As of this writing, the leader in the clubhouse for today’s FanGraphs Stars of the Game for this afternoon’s Athletics/Red Sox game is closer Andrew Bailey, who recorded a six out save, coming in with runners on first and second, nobody out, in a two run game. Bailey posted a +.418 WPA for his efforts, more than doubling teammate Kurt Suzuki’s +.190 day despite his two home runs.
OK, so the reason that Bailey is ahead of Suzuki is likely because I’m the only one that had voted at the time, but Bailey’s performance is still noteworthy. The A’s were already deep into their bullpen, having already used Vin Mazzaro, Brad Ziegler, and Jerry Blevins due to the injury shortened start by Brett Anderson. With Blevins in trouble, and already having allowed a home run to Marco Scutaro, Oakland manager Bob Geren sprang into action, going to his closer with six long outs left to get.
The situation, runners on first and second, nobody out, and a two run lead, has a 4.16 leverage index. This is exactly the time that the manager should be calling on his closer. The Red Sox win probability was approaching 40%. The meat of the Red Sox lineup, in the form of Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, and David Ortiz, was coming up, in effect making the leverage higher than the 4.16 reported. If there is any time for the best pitcher to enter the game, it is that situation.
Bailey induced flyouts from Youkilis and Beltre and struck Ortiz out swinging. That inning alone reduced the Red Sox win probability from 39.3% to 8.8%. Bailey would then go out for the ninth to complete the save. He got into a little trouble, thanks to a solo home run from Bill Hall, but he managed to record the final six outs, adding another +.133 WPA. Overall, Bailey would end with a +.418 WPA, a game high.
The decision by Bob Geren to bring his best reliever into the game at the most important time in the game should be one that is seen more often. The closer, or relief ace, or whatever it is called, is useless if he remains in the bullpen as a lesser pitcher blows the lead. Today, Geren decided to use Andrew Bailey when it mattered, and he was rewarded with a victory.
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