Bastardo Should be in Phils’ Future Plans

Todd Zolecki posted a report on the Phillies’ 2013 bullpen wishes, including quotes from Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro. I was surprised to read that Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, and/or a free agent lefty reliever “could bump [Antonio Bastardo] out” of the ‘pen, but was then relieved to read this from Amaro:

“I think [Bastardo is] part of our club. Obviously he’s going to have to continue to prove himself, but I believe he’s going to be part of our club. […] I think he’s a much better pitcher than he’s shown.”

Bastardo has had a rough 2012, but has certainly shown a lot of promise as well. His 36 percent strikeout rate is sixth-best among all qualified relievers, trailing only Craig Kimbrel (50%), Aroldis Chapman (45%), Kenley Jansen (39%), Ernesto Frieri (39%), and Jason Grilli (37%). Each pitcher has a sub-3.00 ERA. Bastardo also excels at inducing weak contact as his infield fly ball rate, at 17 percent, is the 11th-highest among qualified relievers.

That isn’t to say Bastardo doesn’t have any obvious flaws. His 12 percent walk rate is among the 20 highest. Of the 16 pitchers with a higher walk rate, only four have a sub-3.00 ERA. Additionally, as his infield fly rate might allow you to infer, Bastardo is very ground ball-averse. His 51 percent fly ball rate is the fourth-highest among all relievers, trailing only Louis Coleman (58%), Tyler Clippard (57%), and Joel Peralta (52%). Lots of fly balls along with a home run problem (13.5 percent of Bastardo’s fly balls allowed were home runs) and you have a bloated ERA.

However, Bastardo hadn’t been a homer-prone pitcher in his previous 100 innings, indicating that his 2012 woes are either a fluke or a fixable problem. Either way, Bastardo will spend the five months between October and February to tie up the proverbial loose ends and go into 2013 smarter and stronger. The Phillies would be unwise to give up on Bastardo, who turns 27 years old today and is averaging 14 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched. The list of relievers who have posted such a season before the age of 28 (dating back to 1990) is small, but populated with names you’ve come to know and respect:

Player SO/9 IP Year Age Tm
Craig Kimbrel 16.48 57.1 2012 24 ATL
Kenley Jansen 16.10 53.2 2011 23 LAD
Carlos Marmol 15.99 77.2 2010 27 CHC
Aroldis Chapman 15.83 67.2 2012 24 CIN
Eric Gagne 14.98 82.1 2003 27 LAD
Billy Wagner 14.95 74.2 1999 27 HOU
Brad Lidge 14.93 94.2 2004 27 HOU
Craig Kimbrel 14.84 77.0 2011 23 ATL
Armando Benitez 14.77 78.0 1999 26 NYM
Billy Wagner 14.55 60.0 1998 26 HOU
Ernesto Frieri 14.42 58.2 2012 26 TOT
Billy Wagner 14.38 66.1 1997 25 HOU
Byung-Hyun Kim 14.14 70.2 2000 21 ARI
Antonio Bastardo 14.07 47.1 2012 26 PHI
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/20/2012.

Describing his wishes for next year’s bullpen, Zolecki quotes Manuel as saying, “I think we need at least one good piece. And when I talk about pieces, I mean someone that’s very, very good. First-class good.” Bastardo is no Billy Wagner, but his mediocre season shouldn’t compel the Phillies — currently committing $125 million to seven players in 2013 — to frivolously spend money on relief pitching in the off-season. With a 3.16 xFIP and 2.48 SIERA, Bastardo can be a dominant late-innings reliever just as he is now, and he  has the potential to be one of the game’s most-feared lefties if he continues to get better with age. With Horst and Phillippe Aumont behind him, the Phillies will be just fine in the bullpen.

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38 comments

  1. Max

    September 21, 2012 07:34 AM

    The main thing I got from the Baseball-Reference table: man, those were three really good seasons from Billy Wagner. The weird thing is, he never topped 12 strikeouts per 9 again until he pitched 15.2 combined innings for the Mets and Red Sox in 2009 and hit 14.9. And his age 27 peak followed by just a meltdown season at age 28 – wow.

