flirt with 4.00 ERAs when that was high; Orioles trade for another “veteran”…24 year old Ross Grimsley (from the Reds for Merv Rettenmund)

1974–SP–Grimsley, Cuellar, McNally, Palmer. Alexander still started 23 games at age 24 with 114 IP; Wayne Garland (age 23) pitches 91 innings, makes 6 starts, and Jesse Jefferson pitches 57 innings. Orioles trade McNally for 28 year old Mike Torrez.

1975…SP–Palmer, Cueller, Torrez, Grimsley. Alexander, (age 24, 133 IP, 11 starts), Garland (age 24, 87 IP), Paul Mitchell (age 25, 57 IP, 4 starts). Off season, O’s trade Torrez for 30 year old Ken Holtzman.

1976–SP–Palmer, Garland, Grimsley, Cuellar, also Holtzman, and Rudy May (acquried for Holtzman and Alexander). A transition year…Cuellar was terrible, later released. Meanwhile, Alexander (age 25, 64 IP, 6 GS), Mike Flanagan (age 24, 85 IP, 10 GS), Dennis Martinez (age 21, 27 IP, 2 gs), and Scott McGregor (age 22, 14 IP, 2 gs). Garland becomes a free agent.

1977–SP–Palmer, Flanagan, Grimsley, May. Dennis Martinez (age 22, pitches 166 inning from bullpen with 13 starts), Scott McGregor pitches 114 ip on 5 starts at age 23.

1978–SP–Palmer, Flanagan, McGregor, Martinez….three of the four were age 25 or younger

It’s an amazing run. Weaver had great talent, but he used the majors as his training ground for his talent, in middle inning situations, growing their arm strength and knowledge of the league.

How many of these guys won 20 games or more at least once? Cuellar, McNally, Palmer, Dobson, Grimsley, Garland, Torrez, Holtzman, Flanagan, McGregor, Martinez. Alexander never won 20 in a season and neither did May. However, Alexander won 194 for his career and May won 152.

I’m a lot more than impressed. Now, I will say that these guys (for the most part) dominated in the minors. But, I just checked Homer’s “peripheral” stats from 2008 and compared them to 2007.

Despite his record declining from 6-3 to 4-7 (Louisville info), his strikeout/walk ratio actually improved from 1.84 to 2.09. His K rate was essentially the same (went from 7.9 to 7.8). His walk ratio decreased from 4.3 to 3.7. His HR rate did go up from 0.5 to 0.8, and his hits per nine innings increased from 6.5 to 9.5, which is a lot. However, recent studies on “batting average on balls in play” has proven that hitting averages on batted balls are somewhat out of a pitcher’s control and more reliant on his fielders. His ERA rose from 3.07 to 4.77, but that’s misleading…over 20% of his runs in 2007 were unearned…his ERA should have been over 4.00 that year, too.

Baseball Prospectus notes that Bailey was being lit after he got two strikes on a batter in the majors last year. The National League batting 2008 norm was .185/.256/.284….Bailey’s was .391/.421/.638. BP says it seemed he was pitching to the radar gun…as if he was overthrowing when trying to finish off the hitter.

I’ll say it again…sounds to me like he needs confidence in lower leverage situations. It’s not like we aren’t carrying about 2000 pitchers on the team…may be if we carried fewer pitchers, we could have enough roster spots to find position players who can hit and provide some offense to balance our defensive specialists….

12 Responses

  1. Sultan of Swaff

    Here’s a comment I found on the Reds site about Homer’s outing from someone who witnessed it:

    I was at the Bats game in Louisville last night. Homer started and had one of those nights where you think to yourself, “Hmmm, I wonder if his career just ended right there.” He was awful in every way but mentally more than anything else. He was very wild and the outs were getting hit hard. In the 3rd he gave up 2 HRs. After the 2nd dinger, he immediately beaned the next batter in the upper back and got ejected. The dude might go into another downward spiral. I hope not, but it was an ugly scene and highlights the immaturity that everyone had hoped he’d gotten over this spring. I;d be shocked if he has a good year or makes it back up to the Reds after watching that sad display. On the plus side, Carlos Fisher who took his place was unhitable.

    Umm, not good.

  2. Bill Lack

    Steve, aren’t you ready to get off this dead horse? (g)

    I completely understand your position, though I would play devil’s advocate and say, your examples of starting in the bullpen/Earl Weaver are all from over 30 years ago, long before pitchers arms were worth millions of dollars. I wonder if this might be why the baseball establishment is so hesitant to move their golden boys from starting to relieving and back again?

    I would also raise another point. Homer was in a battle for the #5 spot in the rotation. While they were close, I think Owings out pitched him for the job in ST and with the weakness of the Reds bench, Owings bat surely helped him here.

    I don’t believe the Reds, despite their lip service, were ever considering Bailey for the bullpen. And even if they were, I think they believe Masset has value (and PR value considering how he came to the Reds) and was out of options.

    I also believe, after talking to numerous minor league players, that the big clubs “test” their minor league players to see how they’ll handle adversity, stress, different situations. I wonder if Homer’s trip to Louisville could have been (in addition to the points above) a test of his new found “maturity”?

