Question for You: How many times has the Rookie of the Year come from the right team, but been the wrong rookie?
The award caps an improbable ride for Bailey, a roster long shot in spring training who wound up making the All-Star team and setting an Oakland rookie record with 26 saves.
Many considered Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus the favorite for the award. Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello also had strong credentials. Both played instrumental roles on teams that challenged for the postseason, unlike the last-place A's.
But Bailey received 13 of 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. His 88 points easily outdistanced Andrus (65) and Porcello (64). A's starting pitcher Brett Anderson finished sixth.
He became the unlikely star of a bullpen that turned out to be the A's biggest strength of 2009. Bailey was struggling as a starter for Double-A Midland when he converted to relieving midway through the 2008 season.
The change paid quick dividends. He led AL relievers with a .167 opponents' batting average this season to go with a 1.84 ERA. He didn't blow a save after June 16, and his 26 saves tied for the sixth-most ever by an AL rookie.
It was certainly an impressive season, as Bailey anchored a bullpen that was almost literally the Athletics' only bright spot in a last-place season. Still, I can't help but wondering: What if Bailey had pitched in the first half of the season exactly as well as he did, but generally in eighth innings rather than ninths? What if he'd finished the season with a 1.84 ERA (as he actually did) but with 17 saves rather than 26.
If those things had happened, would Bailey still have been the Rookie of the Year?
I think we know the answer to that question.
Meanwhile, Anderson went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 starts. But what if Anderson had pitched for a better team and been a little luckier, and gone 15-7 rather than 11-11. If that had happened, would Anderson have been the Rookie of the Year?
No, probably not. Anderson actually finished sixth, and Rookie of the Year voters almost certainly can't be expected to fall in love with a pitcher whose ERA starts with a 4.
Just in terms of value, though? Anderson pitched 175 innings. He was one of three American League starters who showed up on Rookie of the Year ballots, and finished well behind the other two, Porcello and Jeff Niemann. Well behind: Porcello got 64 points, Niemann 21, and Anderson 4.
You're familiar with a statistic called FIP, right? That's Fielding Independent Pitching, which essentially is an ERA with the luck stripped away. Anderson's FIP was 3.69, the eighth best in the American League (Josh Beckett was seventh, John Lackey ninth). Niemann's FIP was 4.08, Porcello's 4.77.
Yes, it seems likely that Anderson has the best future of the three. But forget about that. I don't think the future should have any bearing whatsoever in Rookie of the Year voting. Not even the tiniest iota. What I'm saying is that in 2009, Anderson was the best rookie pitcher in the American League. Just as Randy Wells -- who also finished sixth in Rookie of the Year balloting -- was the best rookie pitcher in the National League.
Was Anderson the best player in the American League? That's a little tougher, as Andrus gave the Rangers Gold Glove-quality defense at shortstop. The only thing I'm sure about is that if the voters wanted an Athletic, they should have gone with the guy who started 30 games and pitched as well as John Lackey.