Phillies Andrew Bailey Will Lead the Team in Saves

ethanwitte
Feb 26, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Andrew Bailey (38) poses for a photo during photo day at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Andrew Bailey (38) poses for a photo during photo day at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies have a number of pitchers battling for spots in their bullpen for the 2016 season.

All during the off-season here at TBOH, our David Mosemann was highlighting the holdover relief pitchers who are taking part in that battle. Now during spring training, Mike Azzalina has taken up our bullpen coverage, and he is looking at some veteran newcomers who are fighting for a role.

This piece should be considered as an aside to that coverage. I’m going to look at a specific new bullpen arm, one of those veterans who I believe has a legitimate chance to eventually emerge not only as a contributing piece, but as the centerpiece of the Phillies bullpen.

I started with this:

You see, I don’t think David Hernandez will be the closer all season long. It’s nothing personal. His career numbers, even though he has never been a closer, seem to suggest that he very well could be good in the finisher role.

That was also pre-Tommy John surgery, from which he spent all last season working his way back. Hernandez missed most of 2014 after undergoing the procedure, and was used carefully for most of 2015 as he steadily regained velocity.

During that 2015 comeback season, 94 of the 144 plate appearances (64%) against him were defined as “low leverage”. While he has widely been declared the clubhouse leader to get the first crack at the closer’s job, I see a healthy Bailey getting more saves for a variety of reasons.

Bailey has experienced both success and struggles in his career. He began in Oakland, where he was a two-time All Star, saving 75 games for the Athletics to the tune of a 2.07 ERA and 3.55 K/BB percentage.

Traded to Boston in 2012, Hernandez began to struggle and eventually succumbed to shoulder surgery at the end of the 2013 season. That injury turned out to be more devastating than anyone could think. He wouldn’t see a big league mound again until 2015, when he appeared with the New York Yankees. Coming to Clearwater on a minor league deal, he’s simply expecting to have a shot at the team, let alone become the closer.

However, there are several things I think that will work in Bailey’s favor that could see him getting the most Phillies saves by the end of the season.

Hernandez and August 1st

One of the common refrains you heard when the team signed Hernandez was that he was a good bounce back candidate, since he was further removed from surgery. Were he to regain velocity and effectiveness, he would make a good trade chip come the deadline.

With all the activity that Matt Klentak and company have shown this offseason, I doubt he’d even last that long. If Hernandez shows any kind of high-level effectiveness, he’d become a very valuable commodity, as he’s only on a one-year deal and is relatively cheap. That, combined with the fact that every contender always needs bullpen help, could lead to his getting traded early. Once that happens, the closer’s job would again be thrown open to competition.

More from That Balls Outta Here

Arrival of the kids

It’s quite apparent that the team is again likely to lose a lot of games this season. Early on, there will likely be struggles as the team waits for the farm system to produce fruit.

After the trade deadline, it’s quite possible that fruit could ripen with promotions for players such as J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Mark Appel, Jake Thompsonand Vincent Velasquez.

They could all be in the big leagues, leading to an infinitely more exciting and talented roster out on the field. That in turn could lead to more opportunities to win games, which leads to save opportunities. Should Hernandez be traded, those opportunities could fall into Bailey’s lap, if he proves to be healthy and effective.

Bailey might finally be healthy

We’re already getting “I feel great!” stories about Bailey this spring, which is great to hear. However, the big thing that we want to observe is the velocity he displays during his outings. In looking at his past, it’s obvious the shoulder problems affected a once near-elite ability throw a ball past big league hitters:

Brooksbaseball-Chart (16)
Brooksbaseball-Chart (16) /

Now, though, he’s going to have to get by on pitching ability. It’s a classic case faced by many: become more of a pitcher, rather than a thrower.

Bailey admits in the above article he’s “not gonna go out there and throw 94-95 (mph) right now.” His spring debut on March 4th was solid, working an inning and recording a strikeout.

With a full spring to get ready for the season, as well an offseason where he would work with a healthy right shoulder, things could finally be turning around for Bailey.

Most things with Bailey center around one word: health. After all, shoulder injuries are notoriously the hardest from which to fully recover.

Bailey is demonstrating that he is willing to put in the work and seems to be getting rewarded early on, as he finally has another shot at making a Major League roster.

With a few breaks, we could see him become an important member of this 2016 Phillies bullpen, and once again become one of the top closer options in the game.

Next: 2016 Phillies Coaching Staff: Rick Kranitz

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