Homer Bailey – Call Up?

With EricMilton going on the DL due to a sprained elbow, the speculation on who will replace
him — top pitching prospect Homer Bailey — should be in full force over the
weekend. Bailey, my pre-season best pitching prospect in baseball excepting Daisuke
Matsuzaka, has solid numbers at Triple-A with a 3-1 record in six starts completed
by a 1.83 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. Or does he? I had a middle-of-the night
conversation with my recently cantankerous friend, Jeff Erickson of Roto Wire,
ESPN, and XM Radio fame, who commented Bailey needs to “strike more guys out
down there,” before he’s ready. Rather than serve up the 21/15 K:BB ratio in
34 and a third innings as conclusive evidence of something non-descript, I’ll
show you what Jeff’s point is.

Bailey is
a power pitching prospect, an important note for my classification theory on analyzing
prospects. As a developing power pitcher the strikeout-rate per nine inning is
an important statistical measure; 9.00, or one per inning is the preferred number
for a high-minor starter. Bailey has toppled this number coming up, but currently
sits at 5.45 in his first look at Triple-A; weak for a power pitching prospect of
his pedigree. These figures, a strikeout, a walk, are just results; facts in
evidence. They don’t provide conclusions by themselves but do point to areas to
research.

 And here
it is – In
the 34-plus innings he’s pitched this year, 12 have been in front of
the count against nine and two-thirds behind; this is a positive. But ahead he’s been
hit at a .256 pace, much higher than the .177 Triple-A hitters have hit him at
in the overall. Roger Clemens, the prototype power pitcher — who has garnered
a few headlines of his own this week — has been hit at a .163 clip when he’s ahead
in the count over the past three seasons, .210 in the overall. This is how the
variation should look; the numbers themselves better than mere mortals can hope
for.

The results are so drastically against the norm it
has to be a small sample anomaly, right? There is truth in that assumption but stats
never tell the whole story. In real life hitters are more aggressive behind in
the count and the two-strike approach exists in its own realm. Bailey is not
putting away the Triple-A hitter –a superior class to any he’s faced coming into the year — and needs to finish better, for the jump up is
significant both in aggression and the volume of solid two-strike hitters.

I was told earlier that Bailey would not be in the
majors until he was ready for a long term assignment. By these results it
shouldn’t be as soon as next week.

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