  2. nik

    September 21, 2012 07:49 AM

    I do agree with Charlie. Phillies do need a veteran setup guy. Madson would be ideal if he would be willing to come-back.

  3. Phylan

    September 21, 2012 07:56 AM

    Madson might be cheap coming off of his injury but the whole contract brouhaha probably rules out his return.

  4. Dan K.

    September 21, 2012 08:56 AM

    Being that it’s going to be his third year, wouldn’t Bastardo now be a veteran set up guy? I don’t mind adding pieces to the team, but can we please get away from the term “veteran?” I could care less how many seasons they’ve played in the majors. If they’re on my team, I just want them to be good.

  5. nik

    September 21, 2012 09:12 AM

    I think late relief is the one position where experience counts for something. Pitchers handle pressure differently and I would bank on a guy with a history of success than a hot-shot with good stuff.

  6. Pencilfish

    September 21, 2012 10:14 AM

    Bill,

    RAJ tried to go cheap (Bastardo, Stutes, Qualls, Contreras, Aumont, etc) on the bullpen this year, except for Papelbon, and the Phillies paid dearly for it. How many games has the BP lost between 6th and 8th innings this year, after the starting pitcher left the game leading or tied?

    Worse than committing $125 million to 7 players is to allow this commitment to be wasted by a BP that can’t bridge the gap between the starting pitcher and Papelbon.

    I think you often say it is difficult to predict RP performance year to year because of statistical fluctuations (and I agree), but I think we can’t just rely solely on “cheap” internal solutions like Bastardo and Aumont. Where the Phillies would be if the RP had blown only half as many games as they did in 2012? Probably leading the Cardinals for the 2nd WC…

  7. Pencilfish

    September 21, 2012 10:45 AM

    Yeah and Papelbon hasn’t exactly stunk, has he? In the meantime, the rest of the bullpen performed exactly as expected.

    Many parts of the team contributed to the 2012 debacle, but the BP was a significant contributor, no question about that. If we want to avoid a repeat, some of the money saved by the Victorino/Blanton/Pence trades should be invested on more reliable BP piece(s).

    For comparison, look at Rafael Soriano. Many people criticized the signing when it happened, citing it a “waste” because of the Yankees’ depth with Rivera and Robertson. How about now?

    If you are advocating judicious use of that money, I agree. However, we shouldn’t be allergic to spending on BP piece(s) if the right player(s) becomes available. That’s the best way to protect the $125 million commitment in 2013.

  8. Nik

    September 21, 2012 10:56 AM

    I agree with Pencilfish. Having a lock-down bullpen is so important. Look at what the Orioles are doing with theirs. We cannot repeat the failures of 2012 next season and rely on guys that are green or inconsitent. Get another solid guy like an Adams or a Madson. Then fill around the edges with the internal options.

  9. Max

    September 21, 2012 11:34 AM

    Half of having an effective bullpen is having a manager who can use said bullpen effectively. Regardless of who’s in it or how much money it costs to put it together, we lack any evidence to lead us to believe that he wouldn’t find new and exciting ways to screw it up in the end, anyway.

  10. hk

    September 21, 2012 11:53 AM

    Great point, Max. If Charlie knew how to optimize the bullpen, maybe they would have be fine this year and beyond with Papelbon plus a bunch of young arms. If so, they will be able to use more of their budget to address other positions of need.

  11. Frank Reynolds

    September 21, 2012 11:54 AM

    I am pretty sure Bastardo will be apart of the pen next year. I think he should be. However, I agree with Charlie they need a dependable veteran. I think they can acquire a guy who is dependable without spending a ton of money.

  12. Pencilfish

    September 21, 2012 12:02 PM

    Max,

    Agreed, but first one must have the lockdown bullpen, and then you have to have a capable manager who uses it judiciously. We have neither right now.

    Bill/Nik, Aumont, Bastardo, etc may become important BP pieces, but they are not ready to handle the 8th inning yet. That may change in 2013 or more likely later. Adams and/or Madson provides insurance and buys time to allow these younger guys to mature.

  13. LTG

    September 21, 2012 12:24 PM

    Aren’t the Orioles’ and Braves’ bullpens cheap?

