Monday, March 21, 2011

30 A's in 30 Days: Andrew Bailey

Acquired: Drafted in sixth round (2006).
Contract: One year thru 2011 (eligible for arbitration after 2011).
Position: Closer; two-time All-Star; 2009 AL Rookie of the Year; healthy?

2011 Projected ERA: 2.64

2010 Season: On a superficial level, Bailey enjoyed a solid sophomore season (25 saves, 1.47 ERA). Beneath the surface, however, there may be cause for concern. After leading the A's in relief innings pitched in 2009 – his first full season in the bullpen after primarily starting at the minor league level since being drafted in 2006 – Bailey was slowed by a series of injuries. He pitched through a sore knee in April and May, but a ribcage injury sent him to the disabled list almost immediately after the All Star Break. Bailey returned and pitched effectively into September before a balky elbow truncated his campaign. He didn't give up a run in his first 12 appearances (through May 8) and surrendered just three earned runs in his final 25 innings (June 10 through September 17) while striking out 27. But, his strikeouts per nine inning rate fell from 9.8 to 7.7 and his
xFIP (I know, I know…witchcraft!) of 3.80 was more than 2 ½ times his ERA.

I completed this write-up prior to Bailey's spring training appearance on March 14. He left in the bottom of the sixth inning with a forearm muscle strain that looked a lot worse at the time. There's been no official word, but Bailey is expected to start the season on the disabled list. I'm leaving the "over/under" segment unchanged, since my primary point (will he finish over or under his projected ERA?) remains unchanged -- Aaron

2011 Over/Under: I'm in the overwhelming minority here, but I really believe the A's are more worried about Bailey than they're letting on. Bailey had three bone chips and three bone spurs removed from his right elbow in the offseason. He's being brought along slowly – all parties insist he's fine and will be ready on Opening Day – but, that didn't stop Oakland from giving LHP Brian Fuentes (who's averaged 30 saves/season since 2005) a two-year deal with escalating incentives for games finished. Bailey's career splits are identically terrific against right and left-handers, so it's not like he needed a southpaw closer co-star. I'm taking the OVER as I rue the possible return of the "roller coaster" closer – previously manned by Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, Octavio Dotel and Huston Street.

By the Numbers: 4 – Since Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley was traded away in February 1996, eight different relievers have led the team in saves in a single season. Of those eight, only Billy Taylor led the A's in saves for more than two consecutive seasons. He was Oakland top closer for four years (1996-1999). Bailey had led the team in saves over the past two years, but with residue of offseason surgery and an expected raise via arbitration after 2011, Bailey might not get the two additional seasons he needs to tie Taylor.

Surefire 2011 Prediction: Bailey will never top his collection of
national and local commericals from 2010. Not this year...not ever. Nipple clipper.

Old School Rap Track for the Season:
Smokin' Me Out, Warren G.

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