Is This Pedro Baez’s Last Chance With The Dodgers?

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.

Examining Dave Roberts’ Contract Situation

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  1. A reliever must have control and throw strikes. Baez has times when he is always behind in the count. No pitcher no matter how electric his stuff can withstand throwing balls. To me I like Baez but he must be judged on his control. If he begins to get behind in the count they cannot use him. He must have a mechanical flaw for him to be so erratic. I am surprised Honeycutt has not been able to help him as I know Honeycutt and Hershiser both worked with him again this Spring. Like any pitcher watch his Ball Strike ratio that will tell you how he is doing faster than any other stat in my opinion.

    1. Great post, tmax. I was not aware that Orel worked with him this spring. Do you think this is Baez’s last chance with Los Angeles? How do you see it playing out?

  2. Baez is not reliable coming out of the pen which is a horrible reputation to have. He has been giving too many chances and hasn’t improved. Dodgers need to give him his walking papers and move on.

    1. Marcos: Do you think Baez has earned one final opportunity to see things through to say; May or June? Just to make sure we aren’t giving up on a quality reliever in his prime? Or have you seen all you need to see to have a decision on the Baez subject?

  3. Take into consideration that Baez has only been pitching since 2013 and was pitching for Dodgers in 2014 — he has been learning how to pitch at the highest level of competition in the world. Take a look at his stats compared to other MLB relievers and you find that he is well above average, AND he is only now learning how to command an off speed pitch to go along with the upper 90’s fastball. He is under team control for 3 more seasons. Discarding him now would be a horrible mistake UNLESS Dodgers receive equal or better talent in return.

    1. Agree SoCal. If he was made available – he would find work and be scooped up quickly. He’s not without his warts, but to me he’s a very capable reliever. Even if it’s not in a high-leverage role every time out.

  4. I think Baez is an above average relief pitcher until he is but in high-pressure situations which so far he has not handled well at all.If he wants the 8th inning he must show the team he wants that responsibility, so far he has shown the opposite.

    1. A reliever must be up to the mental challenge of a stressful situation. That is #1 in the job description. Baez does not “own” the situation when he enters a game. You can see he is just one bad pitch from melting like a stick of butter. Hence walking too many batters. If he is going to sink or swim I would love for him to do either by going out and challenging the batters with his best stuff, not sinking because he is afraid, because he is.

  5. Baez is an an embarrassment and all you state folks trying to make his m into a quality reliever are delusional. When he comes into a game it is akin to waving a white flag

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