Bailey Takes Home AL ROY Award

From non-roster invitee to American League Rookie of the Year. It was quite a meteoric rise for Oakland A's closer Andrew Bailey, who went from being known only by the closest followers of the A's system to a household name among baseball fans in one short year. Bailey, who saved 26 games and posted a 1.84 ERA, was named the AL's Rookie of the Year on Monday.

On Monday, Andrew Bailey became the seventh member of the Oakland A's (and eighth member of the Athletics franchise) to take home the Rookie of the Year award. Bailey joins shortstop Bobby Crosby (2004) and reliever Huston Street (2005) as the third A's player to have won the award this decade, a testament not only to the continued strength of the A's player development program, but also to the team's consistent reliance on younger players.

Bailey was a surprise winner on Monday despite the fact that he posted spectacular numbers - a 1.84 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 26 saves, .167 BAA and a 474 OPS against, as well as a 9.83 K/9 ratio. Most pundits saw the front-runners for the award being Texas Rangers' shortstop Elvis Andrus, who helped to shore up the Rangers' previously porous infield defense, and Detroit Tigers' right-hander Rick Porcello, who helped the Tigers come within one game of the playoffs. However, voters looked past the fact that Bailey played for a team that was out of contention for most of the season and instead focused on the numbers he produced, which were historic.

As pointed out by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, Bailey's 0.88 WHIP was the third lowest for a pitcher who pitched as many innings as Bailey did since the DH was introduced into the American League. Bailey allowed only 49 hits in 83.1 innings. He also gave up only 12 extra-base hits the entire year, and he finished second behind teammate Michael Wuertz in strike-outs by a reliever in the American League (Wuertz had 102 to Bailey's 91).

Bailey was the A's only American League All-Star representative this season. He converted 26 out of 30 save chances and he did his best work down-the-stretch, as he didn't blow a save after June 16th.

Bailey's rise to prominence caught many by surprise. A sixth-round pick by Oakland in 2006, Bailey was the highest-ever selection out of the Northeast Conference, giving him a relatively low profile heading into professional baseball, despite being a top-10 round pick. He is a survivor of Tommy John surgery, having had the surgery in 2005 while he was at Wagner College. At the time the A's selected Bailey, he was still working his way back into the form that had made him a draft prospect early in his collegiate career. spoke with Wagner Coach Joe Litterio on draft day in 2006 about Bailey's recovery:

"He isn't 100 percent right now. Health-wise, I think he is 100 percent, but his command hasn't quite come back yet all the way," Coach Litterio said at the time.

"After that type of surgery, your command can suffer a little bit for awhile. He pitched really well for us this year, but it will probably take him a few more months to get his command back to where it was before the surgery."

Despite the fact that Bailey was still feeling his way through his recovery, he posted solid numbers for the 2006 Vancouver Canadians after signing with Oakland. In 58 innings, Bailey had a 2.02 ERA and he struck-out 53 batters.

After his professional debut season, Bailey reported to the A's annual Instructional League, where he worked with then-A's minor league pitching coordinator Ron Romanick on tweaking his mechanics, an adjustment that Bailey said helped keep his release point steady on every pitch. named Bailey a "Breakout Candidate" before the 2007 season:

Bailey's 2007 season got off to a bit of rough start when he had to begin the season at extended spring training after pulling a muscle in his side. He joined the Low-A Kane County Cougars in May and was immediately effective for the Cougars out of the starting rotation. In 11 appearances (10 starts), Bailey posted a 3.35 ERA and struck-out a remarkable 74 batters in only 51 innings. He received a mid-season promotion to High-A Stockton, where his ERA jumped slightly (3.82), but the strike-outs continued at a high rate (72 in 66 innings). Bailey finished the year on a high note, flirting with a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a spot start for Triple-A Sacramento. He wound-up allowing a run in eight innings of work. Bailey would lead all A's minor leaguers in strike-outs in 2007 despite missing the first few weeks of the regular season.

