Pecking Order: Bargain Bailey is A's revelation

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, Phillies 21-for-28 (75%), 42 IP, 44 Ks, 7.29 ERA, 1.76 WHIP Next in line: Ryan Madson/Chad Durbin Third in line: Chan Ho Park/Brett Myers

Matt Capps, Pirates 21-for-24 (88%), 37.2 IP, 35 Ks, 5.97 ERA, 1.75 WHIP Next in line: Jesse Chavez Third in line: Joel Hanrahan/Evan Meek

Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks 21-for-25 (84%), 46.2 IP, 40 Ks, 3.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP Next in line: Jon Rauch Third in line: Juan Gutierrez

Fernando Rodney, Tigers 23-for-24 (96%), 49 IP, 46 Ks, 3.86 ERA, 1.33 WHIP Next in line: Brandon Lyon Third in line: Bobby Seay/Ryan Perry

Kevin Gregg, Cubs 22-for-27 (88%), 53.2 IP, 55 Ks, 4.02 ERA, 1.27 WHIP Next in line: Carlos Mármol Third in line: Angel Guzman/John Grabow

Kerry Wood, Indians 15-for-20 (75%), 40 IP, 45 Ks, 4.72 ERA, 1.38 WHIP Next in line: Joe Smith Third in line: Chris Pérez/Tony Sipp

Frank Francisco, Rangers 15-for-17 (88%), 4 HLDs, 30.1 IP, 34 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 0.89 WHIP Next in line: C.J. Wilson/Darren O'Day Third in line: Neftali Feliz/Eddie Guardado

Jim Johnson, Orioles 4-for-7 (57%), 14 HLDs, 52.1 IP, 37 Ks, 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIP Next in line: Danys Báez Third in line: Cla Meredith/Chris Ray

Mike MacDougal, Nationals 11-for-12 (92%), 28.1 IP, 13 Ks, 2.54 ERA, 1.52 WHIP (NL Stats only) Next in line: Jorge Sosa/Sean Burnett Third in line: Tyler Clippard/Ron Villone

Matt Lindstrom, Marlins 14-for-16 (88%), 3 HLDs, 32.1 IP, 27 Ks, 6.12 ERA, 1.82 WHIP Next in line: Leo Nunez/Dan Meyer Third 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.

Braves 1. Rafael Soriano -- 17-for-20 (85%), 6 HLDs, 52 IP, 69 Ks, 2.42 ERA, 0.96 WHIP 2. Mike González -- 9-for-14 (64%), 11 HLDs, 52 IP, 69 Ks, 2.77 ERA, 1.19 WHIP Next in line: Peter Moylan

Blue Jays Jason Frasor -- 5-for-7 (71%), 4 HLDs, 41.1 IP, 37 Ks, 1.96 ERA, 0.97 WHIP Next in line: Jesse Carlson/Brandon League Third in line: Jeremy Accardo/Josh Roenicke

Mariano Rivera, Yankees 33-for-34 (97%), 49 IP, 55 Ks, 2.02 ERA, 0.94 WHIP Next in line: Phil Hughes Third in line: Alfredo Aceves/Phil Coke

Joe Nathan, Twins 29-for-32 (91%), 42.2 IP, 54 Ks, 1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIP Next in line: Jose Mijares Third in line: Matt Guerrier/Jesse Crain

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers 25-for-29 (86%), 51.2 IP, 76 Ks, 2.96 ERA, 0.97 WHIP Next in line: George Sherrill/Ramon Troncoso Third in line: Hong-Chih Kuo

Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox 28-for-31 (90%), 49.2 IP, 54 Ks, 2.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP Next in line: Takashi Saito Third in line: Hideki Okajima/Daniel Bard

Heath Bell, Padres 28-for-29 (97%), 45.1 IP, 51 Ks, 1.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP Next in line: Mike Adams Third in line: Luke Gregerson/Greg Burke

Joakim Soria, Royals 18-for-20 (90%), 32.2 IP, 41 Ks, 2.48 ERA, 1.04 WHIP Next in line: Jamey Wright/Robinson Tejeda Third in line: Kyle Farnsworth (rehab-minors)/Juan Cruz (DL)

Trevor Hoffman, Brewers 25-for-27 (93%), 33 IP, 27 Ks, 1.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP Next in line: Todd Coffey Third in line: David Weathers/Mark DiFelice

Huston Street, Rockies 28-for-29 (97%), 46.2 IP, 54 Ks, 3.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP Next in line: Rafael Betancourt/Matt Daley Third in line: Joe Beimel

Francisco Cordero, Reds 25-for-26 (96%), 45.1 IP, 37 Ks, 1.79 ERA, 1.17 WHIP Next in line: Nick Masset Third in line: Arthur Rhodes/Jared Burton

Francisco Rodríguez, Mets 24-for-29 (83%), 50 IP, 51 Ks, 3.24 ERA, 1.34 WHIP Next in line: Brian Stokes/Sean Green Third in line: J.J. Putz (DL)/Billy Wagner (minors rehab)

Bobby Jenks, White Sox 23-for-27 (85%), 38 IP, 38 Ks, 4.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP Next in line: Scott Linebrink/Matt Thornton Third in line: Octavio Dotel/Tony Peña

David Aardsma, Mariners 27-for-30 (90%), 53 IP, 62 Ks, 2.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIP Next in line: Mark Lowe Third in line: Sean White

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals 27-for-29 (93%), 44IP, 31 Ks, 1.23 ERA, 0.89 WHIP Next in line: Kyle McClellan Third in line: Dennis Reyes/Jason Motte

Brian Wilson, Giants 28-for-33 (85%), 49.2 IP, 51 Ks, 3.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIP Next in line: Jeremy Affeldt Third in line: Merkin Valdez/Sergio Romo

Brian Fuentes, Angels 32-for-36 (89%), 38.1 IP, 38 Ks, 4.23 ERA, 1.30 WHIP Next in line: Jason Bulger/Jose Arredondo Third in line: Justin Speier/Kevin Jepsen

J.P. Howell, Rays 12-for-17 (71%), 54.2 IP, 64 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP Next in line: Dan Wheeler Third in line: Grant Balfour/Randy Choate

Andrew Bailey, A's 16-for-20 (80%), 63 IP, 72 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 0.98 WHIP Next in line: Michael Wuertz Third in line: Brad Ziegler

José Valverde, Astros 15-for-19 (79%), 35 IP, 38 Ks, 2.57 ERA, 1.17 WHIP Next in line: Chris Sampson/Alberto Arias Third in line: LaTroy Hawkins/Doug Brocail (DL)

Drop Antonio a line at He looks forward to hearing your questions and comments, and can even come in for four-out saves when needed.

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