Left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo and the Phillies have agreed on a one-year, $1.4 million deal today, avoiding the sometimes contentious salary arbitration procedure. The deal contains unnamed performance bonuses.
Bastardo is coming off a season in which he struggled a bit with his control and saw his ERA jump from 2.64 in 2011 to 4.33 last year. However, Bastardo’s K-rate actually improved in 2012, from 10.9 K/9 to 14.0 K/9.
Those 14.0 K/9 placed Bastardo third in the National League with pitchers who threw at least 50 innings, behind Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman.
Bastardo has had a weird two-year run with the Phils. For most of the 2011 season, he was flat-out unhittable, the most dominant left-handed reliever in baseball.
From opening day until September 2, Bastardo’s ERA was 1.35 and held opponents to a .110 batting average with 66 Ks in 53.1 innings. However, from September 3 until the end of the season, Bastardo fell apart, posting an ERA of 17.36 in his last eight games of the year, with opponents batting .409 against him with seven walks and four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
Last year, from May 24 through August 21, he posted an ERA of 7.46 with an opponent’s batting average of .255. His big problem was control. He still struck out 39 batters in 25 1/3 innings, but also walked 15.
Then, from August 24 through the end of the year, he recovered, with an ERA of 1.29 and an opponent’s batting average of .180, with 27 strikeouts and four walks in 14 innings.
The difference is obvious. Control. If Bastardo can keep his unhittable stuff in the strike zone, he’s among the best relievers in the game.
Bastardo’s contract agreement today means the Phillies have no arbitration players left this year.
That means no court dates and no hard feelings.
And at the low-low cost of $1.4 million, Bastardo is perhaps the most valuable pitcher in the bullpen, and will be counted on for big outs in the late innings as a set-up man in 2013.