Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Antonio Bastardo is struggling mightily in the early days of the 2017 season, but his issues are simple to pinpoint.

Yesterday, Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Antonio Bastardo has suffered through what some might call a rough start to the 2017 season.

The veteran left hander has completed four innings of pitching relief for the club. During that span he has pitched to a 20.50 ERA and a 14.96 FIP to go along with eight hits, nine earned runs, three home runs and five walk against just three strikeouts.

Rough.

But for Bastardo, the issues are easy to pinpoint. And as the tired cliche goes, the first step in solving a problem is identifying what the problem actually is.

Easily Identifiable

As Bastardo was scuffling through another outing in an eventual Pittsburgh Pirates loss to the Reds, I took a brave look at the lefty’s statcast data and noticed his strike zone map looked…let’s say non-optimal.

After last night, I took a look this morning and found more of the same.

Bastardo’s Strike Zone Map – 2017 vs. 2015

          

This type of wild range is nothing new for Bastardo, who works the outside fringes quite often. Above, you’ll see his strike zone map from 2017 on the left against his 2015 numbers on the right. I chose 2015 as he spent the entire year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, thus giving us a good barometer in terms of philosophy, approach, etc.

Perhaps the entirety of Bastardo’s struggles can be explained in the sentence that is going to come after this one.

Bastardo is not fooling hitters like he did in 2015.

Antonio Bastardo Plate Discipline Metrics

 O-Swing %F-Strike %SwStr %Swing %
2017 Bastardo21.9%56%9.4%46.5%
2016 NL Rate30%60.1%10.1%40.6%

legend: O-Swing is the percentage of pitches swung at by hitters outside of the zone; F-Strike is the percentage of first pitches of an at-bat that start with strikes; SwStr is amount of strikes that are of the swing-and-miss variety; Swing is plainly, the rate at which a batter offers at a pitch.

If we take a look at some of Bastardo’s plate discipline-related metrics as opposed to the overall National League 2016 rates, we can see a pitcher that just is not fooling anyone. Not only are batters not offering at Bastardo’s offerings that land outside of the zone, they are also swinging more at those pitches that do. The southpaw compounds these issues by throwing a lower first strike percentage than most while not inducing many swings and misses.

And, that swinging strike percentage is a far-cry from his 2015 figure of 14.6 percent.

So what can the Pittsburgh Pirates do to reverse Antonio Bastardo’s ugliness seen thus far?

That is hard to answer, and only because doing so would require completely changing how Bastardo has pitched in his career to this point. There may just be “a book” on the left-hander. Hitters know his modus operandi before he steps out onto the mound.

If you add in an ineffective slider and overall decreased velocity – Just 90.36 mph average on his fastball, down from 92.25 a year ago – with little separation between his heat and curve, it becomes clear that the Pittsburgh Pirates may be in for a full season of poor performance from a pitcher they tried to move during the offseason.

How long they will suffer remains to be seen.

 

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)