Dodgers Bullpen: Pedro Baez Has Finally Arrived

Although it took many years of patience from Dodgers management alongside endless moments of booing from the Los Angeles faithful, Pedro Baez has finally emerged as one of the club’s most trustworthy relievers.

Saturday night’s 1-1/3 innings of relief may have been one of his most impressive appearances to date. Although he walked one batter, he didn’t allow a single hit, shutting down the Brewers when the Dodgers needed it the most. Some pundits believe that it’s the effectiveness of his slider and changeup that has made the difference, but to me, it certainly appears that his self-confidence has elevated his game tremendously. He’s not pensive in the least—he wants to be given the ball in the game’s most critical moments, it seems.

“’I feel good to have won their confidence,” Baez told reporters recently. “I feel good. I just got to keep working every day and pushing to move forward.”

A converted third baseman, Baez made his big league debut in 2014 when he was equipped with a fastball that was a straight as an arrow and a slider that was very rough in composition. Scouts were impressed with his heat, though, so much so that he became a regular part of the relief crew the following year. Over the past few seasons, there were indeed some rough points, so many that a number of folks close to the club wondered when the team would cut ties with the 30-year-old righty.

His 2017 campaign seemed to show a bit of improvement, yet his peripheral numbers were still on the downside. Despite his 2.95 ERA, his FIP was an ugly 4.44 and his walk rate was still astronomically high at 4.1 BB/9. Still, knowing his ceiling was definitely on the high side, management stuck by him. The only question was if the investment would ever pay off. Many followers thought not.

“We felt strongly that this version of Pedro Baez was the best we had ever seen,” Dodgers’ boss Andrew Friedman said at the time. “And as we’re saying that to ourselves he was struggling. But just believing in his makeup, his right arm, and the weapons that he possessed at that time, we felt confident that he would get through it.”

Although Baez gave the impression of being the same shell of himself through most of 2018, he began to dramatically turn things around during the latter part of the summer. While he had a 4.14 ERA through early August, he posted a 0.38 ERA from August 13 until the end of the regular season. What’s more, from September 11 through the final regular-season game on October 1, the righty didn’t allow a single run while only allowing three hits. During that stretch, some argued that he was the most successful reliever in the majors.

As far as the 2018 postseason goes, Baez has already made four key appearances between both the NLDS and the NLCS. Through those four games, he has thrown 4-2/3 innings, striking out five while allowing just two walks and one hit. As the latter part of the NLCS approaches, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s used in the highest leverage scenarios, perhaps even throwing in the high-stress eighth-inning hold situations.

It’s quite remarkable how much things changed over the course of a single year. Although he was a member of the 2017 NLDS roster, he didn’t throw a single pitch in the series. Subsequently, he was left off the NLCS roster against the Cubs and the World Series roster against the Astros.

Yet, as well as his secondary pitches have emerged to compliment his fastball, he’s equipped with one other weapon that will be enormously valuable in his efforts moving forward—belief in his own personal ability to succeed.

 

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Dodgers Bullpen: Still No Solutions for an Otherwise Shoddy Relief Crew

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Many followers of the Dodgers hoped the addition of veteran reliever Ryan Madson would bolster the team’s relief corps just a little bit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case—at least not yet. Since returning from the DL because of nerve irritation in his lower back, Madson has made four appearances—one for the Nationals (before he was traded) and three for the Dodgers. In 3-1/3 innings of work, the righty has surrendered  five hits (one of which was a long ball) and a walk, resulting in three earned runs. Despite his heater sitting in the 94-95 MPH range, he still hasn’t been able to find any mojo from his former self from a long time ago.

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Who Should Be Closing for Dodgers?

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Aside from the whole clutch performance thing we discussed yesterday, the most glaring weakness of the Dodgers has undoubtedly been the bullpen, especially at the back-end. Kenley Jansen may be at a point where he’s deemed undependable. In the meantime, though, who should be the closer, at least until Jansen figures things out?

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Suddenly, the Outlook of the Dodgers Bullpen Doesn’t Seem So Gloomy

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(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Sometimes, all it takes is an 11-1 drubbing of another contending club to quickly change a fan’s perspective about the direction of their favorite baseball team. When an offense works according to the way it was specifically designed, it takes a huge amount of pressure off a pitching staff, especially a bullpen which has struggled mightily over the past week. And, with the news that closer Kenley Jansen‘s healing progress has been accelerated, the immediate future of the Dodgers doesn’t seem so dismal after all.

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Dodgers’ Bullpen Faces Challenges Without Jansen

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(Mandatory Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers‘ pitching staff has been hit with a lot of injuries this year, but none as serious as the latest. All-Star closer Kenley Jansen is expected to miss about a month due to an irregular heartbeat.

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Dodgers 25-Man Roster: A Few More Random Notes on the Bullpen

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(Photo Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

There’s a good chance the current bullpen of the Dodgers will get a bit of a makeover before playoff time, assuming that the team is indeed able to secure a spot in the 2018 postseason. It could be accomplished by utilizing injured players like Josh Fields, Julio Urias or Hyun-Jin Ryu, or management may be able to find a way to orchestrate a waiver trade before the end of August. Furthermore, there will be a few starting pitchers left over come playoff time, conceivably allowing several arms like Ross Stripling, Alex Wood or even Kenta Maeda to throw in relief down the stretch.

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Dodgers Bullpen: What’s Wrong with Kenley Jansen?

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As a whole, fans of the Dodgers are often discredited for their gut reactions and passionate criticism when trying to evaluate the overall performance of their favorite club. However, this year, many followers of the team appear to be right on the money with their assessments. While the club has been rumored to be making strong pushes for several possible position player upgrades, the glaring needs are with the relief corps. And while it’s getting to the point when many folks start chattering about the playoffs, it’s hard to think the Dodgers can succeed with the options they have in house—even with one of the best closers in the game as their anchor.

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Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on an Otherwise Shoddy Bullpen

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

While many fans of the Dodgers were once again pointing their fingers at the bullpen after Saturday’s loss to the Padres, I thought I’d try to make some sense of what was happening by digging a little deeper into some of the general numbers. And while there’s been no rhyme or reason as to when exactly the relief corps is likely to implode, there has been a bit of uniformity, nonetheless.

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Dodgers Bullpen: Sorting Out the Top Relievers on the Farm

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Considering everything that went down in both legs of Saturday’s doubleheader in San Francisco, there’s bound to be a few roster moves on the horizon, especially in the bullpen. Righty Pedro Baez suffered his biggest pummeling of the season in the first game; however, it was the southpaw Scott Alexander who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for the emergency promotion of outfielder Alex Verdugo. With the move, the Dodgers are back down to eight arms in the big league bullpen, but not many of them are fresh, to say the least.

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Exactly How Good Is the Dodgers Bullpen?

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(Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into the 2018 regular season, one of the biggest concerns for the Dodgers was finding a suitable setup arm for closer Kenley Jansen. Yet, when Jansen was struggling mightily for the first few weeks of the campaign, that worry shifted, as all the focus was on getting the All-Star righty’s mechanics fixed. Now that Kenley appears to be back on the right track, the focal point of the bullpen could fall back on the setup role.

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