Remember JA Happ’s first start of the season against the Yankees? He threw more than 80 percent of his pitches for fastballs. In his second start, that percentage dipped a little as he began to incorporate his breaking pitches. And last night against San Diego, Antonio Bastardo threw a lot of fastballs – 77 of his 102 pitches (or just below 80 percent).
There are many reasons behind that. For one, the Phillies had given Bastardo an early 4-0 lead; no need to mix up breaking pitches and risk putting runners on base. Two, Charlie Manuel claimed Bastardo was a little too excited, affecting the grip of his breaking and off-speed pitch. Three, it was his first major league start.
I was surprised to find many people reacting quickly to Bastardo’s first start. A lot of people wrote (in various places) that the lack of prominence of secondary and tertiary pitches meant Bastardo was a better reliever. Again: It was his first start.
Here’s what we do know about Bastardo, so far:
- His plus fastball was starting out in the 93-95 mph range, regularly sitting at 94. Near the 40-pitch mark, the mean regressed to 93, and near the 70-pitch mark, he was comfortably throwing 91-92. He finished his outing throwing primarily 91 mph fastballs. Mixing his pitches and more seasoning in the majors should retain a higher velocity later in games; however, a 90-92 fastball range is still pretty good.
- The fastball moves well toward the end. Moreover, Bastardo isn’t afraid to pitch inside. He was throwing to most hitters on the inside part of the plate, almost pounding the zone with tenacity.
- The slider was pretty good, breaking tight and down in the zone. It seems Bastardo can work well pounding inside to right-handed hitters, then tossing the slider a little more toward the middle of the plate, but down hard.
- We almost didn’t see the changeup at all. We were told Scott Hairston launched one barely foul, but the game report reads it was a fastball he rocked.
We have to reserve judgment on Bastardo’s future role for a while. For one, we haven’t seen the changeup, which is supposedly his best pitch and the pitch capable of making Bastardo not just an ordinary starter, but a dominating one on the level of Cole Hamels. And as I said, it was his first start. He pitched through nerves and put together a splendid outing. Next are the formidable Dodgers on the road, an excruciating test for Bastardo. We’ll probably see more changeups and a few more sliders. But even then, we still can’t make judgments.
The only thing we can say, now, is that Antonio Bastardo has a very good arm.