The Dodgers got a surprise breakout season from Pedro Baez in 2018. Once the punching bag of the bullpen for Dodger fans, Baez silenced his doubters in 2018.
It wasn’t too long ago that the name Pedro Baez would cause an eruption of boos at Dodger Stadium. Even when he trotted in from the bullpen, his home fans would greet him with boos. After the 2018 season that Pedro put together, he should be celebrated with cheers every time he runs out of that Dodger Stadium bullpen in 2019.
One of the biggest knocks on Baez prior to 2018 was that he would crumble down in high-pressure situations. In 2018, Baez was actually at his worst in low leverage situations. In such situations, he allowed a .257 opponent’s average which was higher than the .238 average he allowed in high-pressure scenarios. He also only allowed four home runs all season which is very impressive.
One of the main reasons for Baez’s newfound success was his changeup. Baez held left-handed batters to a .164 batting average compared to the .246 average he allowed to righties. He used his changeup at a 14.9% usage rate in 2018 which was up nearly 5% from the 2017 season. Prior to 2018, Pedro was a flamethrower but his fastball was straight and he often lacked command of it. Last season he mixed in his improved changeup and became a new pitcher.
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On top of improving his changeup, Baez also tightened up his slider and used it more in 2018. His slider usage in 2018 was 22% which is up from 16% in 2017. With his slider and changeup improved, Pedro used his fastball at a career low 62% usage rate. That is a far cry from 2014 when he first broke in with the Dodgers and used his heater 81% of the time. It will be interesting to watch how Pedro mixes his pitches in 2019.
Not only did Baez make the postseason roster this time around after being left off in 2017, but he also became stronger in the second half of the season. His second half stats include a .172 opponent’s average which was way down from the .259 batting average he allowed prior to the All-Star break. If the 2018 version of Pedro Baez is the version the Dodgers get going forward, they will have a lethal three-headed monster at the end of games with Baez, Joe Kelly, and Kenley Jansen.
It’s important to remember that Pedro Baez was once a third baseman in the Dodgers’ farm system so he is still relatively new to pitching. The amount of progress he showed in 2018 was huge and he will look to double down on his success in 2019. It’s been a fun ride to see Pedro Baez go from getting booed by his home fans to emerging as a key weapon out of the Dodger bullpen.