Dodgers: It’s Time to Hand the Eighth Inning Role to Pedro Baez

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 25: Pedro Baez #52 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 25, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 25: Pedro Baez #52 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 25, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers thought Joe Kelly would fill their eighth-inning setup role but that has not gone according to plan.  It’s time to hand Pedro Baez the eighth inning role.

The Dodgers entered last winter looking to shore up their eighth-inning setup role that became an issue once Brandon Morrow left to Chicago.  The team signed World Series hero Joe Kelly to bring his intimidating demeanor and high 90’s fastball to the eighth inning in Los Angeles.  So far, Kelly has struggled to build off his postseason from 2018 and struggled to find his groove in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers’ bullpen has gotten solid contributions from a few of their other middle relievers such as Dylan Floro and Pedro Baez, but nobody in their bullpen has been better than Pedro Baez.  It’s time for Dave Roberts to hand the ball to Pedro Baez in the eighth inning going forward.  Entering Monday night’s game, Baez leads the bullpen with an opponent’s average of .172.

Outside of Hyun-Jin Ryu and his dazzling 0.81 WHIP, Petey is second on the team with a WHIP of 0.87.  He has also been LA’s most effective reliever when he enters a game with runners on base.  Pedro leads the Dodgers in allowing the fewest percentage of inherited runners to score (25%).  He has inherited 16 baserunners and successfully stranded twelve of them.

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In the past one of the biggest knocks on Pedro Baez was that he gave up too many home runs.  This season he has allowed just 0.34 home runs per nine innings pitched which is nearly half of his 2018 total of 0.64 and far lower than his 2017 total of 1.27.  Baez is also allowing one less walk per nine innings this season after his solid 2018 season.

The biggest change for Pedro has been just that, a consistent changeup.  No longer reliant solely on an upper 90’s fastball, Petey’s changeup gives him a third pitch that has been effective and he has used it to even things out against left-handed batters.  In fact, he has thrown his fastball at a career low rate of 45.1% and his changeup at a career-high usage rate of 36.3%.

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Until Joe Kelly figures things out, the Dodgers should pitch him in the lower leverage situations of the sixth or seventh inning.  Pedro Baez has been LA’s best reliever and it’s time for them to rewards his efforts and make him the primary eighth-inning reliever.  It wasn’t too long ago that Petey was booed at Dodger Stadium but these days he is becoming a fan favorite and the Dodgers’ most reliable reliever in an otherwise shaky bullpen.