  14. Phillie697

    September 21, 2012 12:28 PM

    Not THIS argument again >.< Apparently spending $50M on the bullpen this past winter that bought us a losing season MUST mean that we need to spend even more money on the bullpen. Sigh…

  15. Pencilfish

    September 21, 2012 12:55 PM

    The Cubs and Mets bullpens are also cheap, and they are among the worst in MLB. What’s your point?

    Losing season? You must have stopped watching Phillies games in August, uh?

  16. Nik

    September 21, 2012 01:39 PM

    Please dont wake Phille697 from his dream of
    pity and sorrow. He sounds like a politician spinning facts to paint his narrative.. Like Pencilfish said – cheap bullpen does not mean good bullpen. Yes, there are good bullpens that are cheap but how many others suck? Phillies can afford to bring in a reliable setup guy. End of story.

  17. hk

    September 21, 2012 02:42 PM

    Nik,

    How do you know that you are going to get a reliable set-up guy for the money that you are going to pay? For instance, you mentioned Madson and Adams. Madson is coming off an injury, so there’s uncertainty there. Adams, who is 34, has seen his K/9 drop from 10.95 in 2009 to 9.85 in 2010 to 9.04 in 2011 to 7.34 in 2012. How much would you be willing to pay Madson or Adams?

  18. Phillie697

    September 21, 2012 02:48 PM

    Had we spent that $50M somewhere else, I’m pretty sure we would not be on the outside looking in as far as the WC goes. Beat that with a stick.

  19. Phillie697

    September 21, 2012 02:49 PM

    And that’s WITH the crappy bullpen you two seem to want so desperately to spend more money to upgrade.

  20. nik

    September 21, 2012 03:12 PM

    We spent 50 million all in one year? And for Papelbon’s 12 million that we spent this year we’d have found a 5 win player AND someone else to close for us? Back to the land of despair and agony you go.

  21. nik

    September 21, 2012 03:15 PM

    Just curious who this magical free agent was that would have given up 5+ extra wins this year that would have taken a 12 million dollar salary?

  22. jauer

    September 21, 2012 03:20 PM

    Okay…to play devils advocate, if you add Beltran’s 2.9 WAR to the Phillies and away from the Cardinals, that is over 5 wins. He has about half the contract of Papelbon.

  23. nik

    September 21, 2012 03:25 PM

    1. Beltran costs more per year than Papelbon. 2. The Cardinals arent the only team ahead of us right now, so again your argument falls flat.
    3. You also have to subtract any WAR that our outfielder provided this year, whether its pence/brown or pierre/mayberry.
    4. Then there is the fact that your bullpen is shallower and so you lose even more wins right there. Should I go on?

  24. hk

    September 21, 2012 03:30 PM

    jauer,

    That’s not accurate. First of all, if Beltran had signed here and accumulated that 2.9 WAR playing LF, Juan Pierre would not have accumulated 414 PA’s or 1.7 WAR. Therefore, signing Beltran instead of Pierre is only +1.2 WAR for the Phils. Secondly, if STL had not signed Beltran, they would have used that money for someone who theoretically would have been better than a replacement player. Finally, you have to factor in that Papelbon, while being misused by the manager, was pretty darn effective and a Papelbon-less Phillies team might not have won as many games.

  25. jauer

    September 21, 2012 03:35 PM

    I realize all that is accurate, hence the devil’s advocate qualifier.

    However, they could have spent about 1/1000th of that salary to hire a MLB2012-addicted 10th grader to manage the team instead of Manuel. There’s a strong chance that is worth ~ 5 wins in the standings.

  26. nik

    September 21, 2012 03:37 PM

    hk, Adams is still worth 1.3 fWAR this year and remains an excellent pitcher. I don’t really worry about Madson, the recent success rate of TJ is getting close to becoming a non-factor in pitcher evaluation. I can’t even think of a high profile pitcher that couldn’t recover from TJ to return to previous levels of performance at this point. It seems some guys have only gotten better – Kris Medlen comes to mind. I’m sure there are plenty other experienced setup types that wouldn’t cost more than 4-5 Million for a year.

  27. hk

    September 21, 2012 03:38 PM

    jauer,

    Now, there we agree. If Manuel had any clue as to how to manage the bullpen, the group’s results and each individual’s results would most likely be better and we would not even be debating whether they need to spend $4M or $5M next year on a veteran set-up man.

