Dodgers: Pedro Baez Should be the Backup Closer
By Jacob Rudner
The Dodgers have plenty of depth to use in case of an injury. But, should the game’s best closer go down, Pedro Baez should be the first choice to step in.
For a second, let’s knock on wood and plan for the worst: Kenley Jansen gets hurt. He is hurt enough that he has to be placed on the 10-day DL and the Dodgers need to fill his role. There are certainly options to choose from for the organization that is stacked from floor to ceiling with depth. And while some may look to a prospect or even another big league reliever, fans should search no further than Pedro Baez to get the job done.
Baez is not a fan favorite, I get it. The 29, soon to be 30, year old reliever spent the last month of the 2017 season getting booed in his own stadium. But, what fans seem to forget through all the hate, is just how good and usable Pedro Baez is.
Baez throws pitches that the great Orel Hershiser has marveled at on-air. His repertoire includes a four-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and an ever so rarely used sinker. His four-seamer, which he throws 71.9 percent of the time, sits at an average velocity of 97.36 mph and has been clocked in the low triple digits on multiple occasions. Baez’s offspeed pitches, his slider, and changeup are 88 mph weapons generating swings and misses roughly 20 percent of the time.
Now, when you think closer, there is one quality considered more important than the rest, strikeouts. Baez, over the past three season, has maintained an average of 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. His ability to generate swings and misses is obvious given his velocity but his success remains outshined by fans’ emotional and unresearched opinions.
Last year, in high leverage situations, Baez was an above average pitcher who got the job done when he needed to. And, for the sake of this article, Baez will not need to become an elite closer, he will just have to get the job done. In those situations, Baez posted an sOPS+ of 96, suggesting he was 4 points above league average. Also, In eight of the ten clutch stat categories, Baez’s sOPS+ was between 51 and 97, numbers that would indicate elite pitching.
While the argument may be there, I understand that most people have a passionate opinion about Baez that my numbers won’t change. Give me one more shot.
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On the season, Baez had an ERA of 2.95 and a rather elite ERA+ of 142. His WHIP was admittedly unimpressive at 1.328 but these numbers are actually less truth-telling than one might think or know.
The current notion is that Baez had a horrible second half of the season. If that was actually the case, there would be no argument to make him the next man up to the great Kenley Jansen. And, in the favor of those who stand with me, that argument is not true.
First, Pedro Baez was statistically a top ten reliever in the first half of the season. His second half was not far behind. The statistic skewing month and the one fans remember as so bad was September. In that month alone, Baez gave up ten of his 21 total earned runs. His ERA in that month alone was 10.38.
So, if we totally remove the final month of the season from his statistics, Baez’s season totals are far more impressive that one might have imagined. To make this calculation, I removed the 8.2 innings pitched in September. That got rid of earned runs and just like that his season total ERA went from 2.95 to 1.79. So, if that drastic change in result does not indicate what Baez did for all but 8.2 innings of the year, I do not know what will.
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The purpose of this article was not to suggest Pedro Baez is the best pitcher ever, as a matter of fact, I think he is far from that. But, what should hopefully be clear, is Baez is a more than capable reliever that can be trusted in the games toughest moments. And, for that reason, should Kenley go down, Pedro Baez is more than able to step into a crucial role.