On the surface, lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo's 2012 season represented a significant step back from his outstanding 2011 campaign. A closer look reveals a good bit of bad luck and small sample volatility, and good reason to be hopeful for the future.
52 IP, 81 strikeouts, 26 walks, 4.33 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 2.47 SIERA, 36.2% K%, .306 BABIP
2013 ZiPS Projection:
3.22 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 12.35 K/9
2013 Bill James Projection:
3.29 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 11.08 K/9
2013 Steamer Projection:
3.01 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 11.16 K/9
$1.4 million for 2013, arbitration eligible in 2014, Free Agent - 2016 (Cot's Contracts)
Antonio Bastardo was one of the overlooked heroes of the 2011 Phillies' 102 win squad. For the first five months of the season, the young left-hander was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Despite stumbling in September, Bastardo's season ending line (bolstered by a mind-boggling and historically low .179 BABIP), showed that he was one of the best relievers in baseball, but also that some regression was very likely in 2012.
And regress he did. The pendulum swung way back in the other direction in 2012, with Bastardo's ERA jumping over a point and a half (from 2.64 to 4.33). Much of this can be explained by the BABIP normalizing to a more human .306. His home run rate went up quite a bit, but that constituted the difference between seven home runs in 52 innings in 2012, and six bombs in 58 innings in 2011. But Bastardo actually demonstrated some improvements in 2012 that indicated that he might be better than he looked in 2011.
Bastardo's always been a good strikeout pitcher, but his strikeout rates spiked in 2012. His 14.02 K/9 was third best in baseball (min. 50 IP), trailing only the masterful Craig Kimbrel (16.66) and Aroldis Chapman (15.32), and his K% of 36.2% was sixth overall in MLB. He is also adept at inducing the best kind of batted ball, the infield fly ball -- his 17.9% IFFB% was 11th best.
Aside from a kind of high home run rate, the other thing that has been a major problem for Bastardo is command and control. He issues far too many walks (yucky 11.6 BB%). In 2011, Bastardo was actually better against right handed batters, and in 2012 he reverted to a more typical platoon split, although he still held righties to a respectable .317 wOBA.
For 2013, when the numbers shake out, Bastardo is probably a pitcher somewhere between his phenomenal 2011 and his disappointing and bizarre 2012. He's a young, cost-controlled relief pitcher who misses bats like crazy. What else do you want?