Addressing The Andrew Bailey Splits

Whenever you make a deal with the Oakland Athletics, there are two reasons to be worried:

1: Billy Beane has probably fleeced you.

You may not know how, you may not for a few years. In fact, one decade later you might be laughing about how badly you ripped off the Athletics back in 2011 when, suddenly, you realize your wallet is gone, and Beane just used your credit card to pay for the 2021 equivalent of Albert Pujols.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the man has a reputation for getting good value and then giving up players who provide a great deal less than expected. Often enough, however, this is because of...

2: The Damn Coliseum

After all, whenever you pick up a pitcher from Oakland, you have to ask yourself whether they're capable of surviving outside of the spacious grounds of the Coliseum--the only park in the majors without the fan favorite "home run" rule. When that pitcher comes with a 40.1% career ground ball rate, that becomes all the more important.

Initially, Bailey's splits are the sort that might make you recoil in terror. While his ERA on the road is actually lower than at home, it's kept down by a remarkable (and unsustainable) 88.2% strand rate. When looking at FIP, Bailey's performance on the road (3.62) is significantly worse than in the Coliseum (1.94). This would all be terrible news...were it not for the fact that the biggest portion of this is located not in HR/FB% numbers, but in strikeouts and walks.

While Bailey's HR/FB% is certainly higher on the road than at home, at 6.2% it actually comes in below that of Jonathan Papelbon--another fly-heavy closer who, as you may remember, had quite a few decent years here in Fenway. His strikeouts, on the other hand, dip from 10.45 per nine innings to 7.40. His walks jump up too, from 1.87 to 3.27.

You may have noticed by now that it doesn't really make a ton of sense for that to happen. How far away the outfield wall is, after all, does not determine whether a pitch goes for a ball or a strike. What it can determine, however, is whether or not the pitcher in question wants to throw a strike. While Andrew Bailey spoke to going after batters and getting ahead in the count shortly after the deal had been completed, if he's unwilling to do that in smaller parks, then it could explain the difference.

If this is the case, then it's something that Bob McClure and the Red Sox staff are going to have to fix. But what it's not is a lack of ability. With some guys who come out of Oakland, it's not clear whether they can survive without the park to forgive them. A 10.45 K/9 and 1.87 BB/9, however, can work anywhere. It might even be serviceable in a Little League park.

Of course, this all might never work out. Bailey could come into Fenway, look over his shoulder after every pitch, and then try to pitch around every batter he faces. In that situation, we're still looking at a decent setup man, just not the top reliever we went searching for. If that ends up being the case, however, it's not because the Sox bought someone who couldn't do it, but someone who wouldn't let themselves do it.

For now we just have to hope he can be himself in Fenway.

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