During Playoffs, Phillies Need Both Romero and Bastardo

At the end of March, I suggested that¬†J.C. Romero should be used strictly as a LOOGY. While Charlie Manuel hasn’t exactly protected Romero from right-handed batters, the lefty has faced similar-handed batters 57 percent of the time, easily the highest percentage in his Phillies career.

J.C. Romero w/ PHI
2010 0.811 0.607
2008 0.898 0.346
2007 0.677 0.645

Romero is not by any means elite. Along with his 4.77 SIERA, he issued free passes to as many batters as he struck out: 28 in 35 and one-third innings (per-nine rate of 7.1 each), but he does have a clear ability to dominate left-handed hitters. As the table to the right illustrates, Romero has been very hittable when facing opposite-handed hitters but nearly unhittable when facing same-handed hitters. His performance in 2008 may have been fluky but a .607 OPS, which is right around his career average, is extremely helpful and would be a boon to the Phillies in the post-season. He also induces ground balls at a very high rate, which is a nice way to erase the base runners he puts on base via the walk.

Antonio Bastardo, another lefty, is a candidate to take the final bullpen spot on the post-season roster. He has been underwhelming in his 40-plus innings of work at the Major League level, but has shown an ability to miss bats. This year alone, he racked up 22 strikeouts in under 17 innings. However, he has been besieged by BABIP. His line drive BABIP over his career is more than ten percent higher than the National League average, .826 to .719. Additionally, ground balls found holes two percent more often than the NL average, .258 to .237.

Most of that, though, stems from his 2009 performance when one out of every four batted balls was a line drive. This year, he has induced weaker contact but his BABIP luck has worsened. The culprit this time has nothing to do with line drives and a lot to do with ground balls (ten percent) and fly balls (five percent) not being converted into outs by his defense.

Bastardo would be a great weapon for the Phillies to have in the post-season. He proved throughout his Minor League career and in his brief time in the Majors that he can miss bats. His walk rate is concerning, but so is Romero’s. Bastardo also allows a lot of fly balls, but that is certainly acceptable given his strikeout rate. If the choice is between, say, Danys Baez and Bastardo, it becomes quite evident who should win that campaign. (Hint: not Baez.)

Looking at the Phillies’ possible post-season opponents, it seems that lefty relievers are going to play a pivotal role as both the Braves and Reds have three troublesome left-handed hitters while the Giants have one and a switch-hitter who hits much better against right-handed pitchers.

The Phillies can’t play the Braves until the NLCS but this LOOGY situation will not disappear after one round of the playoffs, of course. Most likely, they will end up playing the Reds who have the scariest array of left-handed hitters among the three contenders. Preventing Votto from doing damage in high-leverage situations is perhaps the most important goal of the match-up. While I would sooner call on Ryan Madson in that situation than Romero or Bastardo — Mad Dog has held lefties to a .633 OPS in 2010 — it is unlikely that Manuel will deviate from the defined roles, thus Madson will be the eighth-inning guy throughout the post-season.

So the Phillies should carry both Romero and Bastardo and use them according to their skill sets. It may be that the Phillies don’t even use Bastardo throughout the entire NLDS. Their top three starters could go deep into all the games, and the ballparks in Philadelphia and Cincinnati aren’t exactly fly ball-friendly. But the insurance of having two lefties is just too important to pass up when taking all of the available information into account.