The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: Antonio Bastardo
Coming into this past season, expectations were high for Antonio Bastardo. At least, they were as high as they could be for a middle reliever. The Pirates were searching for a new lefty middle reliever after they departed with Justin Wilson in a trade for Francisco Cervelli. Pittsburgh had been linked to Bastardo in the past, and they managed to snag him from the Phillies over the offseason. He started off slow, but managed to find his groove by the end of the year. All in all, his grade for the 2015 season ended up being higher than many would have anticipated it being midway through the season.
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Lefty relievers are vitally important to any bullpen, even more so than they are to a starting rotation. These pitchers can be brought in at any time solely to get one batter out, or to face a series of batters that don’t hit lefties well. The Pirates had success with lefty reliever Justin Wilson in the past, and now Bastardo had taken over that role. Unfortunately for him, his outings did not start out well.
Bastardo had a 4.50 ERA in April, followed by a 5.40 ERA in May. Many Pirates’ blogs and sites (including this one) labelled him as one of the least valuable players for the Pirates in the early going, and rightfully so. His outings often consisted of a lot of pitches and putting runners on. He only allowed one run in June, but allowed six runs in July, partially thanks to 12 walks issued. Fans were clamoring for other relievers to replace Bastardo and for him to the designated for assignment so Vance Worley or another minor league pitcher could take his spot in the pen.
But to the Pirates’ credit, they stuck with Bastardo, who posted a 1.46 ERA in August and a 2.38 ERA in September. When guys like Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke were fading in the most important months of the season, Bastardo stepped up.
When all was said and done, Bastardo finished with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, both better than his career numbers. He was rightfully criticized for his early season performance, but it’s also important to note that he was often placed in tough situations. It’s also hard to precede Tony Watson ad Mark Melancon at the back-end of the pen; any seventh inning reliever would be unfairly compared to those to.
Luckily, Jared Hughes and then Joakim Soria were able to take over the seventh inning role, and the pressure was taken off Bastardo. Maybe I liked him more than other fans, but he grew on me as the season went on. He was worth about what he made this past season ($3.1 million), and he got better as the year progressed. While he more than likely won’t be a Pirate next season, he was part of what became the best bullpen in baseball by the end of the year.
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