When it comes to the Dodgers there are two things that most Dodger fans hate, the Giants and Pedro Baez. Despite being a solid reliever, Baez draws boos every time he enters a game at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers lost Tom Koehler to injury last weekend and while the Dodgers have a lot of bullpen depth, Koehler was viewed as a possible replacement for Brandon Morrow. Koehler was next in line as the Dodgers next reclamation reliever in the mold of Joe Blanton and Brandon Morrow. While Morrow is very good, let’s not forget the eighth inning role once belonged to Pedro Baez.
Pedro Baez was one of the Dodgers eighth-inning setup men before Brandon Morrow emerged as a shutdown reliever last season. There is no arguing that Baez was absolutely atrocious at the end of last season as he stumbled to a 10.38 ERA in September and eventually pitched himself off the playoff roster. Even with the disastrous finish, Baez finished last season with a 2.95 ERA, a .225 average allowed, and a strikeout per inning average.
What makes Baez an excellent option for the pivotal eighth inning role is the fact that he can get lefties and right-handed hitters out. For his major league career, lefties have hit .196 off of Baez and righties hit .228 against him. While the Dodgers have other late-inning options, their other options either have injury issues like Yimi Garcia, or they don’t have power stuff that plays up at the end of games like Scott Alexander.
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Another trait that makes Pedro Baez the ideal eighth-inning bridge to Kenley Jansen is his ability to come up clutch. In high leverage situations, Baez allows a .193 batting average against. In medium leverage situations, his average allowed is .196 and in low leverage scenarios that balloons up a bit to .241. The bigger the situation, the more effective Baez becomes. While he needs to work on his pace of play, Baez certainly comes up clutch in big spots of the game.
Another role for the eighth inning reliever is to be able to fill in for the closer when he is unavailable. As much of a workhorse as Kenley Jansen is, the Dodgers are going to have at least a handful of days where Jansen is unable to pitch. Baez can slide right into the closer role when needed as he has had success in the past closing out games. In save situations, Baez allows a .198 batting average against, 2.28 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. These are some pretty impressive stats and the sample size is 71 innings of save situations which equates to over a full season of being a closer.
There is no doubt that the name Pedro Baez garners an instant reaction of fear and anger from Dodger fans but perhaps fans are being too hard on Baez. For a reliever who has a career average allowed of .216 and more than a strikeout per inning, it’s time to throw out the notion that Pedro Baez is a mediocre or even terrible reliever. Baez is a big asset to the Dodger bullpen and if he can bounce back from the rough ending to last season, the Dodgers may have Brandon Morrow’s replacement in the guy that preceded Morrow as the eighth inning go-to man.