A closer's greatest adversaries are walks and homers. His best friends are strikeouts, double play grounders and pop-outs. Even the most effective closers blow a save once in a while in one-run ballgames, or after coming in during the eighth inning with the bases jammed with salivating speedsters. But Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A's hasn't blown a save since June 16 -- remarkable for a rookie who's earning just $400,000 for his services.
Since May 21, Bailey's only given up one home run, and notched saves of more than three outs on six occasions. There are only a few guys who've equaled or exceeded that total: Brian Wilson, Mariano Rivera, and Ryan Franklin -- all of whom have had outstanding seasons.
Most closers are exclusively three-out guys, which makes Bailey a workhorse bargain for his team's dollar -- not that we'd expect any less from Oakland GM Billy Beane.
Bailey's also logged the most innings (63) of any closer in the bigs. With a 10.29 K/9 and 3.27 K/BB, he's making his mark as the Athletics' closer-of-the-future, Joey Devine-be-damned. Devine's 2008 FIP of 1.97 in 45.2 innings belies a career mark of 3.37 -- still respectable, but not as good as Bailey's 2.67 FIP so far in 2009.
Sure, Devine was in Atlanta from 2005-2007 while Bailey's entire major league resume consists of his stint in famously pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum. But Turner Field's park factor this year is actually .906 compared to Oakland's .942. Maybe I'm overanalyzing it, but it seems to me that when and if Devine returns from his Tommy John surgery, the A's first choice to close will still be Bailey -- as long as the knee injections he received earlier this year don't portend a future on the trainer's table.
Speaking of choices, the Angels had one to make after the horrific week that Brian Fuentes turned in to start the month, but he rebounded with saves on Aug. 8 and 10. Those days were not as kind to Joakim Soria and Huston Street.
Soria's Aug. 8 debacle included 4 hits, 3 ER, and 2 HR in just a single inning, while Street was even worse on Aug. 10: 4 hits, 1 BB, 4 ER in a third of an inning. Both teams won their games, but who cares? If you had Street or Soria in your RP slot, you got sunk, just like the Mariners after they plugged in the usually reliable David Aardsma to protect a tenuous 1-0 lead on Tuesday. Aardsma blew just his third save of the year (and took his fourth loss) when White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez connected on a three-run bomb.
Even Brian Wilson struggled this week, walking three on Aug. 7 and allowing 4 runs on two hits (1 ER). It was only Wilson's second blown save since May 21.
J.P. Howell had a somewhat weird situation arise on Friday. Teammate Brian Shouse blew a 5-1 Rays lead, allowing four runs to score in the seventh against the Mariners. When Howell surrendered a two-run walk-off homer to Ryan Langerhans in the 11th, he took the loss, but didn't get a blown save because he had faced two batters in the tenth and was in line for a win after his team went up in the top of what was to be the final inning. Thanks to the crack staff at STATS, Inc., for clearing that up for me.
Stats as of Wednesday, August 12, 2009.
Brad Lidge, Phillies21-for-28 (75%), 42 IP, 44 Ks, 7.29 ERA, 1.76 WHIPNext in line: Ryan Madson/Chad DurbinThird in line: Chan Ho Park/Brett Myers
Matt Capps, Pirates21-for-24 (88%), 37.2 IP, 35 Ks, 5.97 ERA, 1.75 WHIPNext in line: Jesse ChavezThird in line: Joel Hanrahan/Evan Meek
Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks21-for-25 (84%), 46.2 IP, 40 Ks, 3.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIPNext in line: Jon RauchThird in line: Juan Gutierrez
Fernando Rodney, Tigers23-for-24 (96%), 49 IP, 46 Ks, 3.86 ERA, 1.33 WHIPNext in line: Brandon LyonThird in line: Bobby Seay/Ryan Perry
Kevin Gregg, Cubs22-for-27 (88%), 53.2 IP, 55 Ks, 4.02 ERA, 1.27 WHIPNext in line: Carlos MármolThird in line: Angel Guzman/John Grabow
Kerry Wood, Indians15-for-20 (75%), 40 IP, 45 Ks, 4.72 ERA, 1.38 WHIPNext in line: Joe SmithThird in line: Chris Pérez/Tony Sipp
Frank Francisco, Rangers15-for-17 (88%), 4 HLDs, 30.1 IP, 34 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 0.89 WHIPNext in line: C.J. Wilson/Darren O'DayThird in line: Neftali Feliz/Eddie Guardado
Jim Johnson, Orioles4-for-7 (57%), 14 HLDs, 52.1 IP, 37 Ks, 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIPNext in line: Danys BáezThird in line: Cla Meredith/Chris Ray
Mike MacDougal, Nationals11-for-12 (92%), 28.1 IP, 13 Ks, 2.54 ERA, 1.52 WHIP (NL Stats only)Next in line: Jorge Sosa/Sean BurnettThird in line: Tyler Clippard/Ron Villone
Matt Lindstrom, Marlins14-for-16 (88%), 3 HLDs, 32.1 IP, 27 Ks, 6.12 ERA, 1.82 WHIPNext in line: Leo Nunez/Dan MeyerThird in line: Renyel Pinto/Kiki Calero
Tuesday was another dark day for Brad Lidge, who blew his seventh game of the season at Wrigley against the Cubs. The Phillies won on a Ben Francisco homer off Kevin Gregg in the 12th, but Charlie Manuel has to consider Lidge a liability when they reach the postseason. Frank Francisco is being eased back into the Rangers' closer's role, and despite not notching a save since July 10, should still be the man going forward. Matt Lindstrom is also being used in setup until he proves he's better than Leo Nunez, but I don't think it'll be long until he's saving games for the Marlins again.