Bailey spoke of that Triple-A start as an unforgettable experience:

"I'll really never forget that. It's really an honor to be at that level of baseball. Not many players get to that level. I knew going into it that it was an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of and it worked out well for me. I was so excited that I had that kind of success at that level. I hope to get back there soon," Bailey said in January 2008. Ironically, that is still Bailey's only appearance with Sacramento to date, as he skipped over Triple-A on his way to the big leagues in 2009.

After the 2007 season Romanick sang the praises of Bailey, comparing him in build and delivery to former Red Sox's star Curt Schilling.

"He's like a mini-Curt Schilling. He kind of looks like him body-wise. He's big barrel chested and he has the same type of delivery," Romanick told OaklandClubhouse in October 2007.

"He's really something. He's right on schedule. He's highly motivated and he's a student of the game."

At the start of the 2008 season, Bailey was sent to Double-A Midland, where he was expected to be one of the Rockhounds' top starting pitchers. However, he ran into the first major speed-bump of his career, as he struggled as a starter with Midland, posting an ugly ERA above 6.00. By late July, both Bailey and the A's decided that he needed a change of scenery, and he was moved into the Rockhounds' bullpen. The move worked, as Bailey posted an 0.92 ERA in 22 relief appearances with Midland.

After the 2008 campaign, Bailey spoke about his struggles in the starting rotation and the benefit of the switch:

"I think going into this year I put a lot of pressure on myself and I was a little too fine. I found myself trying to hit corners and not pitch to contact, and I ended up pitching away from contact and out of the strike-zone. That was the biggest thing and once it started snowballing [his struggles as a starter], I was just sort of waiting for it to turn rather than doing something about it," Bailey said.

"I think when I made the switch to the bullpen it was more of a mental switch. I just started kind of going right after guys and telling myself that I've done this a thousand times and it's the same game; same ball, same bat. It's important just to go out there and throw strikes and be aggressive in the strike-zone. There is a reason that .300 hitters are Hall of Famers. I had faced hitters a thousand times and I knew that I was good enough to pitch in Double-A and hopefully higher levels. So that was the biggest thing for me was to go back to challenging hitters instead of trying to hit the corners and trick the batters by throwing too many off-speed pitches."

In addition to the change to his mental approach, Bailey added a cut-fastball when he moved into the Rockhounds' bullpen. With the assistance of A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson and Rockhounds' pitching coach Scott Emerson, Bailey mastered the pitch during the season and was using it regularly by the end of the 2008 campaign.

To learn the pitch, Bailey was instructed by Patterson to watch numerous tapes of Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera, who has arguably the best cut-fastball in the history of major league baseball. The pitch became one of Bailey's biggest weapons during his 2009 rookie season.

Bailey was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season, and following a strong showing with the Phoenix Desert Dogs, he was invited to the A's major league spring training camp as a non-roster invitee. Bailey arrived at spring training simply hoping to make an impression on the A's coaching staff, but he wound-up earning a job with a spectacular spring performance.

"Going into spring training, I wanted to make an impression and hopefully stay around for a few weeks. A couple of things went my way and here I am. I made the team and was able to take advantage of some opportunities that were thrown at me," Bailey said this August.

Those opportunities in Oakland first came in a mop-up role, but Bailey quickly earned the trust of A's manager Bob Geren by posting a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings during the month of April. When A's incumbent closer Brad Ziegler was weakened by a flu virus, Bailey was given more responsibility at the end of games in which the A's were ahead or tied.

By the end of May, he was acting as the A's closer and by June he was unquestionably the A's ninth-inning man. In July, he represented the A's in the All-Star game, the only rookie to be named to an All-Star team. He was also named the AL's Rookie of the Month for August. He didn't allow a run in 11 innings that month and he saved seven games, as the A's played their best baseball of the season.

After the season, Patterson had more high praise for Bailey:

"Last year when we talked, I called [Andrew] Bailey a poor man's [Mariano] Rivera. Heck, he might not be anybody's poor man."

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