Andrew Bailey's freak thumb injury late in Spring Training last year was an early omen of what was to come. His unavailability combined with the struggles of Mark Melancon destabilized the entire bullpen. Alfredo Aceves was uneven at best in the closer's role, and Bobby Valentine struggled to patch in front of him.
As Aceves hit the wall in August, Bailey was finally able to make his Red Sox debut and was horrible. Seeing him over an extended period for the first time, his raw stuff was not overly impressive. Bailey is basically a fastball/cutter guy, he'll show a curve ball on occasion to pick up a cheap strike early in the count.
Bailey's fastball velocity in 2012 was 94.3 MPH, actually up a tick over his career average of 94.0 and his 2011 average of 93.4. The problems Bailey had, in admittedly a small sample size, were two-fold. Opponents hit .353 against Bailey's fastball and his K% was only 17.9%, by far the lowest of his career. His BB% rate of 12.8% is also by far the highest of his career.
In short, Bailey's inability to command his fastball was his undoing. He struggled to throw the pitch consistently enough for strikes. When he did throw it for strikes, they were frequently not quality strikes and he was battered. His PITCH/fx heat maps show that in 2012 he did not work lefties in or righties up and away as he had in the past.
While his ERA was 7.04, his FIP was a less awful 4.53. Bailey did have the misfortune of doing most of his work after the club had packed it in, the makeshift team playing behind him did him no favors.
That does tie into what we knew about Bailey when he was acquired. His stuff is good, not great, and he benefited playing in a large park with good defenses behind him in Oakland. Having what projects to be an above average outfield defense behind him will help Bailey in 2013. His 2012 season was derailed by a broken thumb, and the arm strength was right where it should have been even if the results weren't. Making his debut so late in the season did not give him time to hone his location and save the back of his baseball card.
There's no reason to think that Bailey can't play a big part in what projects to be the deepest Red Sox bullpen in years. While Joel Hanrahan has been given the closer role, he had his own performance issues late in 2012. If he falters, the option of making Bailey the closer again is still on the table.
PITCH/FX and velocity data from fangraphs.com
Follow me on Twitter @JChalifour Jason Chalifour 1/21/2013 03:21:00 PM Tweet