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2012 Phillies Exit Interview: Antonio Bastardo

The young left handed reliever followed a historic 2011 season with an erratic performance in 2012, but a closer look at the numbers reveals plenty of reason to be optimistic going forward.

Drew Hallowell

Antonio Bastardo at Baseball Reference.

Antonio Bastardo at Fangraphs.

As we discussed in our player preview back in March, Antonio Bastardo was absolutely tremendous in 2011, with the young lefty reliever utterly dominating the league through the season's first five months, until a rough September that wound up being a nasty peep at parts of 2012 season performance. The 2012 season was not a complete letdown for Bastardo, as he actually improved in at least some key areas.

The effects and variability of BAbip (Batting Average on Balls In Play), and a pitcher's ability to control same, are still debated, but there's little to no dispute that Bastardo's freakish .179 BAbip in 2011 was unsustainable and would regress toward the league mean of .290-.300. And regress it did; Bastardo's .306 BAbip was significantly higher and contributed a great deal toward his worse "outcome" statistics. His ERA skyrocketed from 2.64 to 4.33, but the advanced ERA-based metrics were virtually the same or even better in 2012: FIP was nearly identical (2011: 3.30, 2012: 3.34), his xFIP was significantly lower (3.56 down to 3.18 in 2012), as was his SIERA (2.93 to 2.47 in 2012).

Also, unlike 2011, where a dreadful September turned a potentially historic season into a merely great one, Bastardo had one of his best months of 2012 in September, striking out 20 of the 44 batters he faced and only issuing four walks. Overall on the season, Bastardo's strikeout average of 14.02 per nine innings was among the best marks in baseball for a reliever, and his 36.2% strikeout rate was sixth best in baseball among pitchers with 50 or more innings.

So why did Bastardo's 2012 season look so much worse than his 2011 season?

First, we can look at line drive rate. Bastardo's 22.3% line drive rate was a substantial increase over his 15.9% number from 2011. The league average for 2012 was 20.9%, so 22.3% was not terrible, just a big bump from his 2011 results.

His home run/fly ball (HR/FB) rate increased, from 8.1% to 12.5%. League average was 11.3% so, again, he was high, but not outrageously so.

Bastardo was excellent again in inducing infield fly balls, the second best thing a pitcher can do besides racking up strikeouts; 17.9% of all batted balls hit in the air against Bastardo were infield flies.

Ultimately, though, these numbers are extremely volatile thanks to the always present "small sample size" issue. That spike in home run rate? He allowed seven home runs in 2012 in 52 innings, compared to six homers in 58 innings in 2011. A stiff breeze on the right batted ball and things look really different from a numbers perspective.

Bastardo's big problem continues to be control. His 11.2% walk rate is quite high, but if he can keep striking batters out at a 30% plus clip, that will mitigate the damage to a fair extent.

Overall, Bastardo's 2011 and 2012 seasons should probably be placed somewhere in guidebook for overreacting to small sample sizes, and analyzing BAbip regression.

And now, the Exit Interview:

1. How did you let your teammates down this season?

I was an innocent victim of statistical gravity and small sample sizes.

2. How did you let your manager and GM down this season?

Not pointing fingers here, but Ryan Madson to Jonathan Papelbon was more or less a lateral move. Counting on Chad Qualls to be your set-up guy? Or me? Was there a plan other than "get eight innings from Doc and give the ball to Pap"?

3. What do you have to say to all the fans you let down this season?

There will be "BASTARDO" shirseys at the Majestic store in 2013. At last.

4. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst, how do you rate on the "it's my fault we're in this freaking mess and missed the playoffs scale"

The bullpen was bad this year, I can't lie about that. I had some bad luck, but had a few nice runs also. Going with a "4."

5. Other than yourself, which player caused this fiasco of a season the most?

Hint: Rhymes with "Balls."