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Andrew Bailey’s quest for Jonathan Papelbon’s fastball, Mariano Rivera’s cutter

01.10.12 at 1:06 pm ET
By

Andrew Bailey. (AP)

Speaking Saturday night at the Bailey Bowl — a charity event benefiting the Strike 3 Foundation — new Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey revealed that from the time he entered the majors there are two pitchers he identified as models for what the 27-year-old hoped to become — Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera.

More specifically, explained Bailey, he viewed each of the closers’ bread-and-butter pitchers as weapons he hoped to one day possess.

“[Rivera] is the Godfather of closers, and that’s kind of who I emulated my rookie year. I didn’t have any video of guys. I had a little cutter kind of like his and I tried to morph it into him. That one pitch. I would take Papelbon’s fastball, try to blow it by guys up in the zone and I would try and use Mo’s cutter. I would watch video on those guys because I didn’t have any video of any hitters,” he explained. “‘OK, we’ve got Torii Hunter coming up, how am I going to face him? Let’s see what Mo and Pap did.’ That’s two of the best in the game at the time. That’s how I did, just watch the video until I had my own stuff.”

Judging by recent comments on WEEI by Dustin Pedroia – who suggested Bailey has a “Mariano cutter” — the new Sox closer has done a fairly good job of learning from the masters.

But while the cutter has been often identified as Bailey’s go-to offering, his fastball has left an even more indelible mark.

According to BaseballAnalytics.org, no closer in baseball has had more success with his fastball in the ninth inning throughout the past three seasons than Bailey. During that stretch, the righty has led all game-enders with a .158 batting average against using the pitch in the ninth. And for those naysayers suggesting it is a product of the spacious Oakland ballpark, understand that his OBA in such situations on the road is an even more impressive .111.

Bailey hasn’t used the pitch in the ninth as often as Papelbon, who leads all pitchers in baseball by throwing the heater 2,205 times in the ninth over the last three seasons. (Bailey has tossed in 1,176 times in such situations). And the velocity isn’t what the former Sox’ closer possesses, with 290 of Bailey’s ninth-inning fastballs reaching 95 mph or better, compared to Papelbon’s 952 at that speed.

But it’s hard to argue the effectiveness of the pitch, especially when he is able to amp up the velocity.

When Bailey did get the fastball up to 95 mph or better in the ninth the last three seasons, hitters hit just .083. Last season there were fewer such offerings, with the closer hitting 95 mph or better on just 30 of his 399 ninth inning fastballs. But when he did reach that level of torque, Bailey failed to surrender a single hit throughout ’11.

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