  28. hk

    September 21, 2012 03:41 PM

    nik,

    If the team is intent on staying below the luxury tax threshold, $4M or $5M is not chump change, especially if you (like me) want them to add a starting pitcher, a CF and a 3B this off-season.

  29. nik

    September 21, 2012 03:48 PM

    The team is not intent on staying below the threshold, Monty has already said as much. I They will find the money for an elite CF (Bourn or Upton, maybe Pagan) and probably will bring a medium profile SP. As for third base, there is noone out there to even spend the money on, barring a trade. I don’t think they view Youkilis as a solution.

    There should be plenty left for an important setup bullpen piece and judging by Manuel’s comment, it’s going to happen regardless of what we think.

  30. Phillie697

    September 21, 2012 06:36 PM

    I don’t even need to go far to give you the perfect example of who we could have spent the money on that would have given us more wins even without Papelbon closing: Aramis Ramirez.

    Let see, Papelbon, 1.3 WAR. All of the combined 3B Phillies used this year, 1.2 WAR. Ramirez? 5.9 WAR. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a difference of 3.4 WAR!!! Where would the Phillies be with 3.5 more wins (since you can’t get 0.4 win in the standings, I’m counting it as 0.5 win)? Oh, why yes, tied for the 2nd WC spot.

    BTW, Ramirez was only $36M, so we could have saved $14M, but I’m sure you’ll resort to some AAV analysis, so I won’t go there.

    The problem with banter that is backed by nothing but banging on the table really loud is that you are going to get caught one day when the facts go against you. Anything else?

  31. hk

    September 21, 2012 06:57 PM

    nik,

    As long as they fill the key spots without going cheap like they did this past off-season, I don’t care if they spend on a veteran reliever, particularly if it is a short-term deal. I will only complain if they spend on a reliever at the expense of a starting pitcher or on filling one of the every day positions.

  32. Nik

    September 21, 2012 07:02 PM

    Phillie697, . Even with your 20/20 hindsight the best you could find is a player that plays a position the team already had filled and had no interest in upgrading. I know it took you a while to sort by WAR of available free agents from last year, but 3rd base was not a position that was ever an option in the off-season. Try again, champ. If Amaro signed Ramirez last offseason you’d be the first one calling for his head.

  33. Phillie697

    September 21, 2012 07:07 PM

    Obviously I knew you weren’t going to relent. As someone who started this whole discussion with nothing but an unproven assertion, and when challenged, dared others to prove their rebuttal instead, you are most definitely an expert on table banging. BTW, I think you missed a corner of that table. Keep banging.

  34. Nik

    September 21, 2012 07:26 PM

    The only ridiculous assertions are the nonsensical drivel that you keep on spewing. Feels like you prefer the club to be performing poorly and are actively rooting for them to fail, because that validates your RAJ hate better.

  35. hk

    September 21, 2012 07:41 PM

    Nik,

    Just because RAJ decided to over-spend on a closer ($12.5M for Papelbon) and under-spend at the corner IF spots and LF (~$5M for Thome, Wigginton, Nix and Pierre) doesn’t mean RAJ’s strategy was the right one. And, if he was not so intent on rushing into the market to sign a closser, maybe he could have been in the running for Aramis Ramirez (or Josh Willingham or Carlos Beltran). The teams that are able to think more outside of the box like the Rangers and Rays have filled the closer position as effectively as the Phils at a much lower cost in AAV and years.

  36. Pencilfish

    September 21, 2012 10:43 PM

    Phillie697,

    The $50M is money under the bridge. Instead of complaining about a past you cannot change, it is important to fix the bullpen, along with plugging holes in the OF in 2013. If the bullpen is as crappy as you say, why wouldn’t you want the Phillies to fix it?!

  37. jauer

    September 22, 2012 10:38 AM

    “If Amaro signed Ramirez last offseason you’d be the first one calling for his head.”

    And if the Phillies spent a combined 22 million dollars on Raul Ibanez and that completely unnecessary scoreboard in 2011, youd be the first one defending them. Wait, that actually happened?

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