Comingoff one of his worse starts of the Triple-A season – a six-inning outing in which
he gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks — Bailey
is likely to be called up this weekend, according to MLB.com. And despite the
lukewarm showing on Saturday, it’s not a bad decision should it come to pass.
still unconfirmed at this time but the signs are in place, and manager Jerry Narron
has not ruled it out, suggesting a decision has been made, just not announced.
Earlier I wrote on this Blog that the time wasn’t right but things have changed,
most notably in his past three starts where he’s done everything right, putting
the International League hitter way at a more efficient rate. One could argue
that three starts isn’t enough innings, but the opportunity presents itself
now, as soon as Friday.
what to expect should the report prove to be true? It’s always a hit-and-miss proposition
when pitchers first get called up. I’m one of the few that thought Bailey was
the best pitching prospect in baseball coming into this year. A previous
admission on Tim Lincecum included, I still like Bailey more, feeling his long
term prognostication is higher for both control and injury issues. As mentioned, most first-starts for top pitching prospects are good; they tend to
degrade later, after the hitter and advanced scouts have a read on them, and I
don’t think Bailey is going to be called up for a one and out. He should have
enough success to make Eric Milton’s return from injury irrelevant.
A realistic projection should be similar to Lincecum’s
season thus far; at times great, while other starts show they’re still in
development mode. The one concern short term is the ability to put the higher
class of hitter away. If he’s hitting the acceptable strikeout-per-nine rate of
around 7.00 in his third or fourth start, it should be a decent year. While the
Giants prospect has the advantage in deception and a nastier fastball, velocities
are basically neutral (both can get to the high 90s at times), and Bailey has
the superior overall repertoire and is less likely to have control problems. The
end numbers could look similar; the best saved for next decade.
Word is the Reds will call on Livingston, the former Mariner, to make the starts in Eric Milton’s absence. Manager Jerry Narron’s quote to the Cincinnati Enquirer on Homer Bailey aptly sums up the thought noted in my analysis. "I’m not saying Homer is definitely out of it," Narron said. "But Homer needs to be down there (at Triple-A) for a few more starts. Hopefully, he’ll continue to progress."
That seemingly put to rest for the time being we’ll turn our attention to Livingston, 0-3 with a 3.22 ERA through seven starts for Triple-A Louisville. He’s posted his usual control-motivated 33/4 K:BB ratio in 44 and two-third innings, necessary for his ERA given he’s been hit at a .291 clip; normal for him and his pitcher classification as a 24-year-old soft-tossing southpaw.
The former fourth-rounder from 2001 is interesting in as much as he’s not really a left-hander, but rather ambidextrous who apparently only throws and plays golf from the south side. Perhaps I’m the only one who finds this note worthy as I’m predominately left-handed but switch-hit in all sports that require a stick including golf, and more odd, have played guitar from both sides of the plate for years. Personal notation aside, it would seem Livingston is not really left-handed, writing and doing most day-to-day tasks as the majority, and could possibly throw harder right-handed. Perhaps this is in fact a choice, cleverly contrived to use the unusual gift on the basis there is, and will always be, a need for left-handed pitching.
Coming up in the Mariners’ system as a southpaw with a fastball that topped out somewhere between 85-89 MPH, the comparison to Jamie Moyer was inevitable and frequent. I find this suitable for a short term projection of what to expect from Livingston, for he’s nowhere near as bad as what he showed in his brief tenure with the Mariners in 2006. In fact, he had strong spring training numbers, better than the early results in the Triple-A International League.
The soft-tossing left-hander takes much longer in development. Moyer –currently having tremendous early-success with the Phillies at age 44—did not become a model for comparison until he was in his mid-30s, his early years inconsistent, yielding far more hits than innings pitched until 2001 at age 38. At the same age as Livingston, 24, he posted a 5.10 ERA in 33 starts with the Cubs surrendering 28 home runs, his control less than Livingston’s.
Many pundits wrote Livingston off after 2006, erroneously viewing the waiver claim that sent him to the Reds as a give up, rather than the trade paper-work faux paux between the Mariners and Devil Rays it actually was. He still has promise albeit with the limited ceiling of a Moyer or Kenny Rogers, both of whom found success in their 30s, while struggling with the major league development issues predominant in their genre through their 20s. These issues should be prevalent in Livingston’s early major league time as well.
The issue of control is more finite in these types and Livingston’s margin of error is slim. He’s not going to be wild, he can’t afford to nibble, and the more likely is the three-inch miss that turns him into batting practice fodder. The thing to watch when he does make his start for the Reds is velocity; differentials between fastball and change up are important, but the differences between fastballs thrown are more paramount. He must change speeds; the learning curve of when and to whom is steep and one of the major factors in why it takes so long for these types to succeed.
NL fantasy leaguers shouldn’t expect much and if he has success, you shouldn’t expect it to remain consistent. A relatively neutral flyball pitcher with his limited experience doesn’t profile well in the home park. But don’t abandon all hope; simply note the age and the inordinate amount of experience it usually takes in his type.
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.
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
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
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.