Every day this month, we here at Philthy Stuff will be sharing the resolutions of each member of the Phillies and what they can do to guide this team back to October. Next up, Antonio Bastardo.
Coming into 2011, the expectations for the Phillies' bullpen were tempered o say the least. Aside from Ryan Madson, who was unfortunately relegated to eighth inning duty, there wasn't too much to look forward to in the late innings. After all, Brad Lidge was injured, Jose Contreras was 38 years old and J.C. Romero, was, well, J.C. Romero.
Although the 'pen was able to get the job done while in a constant state of flux early on, it wasn't too long before everything fell into place. Coincidentally, it was around the time that Madson won the closer's job while Bastardo, who didn't really have a role, was slotted into the eighth inning as the primary set-up man. He would go on to be one of the best tools at Charlie Manuel's disposal, and despite a hiccup towards the end of the season, would end the year with a 2.64 ERA to go along with 70 strikeouts and eight saves in 58 innings. And he was effective against both lefties and righties.
So, what's next for Antonio Bastardo in 2012? Hopefully, more of the same (minus the 11.05 ERA in August) -- with a few changes.
Stay Fresh: The biggest roadblock in Bastardo's path to a truly great rookie season was a rough patch that began towards the tail end of August, when he began to walk more batters while suddenly becoming very homer-prone, which led to him becoming wildly ineffective down the stretch.
It is no surprise that this occurred during the tail end of his first season as a big league relief pitcher, which no doubt took quite a toll on the 25-year-old lefty. When you're not used to being relied upon so heavily in August in September, some fatigue is expected. And when that happens, control becomes an issue and balls are left up in the zone.
While he should be acclimated to the heavy workload next season, the young lefty needs to keep himself fresh and well-rested if he wishes to improve upon his fantastic 2011 effort -- as he will no doubt be similarly relied upon in the late innings.
Keep Control: If there is one flaw with Bastardo's performance in 2011, it's that he tended to be a bit wild at times, as evidenced by his four walks per nine innings. Of course, that sort of led to him being what they call “wildly effective,” a la Brad Lidge in 2008. But when you walk that many hitters as a relief pitcher, it is certainly a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, that was mitigated by his ability to strike out batters at great clip. Considering that he will be all of 26 years old when the 2012 season comes around, the goal of greater control is certainly attainable.
Avoid the Bubble Bursting: One of the things about young pitchers is that they have a tendency to pitch well over their heads when they first come onto the scene, if for no other reason than opposing teams have yet to really get a decent scouting report on the books. If Bastardo wants to avoid this pitfall, he not only has to come into the season with a fresh arm and a fresh mind, but he has to evolve on the mound.
For the most part, he was a two-pitch hurler last season as he relied heavily on his fastball and his slider -- both which accounted for more than 90-percent of his pitches thrown. Professional hitters pick up on those sort of tendencies, which could spell trouble for him if he fails to adjust to the scouting reports of opposing teams.
By not adding too much to their bullpen (except closer Jonathan Papelbon) in the offseason, the Phillies basically admitted to Bastardo that there would continue to be a great amount of responsibility heaped upon him in 2012. And for that reason, it is crucial for Bastardo to perform in 2012.