For the first time in over 165 months, the Dodgers organization does not include Pedro Báez. The longtime bullpen constant found himself in the middle of high-leverage action again this October, in outings both good and bad.
On one level, Báez seems at least nominally as steady as a rock. His ERA for the last six seasons was never lower than 2.88, and never higher than 3.35. But his FIP (4.43) was a tick off his career worst in 2020, and his fastball velocity (94.4 mph) down a mile and a half from the year before, perhaps partially affected by a groin injury that sidelined Báez for 3½ weeks.
It can be forgotten sharing a bullpen with Kenley Jansen, who converted from catcher to pitcher in the minors, but Báez was another successful switch to the mound. Originally signed as a third baseman in January 2007 out of the Dominican Republic, Báez hit 45 home runs and 112 doubles before converting to pitching in 2013.
He was in the majors by 2014, and has been an October fixture for the Dodgers nearly every year since. Only two pitchers have appeared in more postseason games with the Dodgers than Baez’s 31 — Jansen (49) and Clayton Kershaw (37), the only two players with longer tenure in the organization.
Báez this postseason had a 3.52 ERA, which on the surface seems fine. But he also allowed all four of his inherited runners to score. This is a pattern for Báez, who allowed 10 of his 17 inherited runners to score in his postseason career. His disaster outing was in Game 4 of the World Series, when Báez allowed lead-blowing home runs in consecutive innings, the first after shaking off his best pitch (a changeup), and the second after Dave Roberts admitted an error in first telling Báez he was done after one inning before changing course when the Dodgers took the lead.
But Báez was also incredibly clutch in some of the club’s biggest moments in October. Down 3-1 in the NLCS, Báez pitched scoreless innings in Game 6 and Game 7, protecting two-run leads each time. He allowed a measly single while recording two outs in Game 6 of the World Series, part of the sextet of relievers that held Tampa Bay scoreless as the Dodgers claimed their ever-elusive championship.
Báez in the postseason struck out 10 of his 30 batters (33.3 percent), which was a pleasant surprise after striking out a career-worst 18.6 percent of hitters during the regular season, down from his 25.3-percent for his career.
Through 2020, Báez ranks 14th all-time in Dodgers history with 355 games pitched, two more than Orel Hershiser. Only Jansen (632), Jim Brewer (456), Ron Perranoski (456), Clem Labine (388), Jonathan Broxton (386), and Charlie Hough (385) have appeared in more games in relief than Báez in franchise history.
Stats: 3.18 ERA (135 ERA+), 2 saves, 17 IP, 4.43 FIP, 18.6-percent strikeout rate
Salary: $4 million
Game of the year
Leading by two in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the NLCS, the Dodgers needed six outs to reach a Game 7 against the Braves. Báez was asked to get Atlanta’s 4-5-6 hitters — Travis d’Arnaud, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson — out, just as he did in the sixth inning of Game 5.
Báez needed 17 pitches in the inning, nine of which came on a strikeout of d’Arnaud. Albies followed with a foul pop out, and Swanson hit a can of corn to right in an otherwise uneventful inning, helping the Dodgers survive to live another day.
After seven major league seasons and 14 years in the organization, Báez is a free agent.