Before Puig-sanity struck in the ninth inning, Dodger fans had spent the previous innings letting their feelings be known about both the choice by Dave Roberts to put Pedro Baez into a high leverage situation, about the excruciating process of watching Baez grind through five outs over the course of what felt like a week, and of course the home run ball he surrendered to Wilson Ramos.
Dodger Twitter wasn’t thrilled:
Nobody likes Baez, right now. Memories of his middle-middle fastball to David Wright in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS linger, and he has basically personified human gasoline in the hearts and minds of Dodger fans. But who should Roberts have trusted? Let’s take a deeper look at the Dodgers’ relievers in high leverage situations. Info courtesy of FanGraphs:
The table is created in order of batters faced. Obviously, the Dodgers are smart enough to use their best reliever as often as possible in the tightest spots. Jansen, however, wasn’t available last night, and Roberts has shown that in tie games (especially on the road), he’s gonna hold Kenley back. So who’s the best non-Kenley choice?
Hitters have compiled a .377 wOBA against Baez. That’s sixth out of nine bullpen options. The guys ahead of him: Jansen (not available last night), Blanton, Coleman, Howell, and Fien. Fien had already pitched and Howell as a left-hander wasn’t going to be brought in to hit Ramos. That leaves Coleman and Blanton. Coleman had faced five batters the previous night, so really it’s a choice between Blanton and Baez.
Hitters in high leverage situations this year have a .279 wOBA against Blanton, nearly 100 points lower than Baez. Blanton’s high-leverage WHIP is 0.96, compared to Blanton’s 1.20. Those numbers strongly suggest Blanton was the better choice. The best argument for going with Baez is that you are far more likely to end up with a strikeout. Baez’s K% in high-leverage spots is 32% compared to 9.1% for Blanton.
Ultimately, Blanton probably should have been the choice, if for no other reason that he’s been better than Baez overall this year out of the pen, and the numbers suggest that Baez is just not an optimal high leverage option.
To me the big takeaway is just how problematic the Chapman fiasco was. To have a guy that good (wOBA in high leverage: .237) backing up Jansen changes this bullpen significantly. The Dodgers’ Andrew Friedman has gone on the record as saying the Dodgers are looking at “elite-level” players to acquire this season. The struggling offense and injuries to starters have made the front office’s pursuit of bullpen additions a bit more complicated. Certainly, they need more help, but for the time being, the Dodgers can help themselves by choosing their best available guys for the job.