Pedro Baez – From Pariah to Prized Bullpen Arm

You hear it – and see it on social media – Dodger fans everywhere are saying, “I don’t believe it, but Pedro Baez is my favorite bullpen pitcher.” That’s a huge turnaround for a lot of folks to compute and accept.

If you’ve been a Dodgers fan for longer than this season, you know just how much heat, and at times outright hate, was thrown at Baez from his home field fans.  Back in late 2017, and at times in early 2018, Baez was heartily booed at Dodger Stadium. Things were so bad, he didn’t even have to do anything wrong, he was automatically booed when he was announced as coming into the game. It must have taken every bit of professionalism and heart Baez has to bear the weight of those boos and focus on the job at hand.

For years (2018 included) the Dodgers have searched for the bridge to Kenley Jansen. Pedro Baez looked like he could be that guy. He showed electric stuff, and at times, he was unhittable. Trouble was, when Pedro Baez failed, it was spectacular, and more often than not, it came at the worst possible time.

By the end of the 2017 regular season, Baez was persona non grata at Chavez Ravine. He was as welcome as a tax audit.

This is from an article I wrote here last Sept. 20,  “You May be Done with Pedro Baez, but the Dodgers Aren’t (nor should they be)”.  This from the day after Baez’s last game appearance of the 2017 season, and one of his most spectacular implosions:

“Chances are, Pedro Baez sealed his 2017 fate in his abysmal outing last night against the Philadelphia Phillies. Baez’s 2/3 of an inning was a microcosm of his season: There was frustration and angst mixed with flashes of hope. Dave Roberts, his manager, faithfully stuck with him through all of it, but in the end, Baez flickered out and couldn’t finish, leaving behind a mess in his wake.

Baez faced seven batters. He gave up a triple, a double, walked two (including a bases loaded walk), and he hit a batter. In the end, he gave up four runs. Yes, it was painful to watch. Yes, plenty of folks questioned Roberts’ mental state for throwing Baez into the fire in a game the Dodgers led by only one run.

It was the right move at the right time.”

Baez was left off the Dodgers’ 2017 postseason rosters, as his 6.52 career postseason ERA wasn’t welcome on a team with a mission to get to the World Series. Yet, the Dodgers’ decision-makers saw something in Baez they were not ready to give up on – and I wasn’t willing to give up on him either.

However, 2018 didn’t begin as a magic season for Pedro. He spent six weeks on the DL with biceps tendonitis. When he returned to the pen, he struggled with an 8.35 ERA over his next six appearances, and the Baez Groaning and Chowder Society was in full effect. Then, something inside Baez clicked. Those flashes of brilliance he showed earlier eventually spanned beyond one or two batters, and began stretching across full innings of relief. He’s only allowed one earned run since August.

Baez has risen to become the star of the Dodgers’ bullpen. Once unwanted by the Dodgers in the postseason, Baez was the man Dave Roberts turned to in a “must hold” situation in the seventh inning of last night’s Game 2 of the NLCS. Down by one run, and with the top of the Brewers lineup due to come up, Baez was the man with the golden arm. He got a quick out followed by a walk. Dodger fans everywhere held their collective breath, but he got Milwaukee’s big guns, Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun,  to fly out and end the inning.

With the Dodgers ahead for the first time in the game (Justin Turner hit a 2-run home run in the top of the inning), Roberts sent Baez out to start the eighth, and he did not  let his skipper down. He struck out PH Domingo Santana, and job well done, Roberts lifted him.  Pedro Baez had just earned his first postseason win.

Baez struck out Santana with the newest weapon in his arsenal – a perfected change up. That pitch has made all the difference this season, changing Pedro from the last man chosen, to the most trusted arm in the bullpen (and that includes Kenley Jansen). That said, perhaps the biggest transformation has been his ability to change the boos into cheers from the Dodgers faithful, and dread into high fives from his teammates.

My article from 2017 stated Roberts kept his struggling pitcher in that game, despite his troubles, as a test of his pitcher’s heart. Pedro Baez has changed plenty since that night. It seems one thing that hasn’t changed is Pedro Baez’s strong Blue heart. 

 

 

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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11 thoughts on “Pedro Baez – From Pariah to Prized Bullpen Arm

  1. Baez is just one example of someone with talent taking a longer time to develop their game. Pederson and Hernandez are also in the same boat as Pedro. They have all gotten to the next level of their game. Perseverance, good coaching, and the management being able to recognize the talent are key ingredients. Even then, some just don’t make it. Good to see these players elevating their games.

    1. Agree.

      I think it’s very easy to quickly come to a judgement on players (this would also apply to Stripling and Kike) and it’s very hard to take the medium term view and let players develop.

      This is even harder with the massive flow of information and video now available.

  2. Baez is just one example of someone with talent taking a longer time to develop their game. Pederson and Hernandez are also in the same boat as Pedro. They have all gotten to the next level of their game. Perseverance, good coaching, and the management being able to recognize the talent are key ingredients. Even then, some just don’t make it. Good to see these players elevating their games.

  3. Baez always had great stuff. The problem was that he would stick with that fastball to get hitters out, and if major league hitters have proved anything over the years it is that if you throw it often enough, even at 99, they will eventually time it and hit it hard. He also works notoriously slow. He has gotten better, but still compared to others on the staff works at a snails pace.

  4. A couple of things I like about ladodgerreport. First, the writers are good. Very knowledgeable, and they do not get over technical. They are true fans and enjoy the team and share our happiness and yes, our frustration too. One of the best things about the site is not having to deal with Giants trolls. The Dodgers official web site is full of them and they just go on and on about nothing in particular, and everything in general especially the fact that it has been 30 years since the last World Champion for LA. They blabber on about the wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014, completely forgetting that between 1954 and 2010, they won nothing. Of course, here, we have to deal with Bluto. Who no doubt is a fan, but is also a FAZONIAN believer. That’s cool. He gets a little testy sometimes, but he means well. Anyway, I will continue to beat the anti saber metric drum for as long as I can. Of that, you can be sure.!!!! Oh yeah, we had our first snow here yesterday and brother it was COLD!!

  5. Who would of thunk that the words coming from my mouth on Saturday would be: “Baez looked good last inning, they should send him back out there.”

  6. DODGER ARE PLAY ING LIKE SH– 5 RUNNER S IN SCORING POSITION …WE TAKE STRIKES DOWN THE MIDDLE AND SWING AT DOWN AND AWAY …BLILLINGER SHOULD BE SITTING…I SAID THAT A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO ..THE WAY WE PLAY WE DONT PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS …AND MACHADO DONT RUN OUT A HIT BALL HE COST US A OUT THE WAY HE SLIDES.. AND WE ARE ALL SWINGING FOR THE FENCE..

  7. This game is 1,000% on the players. You can nitpick about some things with Roberts, but that dog don’t hunt. This was 1000% on the players

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