Antonio Bastardo’s 3.18 ERA belies the way he’s pitched. He is having his worst season as a Phillie, and as with most middle relievers, his performance can’t be determined solely by looking at ERA.
Bastardo already has three blown saves this season, one away from matching his career-high. His opponents have a .374 on-base percentage. Lefties have hit better (.823 OPS) than righties (.762).
Bastardo’s numbers against the first batter he faces upon entering a game are terrible. Those batters have hit .333/.429/.458, making it difficult to trust Bastardo in a jam. How can you when the first man he faces reaches nearly half the time?
Fangraphs.com has special stats that go deeper in evaluating how effective middle relievers have been. First, we’ll start with "shutdowns" and "meltdowns."
A meltdown is classified as any event in which a reliever made his team at least six percent less likely to win. A shutdown is when he does the opposite and makes his team six percent more likely to win. It’s not an arbitrary percentage – historical data shows that this is the percentage that a closer who does his job adds with a save or subtracts in a blown save. This simply adds a metric for middle relievers, who don’t rack up saves and blown saves.
Only two major-league relievers have more than Bastardo’s nine meltdowns. Meanwhile, he’s tied for 85th with just six shutdowns. Bastardo has cost the Phillies more than he’s helped them.
Next up is WPA – Win Probability Added. This one is relatively simple. It contextualizes events – a ninth-inning two-run homer is weighted much higher than a two-run shot in the first, for example.
The leader in WPA this season is Cardinals closer Edward Mujica, who is 18 for 18 in save opportunities with a 1.57 ERA. His WPA is 3.01.
What does that 3.01 mean? Here’s an example. Let’s say the Cardinals were 91 percent likely to win a game entering the ninth inning, and Mujica locked it down. They were 91 percent likely because, of all the games that had ever taken place with that score and that situation entering the ninth, 91 percent of the time the team in the Cardinals’ situation won.
By locking it down, Mujica changed the Cardinals’ odds of winning from 91 percent to 100 percent. That adds 0.09 to his WPA. Throughout the season he’s locked things down time after time to generate a massive 3.01 WPA.
Out of 154 relievers, Bastardo ranks 151st. His WPA is minus-1.31. The only relievers who have subtracted more from their teams’ odds of winning are:
- Ronald Belisario (Dodgers): Five losses, four blown saves
- Brandon League (Dodgers): 5.76 ERA, just lost his job as closer
- Fernando Rodney (Rays): Five blown saves, two losses
Bastardo’s minus-1.31 represents all of the percentage points of win odds he’s taken away from the Phillies this season. It has really added up.
Bastardo has never pitched this poorly. He didn’t pitch well last season, but even then he had just two more meltdowns all season than he has now. And his WPA was actually positive - barely - at plus-0.06. So even though he had an ERA over 4.00, Bastardo last season was a net positive for the Phillies, adding more than he subtracted.
That hasn’t been the case in 2013.