If you happened to watch the postgame show after the Philadelphia Phillies’ disappointing loss last night, you may have seen Ricky Bottalico’s rant about Antonio Bastardo. Bottalico maintains that the Phillies need to move on from the Bastardo experiment, although he then countered and said that maybe the Phillies could just use Bastardo in the fifth or sixth inning.
First of all, I don’t think Bottalico really would get rid of Bastardo after two-thirds of a miserable season, or else he would be an absolute fool. Bastardo is a young left-handed reliever who is striking out over 12 batters per nine innings, and he had one of the best years by any relief pitcher ever last year (until September).
But he has been as inconsistent as any pitcher in the league in 2012. He’s had some days when he’s as unhittable as he was during his lights-out 2011 campaign, such as the game against the San Francisco Giants when he entered a tied game in the ninth inning and struck out all three batters. He has a devastating fastball and slider combination – again, when he’s on – and he’s really tough against lefties, as they’re hitting just .190 with a .635 OPS against Bastardo this year.
Then there are the outings like last night when he looked like a Single-A pitcher that got called up and had no clue what he was doing on the mound. Bastardo entered a game earlier this year after Kyle Kendrick threw a gem for seven innings, faced seven batters, allowed five to reach and three on walks, and was charged with five earned runs.
Realistically, Bastardo is probably just having a really tough year. Relievers are incredibly inconsistent from year to year, and Bastardo is likely – hopefully – just having a down season, although it’s even scarier considering he struggled at the end of last year also. His strikeouts show he can be really tough for hitters when he’s on but he’s also walking more than ever and he’s give up a lot of home runs.
Hopefully Bastardo goes on to have a solid career and this year will be an aberration. But he better start showing something or the Phillies will relegate him to pitching in games when the team is down by five or more runs, and then when he gives up walks and home runs, it won’t really matter.