I could simply post this chart as evidence enough that Danys Baez isn’t fit to handle high-leverage innings anymore.
You are not mis-reading the chart: Baez’s strikeout rate has been in solid decline since 2003. Surprisingly, it has little to do with the Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2008 season as his punch-outs had, obviously, fallen for four straight years.
Throughout his career, he showed average to slightly above-average control with an aggregate 3.2 BB/9 between 2003-06. In ’07, his walk rate ballooned to 5.2 per nine and he missed a combined 42 days due to right forearm tendinitis and a sprained UCL in his right elbow, which eventually forced Baez to go under the knife. Baez returned in ’09 with the Orioles and regained his control, averaging 2.8 walks per nine. He finished the season completely healthy with a 4.02 ERA and walked into free agency.
Baez was snapped up by GM Ruben Amaro and agreed to terms with the Phillies for two years and $5.25 million. The transaction was not received well with most Phillies fans because he was a 32-year-old with an injury history and a rather unimpressive resume.
The skeptics have been proven right as Baez has seen his strikeout rate continue its descent and his walk rate has ballooned to match his strikeout rate, both at 4.8 per nine. Of 248 pitchers who have pitched at least 28 innings, Baez ranks 214th with a 5.09 SIERA. To give you an idea of just how bad that is, Joe Blanton — Joe Blanton! — has a better SIERA at 4.98. And, as mentioned yesterday, Baez leads the team in “meltdowns” having earned his seventh yesterday when he allowed three runs to the Minnesota Twins in the eleventh inning.
Baez has not been the victim of any bad luck as his BABIP is at a relatively normal .289, his strand rate is at the average 70 percent, and his HR/FB rate is at 13.3%, about the same level it has been since 2007.
There is no reason to think that Baez will improve as the season progresses. Relievers who strike out hitters at a Jamie Moyer rate tend to fail quite impressively. The Phillies’ best bet is to eat the remainder of Baez’s contract and offer him to another team for a box of Rice-A-Roni, then give his vacant bullpen spot to Scott Mathieson, the subject of a confusing roster maneuver that left most of Philadelphia befuddled yesterday.