Boston Red Sox: Why Andrew Bailey Will Be Fine as Boston's Setup Man

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Boston Red Sox: Why Andrew Bailey Will Be Fine as Boston's Setup Man
J. Meric/Getty Images
Despite closing in 2012, Andrew Bailey will be the setup man in 2013.

The recent acquisition of Joel Hanrahan will result in Andrew Bailey pitching in the eighth inning as a setup man instead of what he was brought to the Boston Red Sox to do—close games.

But that’s perfectly fine.

Last offseason, the Red Sox traded Josh Reddick and two minor leaguers to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and the centerpiece of the deal, Bailey. Bailey was set to become the next Boston closer with Jonathan Papelbon leaving to go play for the Philadelphia Phillies during free agency.

It looked like the perfect trade for the Red Sox at the time. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t so perfect.

Bailey ended up requiring thumb surgery for a torn UCL, keeping him out of action until well after the All-Star Break. When he finally returned in August, he was shaky. In 19 appearances, Bailey posted a 7.04 ERA in 15.1 innings of work. He only allowed runs in five of those outings, but was still not very consistent.

That led to the Red Sox going out to trade for Hanrahan, formerly the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Meet the new closer of the Red Sox, Joel Hanrahan.

Boston now plans to take Bailey out of the closer role and give it to Hanrahan, which isn't a big deal, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI:

“Sure, it’s a first priority for all relievers to want to close. But it’s not like I’m upset about it or anything. It’s just a tweak in the job description. It’s not the end of anything. It will be good. I’m looking forward to working with [Hanrahan].”

A closer may be the best option for the Red Sox in 2013 as they've been working this offseason to try to mix things up with new personnel in new places.

Despite Hanrahan winning the job without any competition from Bailey, Bailey will be more than fine in the eighth inning.

Bailey’s comments on the addition of Hanrahan speak for themselves, but here are some numbers to ponder as well.

Comparing each reliever’s save totals per season is an imperfect method and there’s no true way to judge a relievers performance over the course of a season besides ERA, which isn't always fair either. The best way to judge who has pitched better can be done by examining who had the most shutdowns and meltdowns.

FanGraphs provides a great briefing on what shutdowns and meltdowns are, but here’s a short glimpse:

Shutdowns and meltdowns are two relatively new statistics, created as an alternative to saves in an effort to better represent a relief pitcher’s value. Shutdowns and meltdowns improve upon saves and blown saves by giving equal weight to middle relievers, showing how they can affect a game just as much as a closer can, and by capturing more negative reliever performances.

So basically, if a reliever increases his team’s chances to win, he gets a shutdown, and vice-versa for a meltdown.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Pitching in the eighth inning instead of the ninth shouldn't be an issue for Andrew Bailey.

Excluding Hanrahan’s first season with the Washington Nationals—since he only appeared in 12 games and 11 were starts—he has had 107 shutdowns and 47 meltdowns (via FanGraphs). In ratio form, that’s about 2.3 shutdowns to one meltdown. His best season came in 2011 when he had 35 shutdowns to just eight meltdowns, which is pretty good.

Looking at Bailey’s numbers (via FanGraphs)—excluding 2012 with the Red Sox—he has had 69 shutdowns and 18 meltdowns, or 3.8 shutdowns per meltdown. He averaged 23 shutdowns and six meltdowns per season when with the Oakland A's.

If manager John Farrell needs to choose between Bailey and Hanrahan to help Boston win, Bailey has the better odds of doing so. Even though the numbers say that Bailey should pitch in the ninth, Hanrahan will be the one doing that.

But since Bailey is more qualified to relieve in general—not taking into consideration what inning he pitches in—he’ll be fine in the eighth inning. If anything, it’s Hanrahan in the ninth that Boston should be worried about.

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