Scott Downs, Blue Jays -- Toe -- 15-Day DL: Sidelined after aggravating the injury that landed him on the DL earlier in the season, Downs is eligible to be activated Aug. 17. The Jays are likely to play it safe with him, since it doesn't look like they're in contention, and Jason Frasor has filled in admirably.
Braves1. Rafael Soriano -- 17-for-20 (85%), 6 HLDs, 52 IP, 69 Ks, 2.42 ERA, 0.96 WHIP2. Mike González -- 9-for-14 (64%), 11 HLDs, 52 IP, 69 Ks, 2.77 ERA, 1.19 WHIPNext in line: Peter Moylan
Blue JaysJason Frasor -- 5-for-7 (71%), 4 HLDs, 41.1 IP, 37 Ks, 1.96 ERA, 0.97 WHIPNext in line: Jesse Carlson/Brandon LeagueThird in line: Jeremy Accardo/Josh Roenicke
Mariano Rivera, Yankees33-for-34 (97%), 49 IP, 55 Ks, 2.02 ERA, 0.94 WHIPNext in line: Phil HughesThird in line: Alfredo Aceves/Phil Coke
Joe Nathan, Twins29-for-32 (91%), 42.2 IP, 54 Ks, 1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIPNext in line: Jose MijaresThird in line: Matt Guerrier/Jesse Crain
Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers25-for-29 (86%), 51.2 IP, 76 Ks, 2.96 ERA, 0.97 WHIPNext in line: George Sherrill/Ramon TroncosoThird in line: Hong-Chih Kuo
Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox28-for-31 (90%), 49.2 IP, 54 Ks, 2.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIPNext in line: Takashi SaitoThird in line: Hideki Okajima/Daniel Bard
Heath Bell, Padres28-for-29 (97%), 45.1 IP, 51 Ks, 1.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIPNext in line: Mike AdamsThird in line: Luke Gregerson/Greg Burke
Joakim Soria, Royals18-for-20 (90%), 32.2 IP, 41 Ks, 2.48 ERA, 1.04 WHIPNext in line: Jamey Wright/Robinson TejedaThird in line: Kyle Farnsworth (rehab-minors)/Juan Cruz (DL)
Trevor Hoffman, Brewers25-for-27 (93%), 33 IP, 27 Ks, 1.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIPNext in line: Todd CoffeyThird in line: David Weathers/Mark DiFelice
Huston Street, Rockies28-for-29 (97%), 46.2 IP, 54 Ks, 3.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIPNext in line: Rafael Betancourt/Matt DaleyThird in line: Joe Beimel
Francisco Cordero, Reds25-for-26 (96%), 45.1 IP, 37 Ks, 1.79 ERA, 1.17 WHIPNext in line: Nick MassetThird in line: Arthur Rhodes/Jared Burton
Francisco Rodríguez, Mets24-for-29 (83%), 50 IP, 51 Ks, 3.24 ERA, 1.34 WHIPNext in line: Brian Stokes/Sean GreenThird in line: J.J. Putz (DL)/Billy Wagner (minors rehab)
Bobby Jenks, White Sox23-for-27 (85%), 38 IP, 38 Ks, 4.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIPNext in line: Scott Linebrink/Matt ThorntonThird in line: Octavio Dotel/Tony Peña
David Aardsma, Mariners27-for-30 (90%), 53 IP, 62 Ks, 2.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIPNext in line: Mark LoweThird in line: Sean White
Ryan Franklin, Cardinals27-for-29 (93%), 44IP, 31 Ks, 1.23 ERA, 0.89 WHIPNext in line: Kyle McClellanThird in line: Dennis Reyes/Jason Motte
Brian Wilson, Giants28-for-33 (85%), 49.2 IP, 51 Ks, 3.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIPNext in line: Jeremy AffeldtThird in line: Merkin Valdez/Sergio Romo
Brian Fuentes, Angels32-for-36 (89%), 38.1 IP, 38 Ks, 4.23 ERA, 1.30 WHIPNext in line: Jason Bulger/Jose ArredondoThird in line: Justin Speier/Kevin Jepsen
J.P. Howell, Rays12-for-17 (71%), 54.2 IP, 64 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIPNext in line: Dan WheelerThird in line: Grant Balfour/Randy Choate
Andrew Bailey, A's16-for-20 (80%), 63 IP, 72 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 0.98 WHIPNext in line: Michael WuertzThird in line: Brad Ziegler
José Valverde, Astros15-for-19 (79%), 35 IP, 38 Ks, 2.57 ERA, 1.17 WHIPNext in line: Chris Sampson/Alberto AriasThird in line: LaTroy Hawkins/Doug Brocail (DL)
Drop Antonio a line at Antonio@rotoexperts.com. He looks forward to hearing your questions and comments, and can even come in for four-out saves when needed.