  3. Steve Price

    The following is taken from today’s (April 15) Louisville Courier-Journal online recount of the game (I don’t see much emotion in the story):

    Bailey got into trouble early, with two walks in the first. With one out, he looked as if he would escape thanks to a potential 3-6-1 double play. But shortstop Chris Valaika’s throw to Bailey was wild, allowing Will Rhymes to score an unearned run.

    Two innings later, the Bats’ right-hander was ejected with two out. Bailey was down 3-0 after giving up solo home runs in the inning to Ryan Raburn and Mike Hessman, then plunked Wilkin Ramirez with a pitch in the back. Home plate umpire Fran Burke immediately ejected Bailey.

    Bailey didn’t mount much of a protest as he left and was relieved by Carlos Fisher, followed by Robert Manuel and Pedro Viola.

    Bailey denied hitting Ramirez on purpose.

    “The umpire jumped to conclusions,” he said. “We were trying to get him off the plate. I didn’t have any intention of hurting him. I had been struggling with my grip.”

    Bailey and Sweet had a closed-door meeting after the game. Both emerged from the manager’s office in apparent good spirits, and Sweet said Bailey hadn’t been trying to hit Ramirez.

  4. Steve Price

    One of my strengths is tenacity; which I suppose can be a “weakness” if taken too far…

    The Reds did consider Bailey for the bullpen…Baker admitted it in an interview late in the spring.

    Weaver’s example, 30 years ago or not, is why we should consider it, not cast it away, and it’s appropriate for the million dollar arm comment. Weaver didn’t destroy people’s arms…he helped them by not pitching them too much too early. He sent them to the bullpen to not over use them and gave them spot starts to strengthen their arms.

    The Reds, on the other hand, were an entirely different story. We burnt out some arms (Nolan, Gullett, Simpson) while acquiring other overused young pitchers (Merritt, McGlothlin) by thrusting them into the starting rotation at young ages.

    As for “testing,” that’s exactly what Weaver did, too. However, instead of sending his prospects to the bushes he brought them along in a big league atmosphere, teaching them the ropes of the game, and preparing them with real situations.

  5. GregD

    How frequently is this done today? A lot of guys with ceilings as #4/5 starters seem to bounce between bullpen and rotation. The higher profile cases (off the top of my head) are Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Papelbon (who ended up sticking in the bullpen), and Joba Chamberlain.

  6. Dan

    It’s a decent argument. You could find more recent and more varied examples too — Pedro Martinez comes to mind! Also Santana and Liriano, I think, as Greg said (although Liriano did get injured).

    That said… fewer words, dude! What do you think I have, an attention span or something? 😉

  7. Dan

    By the way, I agree much more strongly w/ another post that you had up here before but is gone now…

    Let’s be creative and carry 14 hitters and 11 pitchers, instead of 13/12! Quit babying and over-specializing the relievers (LOOGY’s drive me nuts), and get the extra bat.

    I nominate Gomes, but really there are a lot of ways you could go. Maybe Rosales?

    Anyway… does anyone know if any teams are currently carrying 14 hitters and 11 pitchers? I really do think it would give you a competitive advantage these days. (A small one, but still, an advantage.)

  8. Phill

    GregD, Chad Billingsley with the Dodgers came up in relief and didn’t actually become a starter until two years ago half way through the season.

  9. Steve Price

    May be I should change the name to “Long Relief for Homer’s Bullpen Story?”

    I was thinking about Bill’s comment about “lip service” and keeping Bailey in the bullpen. It may have been just that since the Reds haven’t done this with their young pitchers, and have been known to send players (Kearns comes to mind) where they don’t want to go–Bowden was said to have done this.

    However, this happens more often with quality pitchers than we know in our Reds universe…as the examples are showing.

    I, too, would like to see Homer ring up something in his AAA record to take off some pressure…I think he would have too, now, since he’s had two bad starts in Louisville. It was kind of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He had it ready to unveil several months before he unleashed it on the public. The Union’s generals kept losing battles and he felt public opinion would fare better if he could unveil the program after a win, and it finally happened and it was part of the tide that turned the war.

    At this point (am I conceding?) it would do Homer some good to win a couple of games…but, I still think he would have been better served, and still could be better served, hanging around with Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.

  10. David

    Bailey, more than any pitcher I can remember let’s the emotion of the game take over everything else. If he is sent to AAA he thinks he sucks and he does.

  11. Mr. Redlegs

    The Earl Weaver Orioles didn’t use a 5-man rotation until 1979. That’s why he often took extremely talented young pitchers and put them into long relief situations and as the quasi-No. 5. That’s how they got their innings with some consistency.

    Here’s the other thing: George Bamberger was one of the great pitching talent evaluators and instructors of all time. The Orioles had a ton of young pitching talent. Homer Bailey doesn’t make any of his Orioles staffs.

  12. Shane

    If he is sent to AAA he thinks he sucks and he does.
    no, he pouts and doesn’t care, it’s called immaturity, give him a couple of years