Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Throwing his second career no-hitter Tuesday night was a great way for Cincinnati Reds starter Homer Bailey to avoid what has been his biggest weakness of 2013: pitching with men on base.
The right-hander has stranded just 68.4 percent of his base runners this season, 13th worst in the majors among qualified pitchers.
That's how Bailey has posted the sixth-lowest FIP in baseball at 2.67 but an ERA that doesn't even rank in the top 40.
Granted, his 3.57 ERA is still strong, but it doesn't quite make him a fantasy ace. However, his other numbers do.
He has a career-high 9.00 K/9 and career lows in a 2.11 BB/9 and a 0.57 HR/9 over 111 innings this season. Bailey also has posted a .225 opponents batting average and a 1.06 WHIP.
But his struggles out of the stretch are dragging his numbers down.
While he has allowed just seven home runs all season, four came with men on base. The right-hander has allowed a 28.2 percent line-drive rate, a 14.3 percent HR/FB and a .368 BABIP in those situations.
Then there's the matter of run support. Bailey has received just 2.9 runs per 27 outs while he has been the pitcher of record this season in 3.8 runs per game in his outings. As a result, the right-hander is just 5-6.
That is certainly amendable in the final three months of the season, however. Cincinnati ranks third in the National League and 11th in the majors in runs scored, so Bailey has really just had bad luck when it comes to run support.
He's more likely to receive better run support from July through September than, say, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, a team that ranks 28th in baseball in runs scored. Sale has a 2.79 ERA but is just 5-7 thanks to his team scoring just 2.6 runs per 27 outs while he has been the pitcher of record this season.
Bailey's growth as a pitcher this season is definitely evident.
He has been mixing his pitches much better this year. In 2012, he threw his four-seamer 47.9 percent of the time and his slider 17.8 percent, but he has thrown his four-seam fastball 36.2 percent and his slider 14.9 percent in 2013. He has increased his two-seam usage up to 25.5 percent, his curveball usage to 10.8 percent and his changeup usage to 12.5 percent from last season as well.
He also is averaging 93.6 mph on his four-seam fastball and 93.3 mph on his two-seamer. He averaged 92.4 mph on both pitches last season.
Overall, he has posted the seventh-best chase rate, the 12th-best contact rate on pitches in the strike zone and the 11th-best swing-and-miss rate in baseball at 35.1, 84.2 and 10.9 percent, respectively, this season.
Those are the rates of a true ace. Even if Bailey doesn't improve from the stretch this season, the fact is he is allowing fewer base runners and fewer home runs than he ever has, so he basically is sitting at his ERA floor right now.
And based on the strides he has made since last season, there's little reason to think he won't tighten the clamps at least a little bit with men on base in the second half of the season.