When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Chris Hatcher to the Oakland Athletics, it left Pedro Baez as the team’s most embattled relief pitcher. Like Hatcher, Baez has shown an ability to be effective, if not dominant, but also a tendency to leave one fastball too many over the heart of the plate.
Baez essentially hit rock bottom this season, his fourth with the Dodgers, despite posting career-best in several statistics at various points throughout the year. In 45 appearances through July 30, he yielded a 1.41 ERA and held opponents to a .202/.272/.339 batting line.
Baez went 3-1 during that span, but a rocky month of August led to his undoing. Over the final two months of the regular season, Baez was 0-5 with a 6.52 ERA in 21 games.
He surrendered five home runs in 19.1 innings pitched and allowed opponents to bat a more robust .272/.385/.580.
Baez finished the season with a career-worst 4.44 FIP and his strikeout rate was down from last season’s 28.1 percent to 23 percent this season. During that same timeframe, his walk rate increased from 7.5 percent to 10.4 percent.
The struggles correlated to a higher usage rate of his fastball, which has often been the case in Baez’s career. A stretch of poor performances led to Baez being showered with boos upon entering a game at Dodger Stadium.
That drew the ire of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who chastised the fans for their behavior. Roberts maintained his confidence in the right-hander, and he was included on the club’s roster for the National League Division Series.
Baez did not pitch in any of the three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he was not with the Dodgers for the NL Championship Series or World Series.
Baez allowed two earned runs or fewer in each month from April through July. Included in that stretch was a relief appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he struck out a season-high five batters over two scoreless innings.
Baez was among the eight players Dodgers tendered contracts to, ensuring he would not yet hit free agency. Whether through arbitration or by agreeing to terms with the club, he will be back for another season, presumably again with an opportunity to solidify a high-leverage role.