Is Andrew Bailey a Top Five Closer in 2010?

Ben PavlovicContributor IFebruary 1, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 17:  Pitcher Andrew Bailey #40 of the Oakland Athletics closes the ninth inning against the New York Yankees during the Major League Baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum on August 17, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Let's take another look at the reigning AL ROY award-winner, Oakland's Andrew Bailey.

Now I completely agree that there will be some regression here, but is there any good reason why Bailey can't be a top 10 closer in 2010?

To that I say, "negative Ghostrider, the pattern is full."  And color me unsurprised should he finish the year as a top five reliever. 

Yes, he appeared out of nowhere, but he has always been a true strikeout arm—just check the numbers.  That's what we look for when evaluating a young pitcher, right?  Strikeouts are one of the "Three True Outcomes" as noted by our friends at Baseball Prospectus.

What's that?  So are walks you decry?  Look at Bailey's past control issues!  Valid point.  But pitchers find their control and learn how to pitch as they age.  We saw Bailey make that jump last year once he converted from starter to reliever.   

Looking back at 2009, Bailey was dominant across the entire season.  He didn't Ryan Franklin himself and fall apart down the stretch.  In fact, his control improved and his batting average against dropped slightly.  He only walked FIVE batters in the second half.  That's Mariano territory, folks.  He also struck out 91 batters over the course of the season.
Look at these stats from 2009:
Player A - 72 strikeouts, 12 BBs.  
Player B - 76 strikouts, 24 BBs.  
Player C - 89 strikeouts, 22 BBs. 
Player D - 91 strikeouts, 24 BBs.
The players, in order, are: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, and Bailey.
Yes, I'd certainly take Mo, Paps, and Nathan over Bailey, and so will your league mates.  They all registered more saves and have a proven track record.
But let your league mates draft Mo and the boys in the fourth round while you add another power bat.  Pounce on Bailey once the big boys are gone and enjoy the ride.
Bill James predicts Bailey to hurl 72 innings, while garnering 29 saves and a 71/29 K/BB ratio.  He is calling for some regression sure, but I'll take those numbers right to the bank.
We saw Bailey take a gigantic step forward last year, don't be so skeptical and call it a mirage.
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