Pedro Baez in some ways seems like the cat with nine lives as a Los Angeles Dodger. In the eyes of many, he’s used up eight of them. I admit, even as I write this post; I have trouble understanding where some of the disdain with Baez comes from in the Dodger fan base. After being left off the 2017 postseason roster, Baez’s Dodger career is at a crossroads in 2018. Is this a reliever who the Dodgers can rely upon as a mainstay for another few seasons, or is he on the brink of a move off the roster?
The first point I want to make is that at the very least; statistically, Baez is a solid big league reliever. A career WHIP of 1.11 in 214 appearances. He boasts a lifetime ERA of 3.00 with 227 strikeouts in 216 innings. Many of these innings have been thrown in high-duress situations. Baez has not been a guy who comes into a game trailing 11-2 to eat innings. He strikes out more than nine hitters per nine innings pitched, and appears to have electric stuff in spells.
The key question to be answered is does the disdain with Baez in the organization equal that of the fan base? If the answer is anywhere close to ‘yes’, then the reliever could be on a short rope.
I’ve put Dodger fans to the task, and I continue to with this column. When asked why they don’t like Baez, the answers range from the strange to the worthy. Here’s what has been established:
- Baez is a slow worker, once taking a half hour to throw 29 pitches in a 2016 appearance.
- When he’s on, he’s effective. When he’s not ‘on’, he relies too much on overthrowing his fastball.
- He has a poor walk percentage and isn’t an efficient enough strike-thrower.
- His first half of 2017 was considered so good it was a fluke, his second half was so poor that it stuck in people’s memories.
- Baez is not a pitcher who could ever be trusted in a true set-up role. He is someone that Dodgers fans see as a meltdown waiting to happen in the big spot.
- Many of Clayton Kershaw’s playoff earned runs prior to 2017 were inherited runners that Baez allowed to score.
A second half ERA of 5.13 in 28 games and the emergence of Brandon Morrow along with dependable performances from Ross Stripling and Josh Fields made Baez the odd-man out for the 2017 postseason roster. In the defense of Dodgers fans: the flaws seen in Baez were not lost in the eyes of the front office at that time.
My lasting memory of Baez is unfortunately him at his worst. It was September 19th of last season, and the Dodgers were in the midst of letting the league-worst Philadelphia Phillies sweep them. Baez entered in the bottom of the 7th inning of a tight game, with the Dodgers trailing 2-1. This was the performance where I said to myself that this man was a liability. Baez gave up a lead-off triple to a rookie in J.P. Crawford. He hit the next batter Jorge Alfaro, another rookie. After sandwiching a walk between two fly ball outs, it looked like his disaster outing could be salvaged. The Dodgers desperately needed a win in this stretch.
From there, Baez issued a bases-loaded walk to Odubel Herrera. Yet another rookie Rhys Hoskins doubled to clear the bases. The game effectively ended then, and Dave Roberts pulled Baez from the game for Tony Cingrani.
Baez pitched in just four low-leverage situations from that point forward, and the book on his 2017 season was closed.
If things were to unravel for Baez once again in 2018, he would not be unemployed long. You look around the league at some of the men mopping up innings for opposing teams, and it’s fair to say that Baez could find work at the big league level somewhere. The Dodgers are an organization that has champagne taste for their relievers. They will not simply ‘settle’ for subpar work. If you aren’t getting results, they will find someone who will via a trade and you’ll be replaced.
He started his 2018 season with three scoreless innings before allowing a run in his fourth time out, an encouraging sign. It’s worth noting that none of these appearances were in any type of high-leverage situation with the game hanging in the balance. This could be a clue that management is requiring Baez to regain the trust before inserting him as the two or three guy behind Jansen in the pen. As a whole, the Dodgers are still trying to find their footing with a new cast of relievers that features J.T. Chargois, Scott Alexander, and Wilmer Font among others.
Baez Can Pitch His Way In, Or His Way Out
If Baez isn’t on his final length of rope with the Dodgers, he’s certainly in that odd ‘tweener’ status. I would classify him as somewhere very between the guy you want setting up your closer and an innings eater who is the last man out of the pen. He’s a long ways from the role he once held in being Robin to Kenley Jansen’s Batman act. There is enough instability in the current Los Angeles bullpen that a solid month could restore him as just that. If we are approaching summer and Baez has had four or five shaky outings, the Dodgers may very well look to replace him. Bullpen help is something the Dodgers are constantly shopping for, and they’ll move swiftly if they believe that it’s a component that is holding the team back.
So where do you stand with Pedro Baez? Does he have several more seasons remaining with the Dodgers, or is he a few bad outings from throwing his final inning in blue? He’s currently on a one-year contract, so that obligation does not keep him tied to the team in any way.
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