By Jon Weisman
It might be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to convince a Dodger fan that Pedro Baez is pitching well.
Making the case that Baez has been extraordinary? Oh, dear — heaven forfend.
But the facts speak for themselves. In July, Baez has faced 39 batters. Three have reached base, on a double and two walks. More than 30 percent of the 39 have struck out.
Baez has allowed a .077 on-base percentage and .054 slugging percentage this month. He has stranded all five runners he has inherited. His ERA is 0.00.
For the year, this means that Baez has a 2.83 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. After allowing five homers in the first two months of the season, he has allowed two homers in the past two months — none since June 22.
Dave Roberts said that simply in reducing his mistake pitches, while working with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on his mechanics, Baez has become even more reliable.
“Petey’s had a really nice year up to this point,” Roberts said. “He’s been a victim of the home-run ball, whether it be leaving a fastball out over or hanging a change. … I don’t think he was more unlucky. He was just victim of making a bad pitch here or there that they were hitting out of the ballpark.
As I’ve updated Baez’s progress on Twitter in recent weeks, the leading response (other than disbelief) has been that he doesn’t deliver it when it counts. As his work in Monday’s 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay illustrated — retiring both batters he faced with the tying runs on base and one out — that’s not true.
In his past nine games and 14 of his last 15 with the score tied, the tying runs on base or the Dodgers trailing by one run, the 28-year-old Baez (born eight days before Clayton Kershaw) has not allowed anyone to score.
As is always the case, some will never be sold on a player until he excels in the postseason, and three of Baez’s four career playoff outings from 2013-14 have contributed to defeats.
All Baez can do right now is be at his best at the regular season, and that’s exactly what he’s done, regardless of the size of your camel. Inevitably, as with every other relief pitcher, he’ll give up runs, but the pattern of expecting that to happen should be broken.
“He’s really pitched well, and I’ve put him in some big spots,” Roberts said. “The ball’s coming out of his hand really well, and he’s a guy that I trust.”
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) July 27, 2016