2014 Phillies Report Card: Antonio Bastardo

We’ve come to know him, at times affectionately and at times derisively, as Tony No-Dad. In my glory days living in South Philly, I called him Tony Fuggin’ Bastid. For the tail end of the Phillies’ dominant years, Antonio Bastardo established himself as Charlie Manuel‘s favorite lefthanded reliever. After four full years in the bullpen, however, Bastardo could be on his way out of town due to an addiction to walks, the emergence of Jake Diekman, an arbitration case pending (after a $2 million salary in 2014), and free agency after 2015.

Bastardo’s generosity with free passes is maddening to watch, and the problem isn’t getting better for the 29-year-old Dominican lefty. Since 2011, his walk rate (BB%) has been 11.6%, 11.6%, 11.7%, and 12.6%. That’s bad. With several other left-handed relievers on the team, it doesn’t make sense for the Phillies to pay Bastardo $30,000 per appearance to walk almost five batters per nine innings. But that’s none of my business.

It’s easy to pick and choose statistics to fit a narrative. Bastardo is good: great K%, low HR/FB%, decent ERA retrodictors. Bastardo is bad: terrible walk rates, fringy WHIP, and a see-saw on the ERA- train.

K% BB% BABIP LOB% GB% LD% HR/FB% WHIP FIP xFIP SIERA ERA-
2011 31.1% 11.6% 0.179 81.1% 25.4% 15.9% 8.1% 0.93 3.30 3.56 2.92 69
2012 36.2% 11.6% 0.306 72.2% 27.7% 22.3% 12.5% 1.27 3.34 3.18 2.54 110
2013 26.3% 11.7% 0.287 82.4% 31.4% 18.1% 3.8% 1.27 3.00 4.09 3.49 62
2014 29.9% 12.6% 0.260 65.4% 30.2% 16.8% 5.1% 1.20 3.10 3.81 3.17 108

Among 142 qualified relievers in 2014, Bastardo had the 25th-best K% but the 10th-worst BB%. The top (bottom) 10 in walk rate is generally not the kind of company one wants to keep: A.J. Ramos, Grant Balfour, John Axford, Rex Brothers, Daniel Webb, Alex Torres, Trevor Rosenthal, Jim Johnson, Jordan Walden, and J.P. Howell. That list is riddled with the poster children for Relievers With Control Issues. In particular, Axford, Balfour, and Johnson stand out as raging tire fires. On the bright side, Bastardo tied for second in the group with a lovely 0.7 fWAR.

That just about sums up what you get with Tony No-Dad: lots of strikeouts (about 30%), lots of walks (about 12%), and a ton of frustration. On our deathbeds, we will probably regret spending all this time wondering why he walks so many batters, but at least we will rest easy knowing it wasn’t because of a decrease in fastball velocity. For the last four years, he’s been pretty steady around 93 MPH on the heater.

bastardo velo

On a positive note, Bastardo has upped his ground ball rate over the last two years and decreased his line drive rate. He also doesn’t really give up homers – only four in 2014 and just two in 2013. But he seems to turn himself into a one-pitch pitcher as the season slowly fades away into nothingness.Bastardo pitch usage

With only one pitch he consistently trusts down the stretch and spotty control overall, Bastardo has become too expensive for his skills. The Phillies reaped the benefits of his cheap, powerful bullpen arm for years while they overpaid veterans like Mike Adams. Now that Bastardo is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, he has moved over to the dark side of overcompensated, flawed relief pitchers. On a team going nowhere in 2015 that is thankfully blessed with a deep bullpen, Bastardo’s control problems seem to have placed him behind Diekman and may eventually even slot him behind Mario Hollands.

Antonio Bastardo’s 2011-2014 performance reinforces the cliché that relievers are fickle. Maybe the Phillies get 2011/2013 Bastardo next year, and maybe they get 2012/2014 Bastardo. For what will likely be close to $3 or even $4 million, the Phillies will get a high-strikeout reliever who struggles with control and who has never, ever walked fewer than four batters per nine innings.

Grade: C-

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12 comments

  1. bubba0101

    October 22, 2014 12:26 PM

    He doesnt fit into the plan. Drop him and spend the money elsewhere. It also appears to me that hes losing velo every year as well. I saw him pitch a game where he started against the dodgers years back where he was at 95+. Now I see him in the low 90s at best. Hes pretty much average now and hes dropping down the chart.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      October 22, 2014 02:10 PM

      Major league contracts are guaranteed, so he’s getting paid in 2015 no matter what.

      • ASK

        October 22, 2014 05:00 PM

        Adam,

        Isn’t Bastardo still arbitration eligible? If so, I believe they can choose not to offer him arbitration – essentially the same as dropping him (as bubba0101 suggests) – and not owe him anything in 2015.

      • bubba0101

        October 23, 2014 08:50 AM

        That’s what I thought too. He’s too much. I dont know exactly but they could non-tender him or something like that.

      • Brad Engler

        October 23, 2014 09:06 AM

        He could be non-tendered, but that’s just like releasing him. Pretty good chance someone will give Philly something, even if it’s a low minors lottery ticket, for Bastardo.

  2. Hank Greenberg

    October 22, 2014 03:30 PM

    I’m 83 and havebeen a loyal phillies fan since I was five years old and went to watch them in the Baker Bowl at Broad and Lehigh. So I have seen a lot of pitchrs, from great to lousy, both starters and reievers. When Bastardo first earned a spot in the bullpen I was impressed with his velocity and stuff, and he did a good job during the Phillies multi year run to glory. But he has changed; he seems to think he has to strike everyone out, hence the walks. Apparently, he doesn’t take advice very well. Withthe advent of Jake Diekman as a lefty set-up man, I think it would be prudent to go forward without Bastardo.

    • glovesdroppa

      October 22, 2014 07:24 PM

      Great point with Diekman, he pretty much usurped Bastardo’s role. If Bastardo’s not the primary lefty set-up man, he’s being paid too much.

  3. Adam Dembowitz

    October 22, 2014 05:31 PM

    I was a bit dismissive. I never considered the possibility that the Phillies would not offer Bastardo arbitration. Bastardo isn’t a non-tender candidate and still has significant trade value. So, within that reasoning, his contract is essentially a sure thing. If the Phillies just let him walk, they’d be sending a surefire trade deadline candidate out the door for nothing.

    • Chris

      October 22, 2014 05:54 PM

      Wasnt he a surefire candidate this year?

      • zengreaser

        October 22, 2014 07:47 PM

        Yeah, but you know GMs lowballed Ruben due to the perception that he was going to be desperate to move pieces to save his job. We’re better off for having held onto those players. Now teams like the Cardinals (who have a good pool of prospects and the fresh memory of lefty specialist Randy Choate melting down in the playoffs) should be more willing to cut a deal for Bastardo.

  4. raymond mosley

    October 22, 2014 05:40 PM

    I would keep him .I have seen Diekman get lit up. The Phillies need to give Bastardo more than a dead end street. I feel the same way about Gilles . Keep Bastardo and Paplebon around until the trading period . Especially until these youngsters prove that they are indeed ready.

    • Beez Nutz

      October 23, 2014 02:51 PM

      I agree with that completely …

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