2013 Phillies Report Card: Antonio Bastardo
Antonio Bastardo was really good this year. Once you factor out virtual nonentities like Mauricio Robles and John McDonald, Tony No-Dad led the team in ERA+ and K%. He’s been outstanding ever since his move to the bullpen, a few injury-addled months late in 2011 and early in 2012 notwithstanding. He also got dinged for drugs in this Biogenesis ordeal, which is (for me) less an indictment of his personal and professional reputation than it was a way to keep miles off an arm that’s been shown to be prone to fatigue. Again, Tony No-Dad proved to be a powerful argument for stocking your bullpen with young guys who throw hard instead of spending big money on “proven” relievers, namely Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon. As Tony No-Dad chugged along, Adams was hurt and Papelbon suffered a downtick in fastball velocity brought on either by age or the energy vacuum he creates between pitches, an interminable wait capable of snuffing out the nuclear fusion in a star.
The Tony No-Dad of 2013 was somewhat different from previous versions, in that his strikeout rate dropped, but many of the line drives he generated in previous years turned into ground balls, which allowed his overall effectiveness to remain, even if the Antonio Bastardo Strikeout Rampage is more or less over. Overall, it’s hard to complain about anything Bastardo did this season apart from the drug suspension, though there may be no more useless entity in baseball than a good reliever on a bad team.
On a personal note, I want the record to show that I’ve probably derived more positive feelings from Antonio Bastardo than any other Phillies player in recent years. I’ve loved him from the first moment he was called up, starting with his outrageous name, which has inspired me to launch a campaign to make “Tony No-Dad” commonplace enough that it gets listed on his Baseball Reference page (it hasn’t happened yet, but it will). I loved his first two starts, when Carlos Ruiz called for just about nothing but fastballs, figuring that he had a kid who could hit 95 but had control issues, so with his first two starts coming in pitchers’ parks, he was in good shape if nobody, including Bastardo, Ruiz and the batter, knew where the ball was going. There was that 2011 season where nobody could hit him, and ABSR in late 2012. I fear the day when he either becomes too expensive or too ineffective to be the Phillies’ best relief pitcher, which he’s been for a while now, no matter who gets the saves.