Andrew Bailey came to the Boston Red Sox in the biggest trade the team made this off-season as the Red Sox sent the Oakland A’s the talented young right fielder Josh Reddick and two low minors prospects for the closer and right fielder Ryan Sweeney. Bailey has some big shoes to fill as former closer Jonathan Papelbon, who left the Red Sox for the Philadelphia Phillies, was the top rated second most valuable closer (by fWAR) over the past three seasons, trailing only Mariano Rivera. Bailey has been fairly good himself in that time, ranking seventh and trailing Papelbon by less than 2 WAR, but he is moving into a new home park that is less forgiving and playing in a town with much higher expectations.
Talent has been the question for Andrew Bailey. While is 9 K/9 is not nearly as good as Papelbon’s 10.67 rate, he has nearly the same walk rate (2.56) and a lower home run to fly ball ratio (5.4). Perhaps most impressive though is his .237 BABIP. While both his HR/FB rate and his BABIP are likely to regress some, especially as he leaves the Oakland Coliseum for FenwayPark, Bailey projects to be very close to Papelbon in results, with a career 2.74 FIP and a 2.33 ERA. The real question for Bailey is can he stay healthy. Seeing as he may begin the season on the DL, the early results are not good.
While the thumb injury that is currently plaguing him should not be a long term issue, Bailey has suffered from some potentially serious issues in the past. After throwing 83 innings in his first season on the way to winning Rookie of the Year in 2009, Bailey had shoulder issues in 2010 and pitched just 49 innings that season as a result. He began the 2011 season on the DL with forearm issues and managed just 41 innings total. It may be that these injuries are not going to cause long term problems, but two arm injuries in tow years certainly isn’t a good sign. Oakland may have over used Bailey that first year- Papelbon never threw over 69 innings, in part, because of concerns about his shoulder- butBostonwill still need to get around 60 innings from their closer and Bailey has not done that in two seasons.
Bailey throws three pitches, a four-seam fastball, a cutter and a curve. Bailey’s four-seamer is his main pitch; he throws it at least 70% of the time, and he threw it 75.1% last season. It has little horizontal movement compared to the average four-seamer, but more than average vertical movement or “rise.” It averages around 94 mph and Bailey can hit 97 with the pitch at times. He throws up in the zone quite a bit, but the largest pattern in his usage is away from hitters. Against both righties and lefties, Bailey tend to focus on throwing to the outside with his heater.
Bailey uses his cutter as breaking ball and though it is classified cutter and he refers to it that way, it is very nearly a hard slider. It averages 88 mph and breaks to the catcher’s right hand side, or away from righties. He uses the pitch far more against right handed hitters than lefties and he throws in away most of the time. With a 15.3% whiff rate, it is his best out pitch and he will often throw it to finish hitters off, the way many pitchers use breaking balls.
Bailey’s true off-speed offering is a curve. It comes in at just 77 mph and features above average drop and less horizontal movement than most curves. Bailey tends to “pitch backwards” to a degree, often throwing this pitch early in the count to get ahead of hitters and using his fastball and cutter as his out pitches. None the less, his curve gets a decent whiff rate at 12%. He favors it against lefties and, like most of his offerings, he prefers to throw it away from hitters the majority of the
Bailey actually adds a change to the mix as well, but only on the rarest of occasions. In fact, he has thrown that pitch just 10 times in three years always against lefties. It is possible that it is just a curve that didn’t break, but I doubt it. Whatever the reason may be, Bailey does not use the pitch with any consistency. So, don’t look for it.
If Bailey’s thumb doesn’t cut into his playing time to much, he has the tools to be just as successful as Jonathan Papelbon was when he closed games for the Red Sox. He has dominate stuff and he knows how to get the most out of it. The only question is will he remain healthy. If he does Boston will not miss Paps at all. If he cannot, it could be a long season filled with suspenseful ninth innings.