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Slip Sliding Away

Antonio Bastardo is not having his best season.

The hope for the 27-year-old coming into the 2013 season was that he would continue to be the mostly-shutdown lefty who could be counted upon, coming into games to handle the likes of Jason Heyward or Bryce Harper (and keep righties muted, too). Instead, Bastardo’s strikeouts are down, his walks are up and he’s permitting a .374 OBP against entering Friday.

So, um, what the heck? What happened to the guy whose stuff was so nasty he permitted just 68 hits in 110 IP from 2011-12?

The cause may be invisible to statistics – an injury, perhaps – but there’s a noticeable change in Bastardo’s production, even beyond what the usual rate stats show. Of interest to me is Tony’s slider, a past weapon rendered about as useful as a butter knife.

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 8.58.10 PM

Behold the above table. On the top row, we see numbers from 2011-12. On the bottom, 2013. Everything has gone in the wrong direction:

Part of what made Bastardo’s 2011-12 slider so devastating was that, even though it often left the strike zone by the end of its trip to the plate, it had enough tilt and break to it to avoid bat barrels (or the entire bat altogether). And at least, if the slider wasn’t 100 percent there on a given night, he had a respectable fastball to offset the slider’s slack.

That also no longer appears to be the case. Although Bastardo hasn’t allowed a home run on a fastball yet this year, the heater is still getting tuned up. From 2011-12, Bastardo’s fastball averaged 92.88 MPH and hitters combined for a .222/.329/.382 line against it. This season, the line is a painful .321/.424/.464 at 92.28 MPH, and a lot of the trends in the rate stats shown in the table above continue down their less-than-scenic route:

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The fastball is seeing the zone more, but it’s also being missed and fouled off less.

It’s tough to tell exactly what needs to be changed, but has worked for Bastardo in the past no longer appears effective, and his regaining a semblance of past success depends upon his figuring out something new. And fast.