2014 Dodgers In Review: ‘Not Kenley Jansen’ Pedro Baez

G IP K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR
MiLB (AA/AAA) 40 42 21.2% 7.3% 3.86 ? n/a n/a
MLB 20 24 19.6% 5.4% 2.63 3.88 3.96 0.0

What happened in 2014: Spent most of his season in the minors, but pitched some solid innings in the majors for the Dodgers (mostly).

Pedro Baez is not Kenley Jansen. He never has been and never will be. He does have a chance to be a solid relief option, but folks expecting him to follow in Jansen’s footsteps are going to be disappointed. He made his MLB debut on May 5 against the Nationals. He gave up two runs and struck out two in one inning of work. Mike wrote a little about him before his debut.

“Baez, if you don’t know him, turned 26 in March, and has been in the Dodger system since 2007, though most of that time was as a third baseman who could neither hit or stay healthy. I was begging for him to be converted into a pitcher as far back as 2010, though it didn’t happen until last year. In 59 games on the mound for Single-A Rancho and Double-A Chattanooga, Baez has a 63/29 K/BB, which is fine. Really, unless it’s a blowout one way or another, I wouldn’t expect to see Baez; it’s him rather than Paco Rodriguez mostly because it’s a one-day thing, and Chattanooga is much closer to Washington than is Albuquerque.”

Don Mattingly and Co., seemed to take a liking to him, as he was used in more situations than expected — even some high-leverage situations, which would prove to be a mistake (you know what’s coming).

With the Dodgers’ bullpen struggling for the better part of six months, it needed saving. But I wasn’t counting on Baez being the guy to save it.

“Baez has been thrust into a more prominent role in the Dodgers’ bullpen, but he won’t be the guy to solve the bullpen woes. It’s unrealistic to expect that in many ways: his inexperience as a pitcher, his pitches that need developing and just the fact he’s not that good. The minimal amount of success he’s had so far is encouraging, but he hasn’t been dominant.”

Daniel looked at the possibility of Baez actually taking over as the team’s primary setup man, but found some concerns.

“Baez throws his fastball around 3/4 of the time, so velocity is pretty important for him. He started out averaging 97, peaking at 98 in early August. He’s had some ups and downs since, but his final two games in Wrigley were down to about 93 on average. It’s important to remember that this is only Baez’ second year of pitching. Including his time in the Arizona Fall League last season, he pitched 62-1/3 innings. So far this season, he has pitched 64-1/3 innings. He’s in uncharted territory for his workload, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

When you put all of these factors together, it starts to make the projection of a 4.30 ERA on Fangraphs’ depth chart seem not so ridiculous. That projection is the highest of any Dodger listed, including those who Baez are replacing.

So, what should the Dodgers actually do? It’s certainly not an easy decision with Wilson clearly not at his best and Howell struggling. My first inclination would be to use Howell in the eighth and hope that his control problems are temporary while playing matchups between League, Paco Rodriguez, and Baez before then if needed. It obviously isn’t a perfect strategy, and it depends on how deep the starters go into games (another major concern after the first two games), but I’m not really a believer in the hot hand.”

This just shows what a sad state of affairs the Dodgers’ bullpen was late in the season. And then came the National League Division Series, when Baez allowed the eventual, game-winning run to score off a Matt Holliday 3-run home run.

2) Should Mattingly have yanked Kershaw earlier, or not brought in Baez?

Maybe. Probably? But not certainly, I don’t think. Both outs in the inning were via strikeout. He had two strikes on Carpenter. He was certainly starting to falter, but he wasn’t giving up doubles after homers after scorched liners, either. I get that the inclination is to kill the manager, and I would have probably had Howell in to face Carpenter myself, but I also more than understand that if Mattingly is choosing between the best pitcher in the world and the pile of awful that has been the non-Kenley Jansen bullpen, that he’s sticking with his ace.

I get it. I don’t totally agree with it — again, I’d have had Howell in for Carpenter — but I get it. As for Baez, with righties Randal Grichuk, Holliday, Peralta, and Molina coming up, that’s no place for Howell. You would have preferred Brandon League? Brian Wilson? Jamey Wright? That Baez is inexperienced in the playoffs means nothing; just look at Brandon Finnegan in KC.”

While I might not totally agree with the last line (and — hindsight acknowledged — I would have preferred League in that situation), Baez was thrown into a tough situation that got the best of him.

2015 status: He’ll make the league-minimum for the next couple of years. He has two options remaining, so an assignment to Oklahoma City isn’t out of the question. But he might win a spot in the bullpen out of spring training on the strength of his fastball. I’ve softened on him a bit, but he just needs innings. Period. That’s the only way he’s going to get better.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.