Oakland’s Excellent Young Closer

As the regular season winds down thoughts turn towards two thing: the post season and the regular season awards. Marc filled us in on the Rookie of the Year candidates and I wanted to follow up on a particular one I find particularly interesting. Andrew Bailey was handed the A’s closing responsibility early in the season–a very Oakland-like-move of trusting projectable talent in spite of lack of veteran-closing-ability.

Bailey has rewarded that choice. By any conceivable metric he has done very well, with an ERA, FIP and tRA all under 3, over a strikeout per inning and a very good walk rate. For the most part he throws three pitches: an electric 94-mph four-seam fastball, a 90-mph cutter and a curve.

movement

He throws all three pitches to both lefties and righties, but throws the cutter more often to righties and the curve to lefties.

His fastball is really really nasty. It averages 94 mph, over 10 inches of ‘rise’ and has a 31% whiff rate (misses per swings). That is the highest whiff rate of any fastball in the game this year (recently profiled Robinson Tejeda‘s is second at 28% and then also recently profiled David Aardsma‘s third at 25%). In addition the fastball is in the zone over 57% of the time. So it gives him a whiff-inducing pitch that he is still able to throw for strikes.

His curveball is one of the best from a reliever, worth almost half a win on its own. As I said he uses it very often against LHBs, against whom it moves in. Even with this inward movement to them he locates the pitch away in the zone. Here are the pitch locations with those swung at darkened and those whiffed encircled.
pitch_loc_cu
He gets lots of whiffs below the zone, and on contacted pitches he gets lots of grounders (over 60% per ball in play).

Bailey has been one of game’s best relievers and a legitimate Rookie of the Year choice, although I would prefer someone like Elvis Andrus who provided more value as a starting position player.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


14 Responses to “Oakland’s Excellent Young Closer”

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  1. big baby says:

    speaking of the cutter, I was looking at the pitch values, and I noticed that very few people throw “bad” cutters. this might be a survival bias, where only people who throw good cutters choose to throw them, but I’m wondering if there’s merit to the idea that the cutter is an incredibly effective pitch.

    buttressing my hypothesis is the fact that several middling pitchers have greatly improved by adding a cutter to their arsenal. namely Franklin and Feldman, as well as Jon Niese.

    something to chew on.

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    • Dave Allen says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Very interesting observation about cutters. The other guy who picked up (actually brought back because he threw it in the minors) a cutter and is doing well with it is Brian Bannister. I might look into that.

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    • brendan says:

      dallas braden also improved after adding a cut fastball

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      • eric says:

        Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter both added a cutter to their repertoire and have greatly improved from it.

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  2. Mark says:

    Ok I get Bailey being an excellent ROY candidate and realistically most years it’s his. Feldman takes the prize this year, but that’s not what I want to say.

    How is it that he got so much better from the pitcher he was coming up? I don’t think he will be as good next season because I think a larger sample size is necessary. Saying that, reading this article definitely swayed me closer to believing he was for real. So my ultimate question is who will Andrew Bailey be next season?

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    • Dave Allen says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Are you taking about Scott Feldman in Texas? I don’t think he is a rookie this year.

      I do think Bailey’s numbers will be worse next year, just for regression to the mean reasons. Most likely he is playing above his true talent level. But one thing to think about with his minor league numbers is that most of those came as a starter. He switched to the pen at the end of last year in AAA. For what it’s worth he pitched 39 innings out of the pen with 9.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and 1 HR, which works out to a FIP of 2.33.

      It looks like his stuff probably works much better out of the pen than the rotation and Oakland.

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    • eric says:

      Feldman is not a rookie this year, but he does owe a great deal of his success this year to a much improved-cutter.

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  3. Xeifrank says:

    10 to 15 inches of rise on a fastball? Is there anyone else even close to this? Seems like something out of fast pitch softball.
    vr, Xei

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      Bear in mind that is not actual rise. That simply means that the pitch dropped 10 to 15 inches less than would be expected for an object moving with that velocity with “neutral” characteristics.

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  4. nick says:

    If you want to look at how to assemble a bullpen, follow Oakland’s blueprint. Instead of paying top dollar for saves or trading top prospects, they get a group of talented young guys and one emerges and then once he gets too expensive and reaches peak value is traded off and the cycle repeats.

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    • Samg says:

      I’m sure their fans love this.

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      • nick says:

        I think the disapproval would stem more from both their inability and unwillingness to spend on position players. I mean look at the terrible investments made (giambi, chavez, etc) and then they cheap out on the rest of the roster. If you take away the mistake of the chavez contract and add maybe 10M or so to that payroll they could very well challenge the angels next year. That won’t happen though. The bullpen has been consistently good however

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      • joser says:

        Actually, if you read athleticsnation.com (not necessarily a representative sample, but the only one I’m familiar with) their fans are mostly ok with this. What they do lament are the bad contracts (there are only a couple, but they are bad) and the lack of offense (Beane seems to be forever pulling pitching rabbits out of prospect hats, but he doesn’t appear to have the same talent for hitters — the A’s are kind of the anti-Rangers in that regard).

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    • Mike says:

      As an A’s fan, I both like it and dislike it. I like it in that you know going into the season that Beane will never overcommit resources to the bullpen and that he usually finds the right pieces to build an effective relief corps. However, I really liked Huston Street both as a player and as a person so it was tough to see him traded for a guy who has already been traded off the current team.

      It’s a wonder that Beane can continually tear down and rebuild his pitching staffs and basically always find the right ingredients to formulate a somewhat competitive staff, basically year in and year out, while at the same time he’s really struck-out in nearly every attempt he’s made to rebuild his offense from the heydays of the early part of this decade.

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