If you were say the name Pedro Baez to a casual Dodgers fan, they would likely let out a sigh of some sorts. Though he has a career ERA of 3.02, Baez has never been a fan-favorite amongst Dodgers fans.
That appears to be changing quickly. After getting booed off the mound at Dodger Stadium a year ago, Baez has become one of the most reliable pieces out of the bullpen, as well as the league.
On August 9, Baez had one of the worst outings of his career. In a third of an inning, he allowed four runs in Colorado. His ERA sat at 4.14, and it appeared Dodgers fans had reached their breaking point with the 30-year-old.
Since then, he’s been the best reliever in the National League. Over the course of the last six weeks, Baez owns a 0.50 ERA, the lowest in the NL and the second lowest in all of baseball during that stretch.
In 18 innings, Baez has 17 strikeouts, while allowing only one run, which came courtesy of a home run. Opponents are hitting .100 off of Baez during the stretch, which is the lowest in all of baseball.
The key to his recent success is starting ahead in the count more often. During this stretch, Baez is getting ahead in the count nearly 69 percent of the time which is 10 percent higher than it was over a month ago.
He’s throwing his fastball the same amount (62%), though he’s seen a drop in his slider usage and a rise in his changeup usage. His slider usage has dropped from 24 to 19 percent, while his changeup usage has gone up from 13 to 18 percent.
Hitters have also been chasing more pitches outside of the strike zone. Prior to August 13, 31 percent of his pitches were swung at that were outside the zone. Now, it’s up to 40 percent.
Not only has Baez been getting the job done, he’s been getting the job with runners on base, something he has struggled with drastically over the course of his career. Prior to August 13, Baez had a career ERA of 5.75 when runners were on base, including an ERA of 7.45 on the year.
Since his outing at Colorado, Baez has been practically un-hittable with runners on base. He owns a 1.13 ERA, and has allowed two hits in eight innings pitched. Opponents are 2-for-27 (.077) against him during that stretch.
With runners in scoring position, he’s been even better. Opponents are 1-for-18 (.059) with an on-base percentage of .111.
Over the course of his career, Baez has fought through adversity and criticism, and continuously looked at how to improve and become a viable piece out of the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Amidst a competitive NL West battle and issues in regards to Kenley Jansen, Baez has quietly been the most reliable arm out of the bullpen over the last month-and-a-half. If the Dodgers are able to play October baseball, they will be able to turn to Baez in late-game situations, and be more confident than ever.