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A Case For Andrew Bailey; Early AL Hardware Discussion

Ah, September. The time of year when the season winds down; the time where it seems that everyone except the A’s will start to prepare for some meaningful October ball. With no playoff run on the horizon for a third consecutive season, we’re left with very little to root for that will count in 2009.


Andrew Bailey.

Bailey has a legitimate chance at taking home the ROY award for 2009, and not just because Geren thinks so.

Conceding that Bailey is at a disadvantage among voters who value the daily contributions of position players over the lighter workloads of pitchers, Geren nonetheless suggested that Oakland's only 2009 All-Star deserves more than cursory consideration.

"It's hard to compare apples to oranges," Geren said. "If there was a Rookie Pitcher of the Year [Award], obviously he'd be the winner of that."

I can get on-board with Geren’s conclusion; if the season ended today, I absolutely think Andrew Bailey deserves the honor, but I disagree with Geren's thought process, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, I think Bailey’s main competitors are almost all  "rookie pitchers", and number two--lest we forget--Huston Street, as an A’s a pitcher with a ‘lighter workload’, won Rookie of the Year in 2005 by a considerable margin over True Yankee Robinson Cano, a daily contributor to the easy-to-vote-for Yankees’ lineup.

Although still wildly overestimating starting pitchers’ contributions to the statistic of "wins", the Baseball Writers Association of America seem to have no problem assigning the Rookie of the Year awards to rookie pitchers--or to Oakland Athletics players, for that matter.

But is Andrew Bailey the best rookie pitcher of 2009?

The case for Bailey: Andrew Bailey’s 2009 stats include his record of 6 wins and 3 losses (giving up 0 ER in 5 of the 6 appearance that led to his wins), and his sparkling ERA of 2.06. He has appeared in 59 games for a total of 74.1 IP, and has saved 23 games in 27 chances (which is exactly what Huston Street finished with in 2005). He has allowed 48 hits, 17 ER (interestingly, no unearned runs; the team plays great defense behind him), and 5 homeruns. His best margins are his K/9, which is 9.6 (taking his 79 K's, dividing them by his 74.1 innings, multiplying by 9) and his awesome WHIP, which checks in under 1--at 0.94. He was also voted to the All Star Team in St. Louis this season as the A’s lone representative; he has been consistently great all season long. I think Bailey needs to hit at least 25 saves for that number to stand out to the writers, and he’d probably be a shoe-in with 30.

Huston Street won the ROY award in 2005 with a 1.72 ERA (a touch better than Bailey’s right now); 78.1 IP (Bailey needs only four more innings this month to surpass this total), 53 H, 15 ER, 3 HR, and a K to BB ratio of 72 to 26 (Bailey has exceeded his K total in fewer innings already this season), and a 1.01 WHIP. Assuming Bailey’s numbers hold for the next month, he is on pace to match or best Street’s 2005 ROY campaign.

But as everyone knows; it’s not just the season that wins a player the ROY, it’s also the competition. Robinson Cano and his .297 AVG, .458 SLG, and .778 OPS couldn’t beat out Street; neither could Jonny Gomes nor Tadahito Iguchi. But from where I’m sitting, Bailey might have some stiffer competition in the pitching arena.

Marc Hulet shares his AL Rookie picks here; claiming that Bailey will have to beat out fellow pitcher Brett Anderson, Elvis Andrus (Texas), and Gordon Beckham (Chicago) for the award. Brad Bergensen (Baltimore) is also mentioned, but he’s out for the season, which should end his ROY hopes. Personally, I also think Anderson is well out of the voting; his 8-10 record and his 4.45 ERA will sufficiently discourage his voters (his 1.32 WHIP should seal it), and if the voters decide on a position player, it will be Andrus, especially if Texas makes the playoffs. Beckham has similar numbers, his team is still ‘technically’ in the race, but Andrus has 383 at-bats, a .274 batting average, 24 stolen bases, and great defense. (I guess there’s also an outside chance of Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold, but his lack of AB's, dominant stats and early playing time should nix that.)

But I think it will be a pitcher. And I realize that this directly contradicts Rob Neyers' case for Elvis Andrus article yesterday.

I also think that both Marc Hulet and Rob Neyer have downplayed very real competition; the rookie righty starter from Tampa Bay, Jeff Niemann.

The Baseball Writers Association of America will love Niemann’s 12-5 record (and could still improve) as a rookie starting pitcher in the AL East, with 8 of those wins (partnered with a low ERA) coming after June 1st. However, if you look a little closer, his overall 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 98/49 K/BB ratio are nowhere near Bailey’s, and even though Niemann has pitched twice as many innings for a much better team, most of his pitching gems came against crappy teams (sorry, A’s).

Despite pitching in the same division as Boston and New York, Niemann has had the good fortune to face each of the AL East powerhouses only once. Granted, the appearances were back-to-back in early May, but he did not fare well. He left after three innings against Boston and after retiring just one batter in the fourth against the Yankees. Niemann has also struggled against good teams; the Angels (twice) and the Rangers, while pitching into the eighth or ninth innings against the A’s, the Royals, the Orioles, the White Sox, and the Blue Jays. True, his last two starts have been gems against the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers, but the Tigers have a suspect offense as well. Niemann's real claim is that he has numbers have only gotten better the longer the season goes. If he can pitch this next month like he has throughout the summer, and can add a couple of additional wins, he will be tough for Bailey to beat.

Detroit’s Rick Porcello is also in the starting pitching ROY running; he has the distinct advantage of being on a playoff-bound team. Even so, I think his 4.18 ERA and 1.34 WHIP (and 72/42 K/BB) will fall behind both Bailey and Niemann. Likewise, Toronto’s Ricky Romero, even with his 11-7 record in his great rookie year, might be too far back with his 4.15 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.

Looking at the cursory numbers (the same ones that voters will be looking at a month from now), I would say that Andrew Bailey holds the slight edge right now, but it will be a close month between him and Jeff Niemann, if it is indeed a pitcher's year. A few more wins and a few more saves might make all the difference in this contest; not the ideal numbers to measure against, but likely the tie-breaker. And if Texas continues their playoff run, and Elvis stays in the mix? It could swing back to the position player. Stay tuned; what else are we doing in October? ;-)