Garth Shanklin
Bailey vs. Cueto: The great debate

I have a terrible habit of losing things.

Wallets, keys, phone: if you hand it to me, there’s a good chance I’ll be looking for it in the very near future.

For instance, on Monday I spent the better part of the morning before heading into the office looking for my wallet. Couldn’t find it to save my life, and eventually I had to just give up and leave.

Fast-forward about eight hours, and I’ve pulled myself off the road in Williamsburg next to the old high school, hazards flashing. Why, you ask? To take a gym in Pokémon Go.

Now, I don’t usually do that, as a matter of fact this particular gym would be the first one I ever defeated by myself. When I finished, I looked up to see flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror.

Apparently, sitting on the side of the road with my hazards on had caused someone to call the police and report a broken-down car. A few minutes of waiting for my name to come back clean and I was good to go.

While I’ll admit, it is nice knowing that had something actually been wrong with the car, I wouldn’t have had to wait for help, I’d be lying if I didn’t find amusement in the fact that the one time I don’t have my license with me is the first time I’ve ever been asked for it. In hindsight, I should probably have spent more time looking for it.

That’s the thing about hindsight, though. It doesn’t do anyone any good in the moment. It’s a tool used to second-guess decisions made with the best information at the time. If everyone could see how the decisions played out, every decision would be perfect.

Take, for instance, the debate I’ve seen on Twitter the past few weeks.

Ever since Homer Bailey returned from the disabled list and began living up to his nickname, people have been complaining about the Reds choosing to extend his contract instead of Johnny Cueto’s.

First, and I cannot stress this enough, it’s not worth looking in to every complaint posted on Twitter. Everyone is mad at something, and that place is like a public suggestion box that suddenly learned how to read the suggestions. For your mental health, don’t do it.

My mental health aside, the Cueto/Bailey debate is something to look into, primarily because I didn’t know there even was a debate to begin with. I’m pro-Cueto, but the signs for the extension clearly pointed to Bailey being the better option.

Bailey’s contract was extended six years at $104 million in February 2014. At the time, the righty was coming off an 11-12 season with a 3.49 ERA, the lowest mark in his career. He had also tossed over 200 innings that season, the second straight year he had done that.

Cueto, meanwhile, was coming off a 2012 campaign that saw him post excellent regular-season numbers, only to leave the first postseason game due to injury after just eight pitches.

In the season that followed, Cueto made just 11 starts and hit the disabled list three different times for lat strains. Cueto returned to form in 2014, winning 20 games while Bailey won nine and tossed less than 150 innings.

Things went downhill from there for Bailey. In 2015, he started just two games due to injury. 2016 saw him make six starts before his season ended.

In 2017, he didn’t get back on the mound for over half the season, and nine starts in, his ERA sits at 8.86 on the year.

Cueto posted a solid statline in 2015 before his trade to Kansas City, but things haven’t been smooth for him either.

He won a World Series ring with the Royals, but he did so with his first losing record (4-7) since his 2008 campaign (9-14) and an ERA over four for the first time since 2009. Those numbers represent his starts with Kansas City only, adding his Reds numbers into the mix do improve them a bit.

After that, Cueto signed with San Francisco, and in 2016 appeared to right the ship, posting an 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA. However, those stats don’t tell the whole story.

Cueto was excellent in the first half, with a 13-1 record and a 2.47 ERA before the all-star break. He struck out 115 batters while walking just 24.

In the second half, his ERA balloned by nearly a full run, his strikeouts went down and his walks stayed the same.

This season has been worse for Cueto. His ERA is, as of this writing, 4.59, the second-highest mark in his career, not counting the half-season in Kansas City. It’s not going down anytime soon, as Cueto currently sits on the disabled list with blisters on multiple fingers. He aggravated his forearm in his most recent rehab start on August 1, and has yet to be cleared to return to baseball.

So, looking back, is extending Homer Bailey the best idea? No, given what we know now, extending him is a terrible idea. However, extending Cueto at the time was no sure bet either, and some blogs even called for the Reds to extend Mat Latos, who gave up 11 runs in three starts for Toronto this year before being released.

The lesson here? Predicting baseball is hard.