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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.


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.
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.