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Lidge's awful performance forces DL trip

Jun 9, 2009, 5:38 PM EDT

Unlike the Mets with Oliver Perez, the Phillies didn’t dream up a knee
injury to excuse putting Brad Lidge on the DL — the inflammation is
real and has bothered him since April. Still, this is all about lousy
pitching.

Pretty much everything has gone wrong for Lidge since he closed out the
2008 World Series. He complained of forearm tightness during the spring
and didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 17. He was
generally ineffective over the rest of March, and while he did convert
his first three save chances of the regular season, he gave up runs in
two of them. On April 18, his run of 47 straight save conversions (54
including the postseason) ended when he gave up four runs in a loss to
the Padres. Since that date, he’s blown six of his 16 chances. He’s
allowed runs in 13 of his 28 appearances this season, and his ERA
stands at 7.27.

What worked for Lidge last year just isn’t this season. In 2008, he
threw his slider more than half of the time for the first time in his
career. He was doing the same thing this season, but hitters were doing
a much better job of laying off it and waiting for fastballs. It’s no
secret that Lidge doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but that’s
not just a fastball issue. His slider, which once averaged 88 mph, is
down to 85 mph now, giving hitters more time to let it go if it’s a
ball or foul it off if it’s a strike. He still gets his fastball to the
plate at 92-95 mph, but without a lot of movement, it’s a hittable
pitch.

Just look at what’s happened to Lidge when he’s not getting ahead of the count and keeping the hitters honest:

2008
After 1-0 – .271 AVG, .374 SLG in 131 PA
After 0-1 – .130 AVG, .179 SLG in 136 PA

2009
After 1-0 – .354 AVG, .833 SLG in 60 PA
After 0-1 – .226 AVG, .321 SLG in 57 PA

Lidge isn’t as good as usual in slider counts either, but when
hitters can guess fastball, they’re feasting off him. Six of the seven
homers off him have come after 1-0.

I’m not sure what’s next, but I think the DL stint was past due;
Lidge badly needs some time off to think about things. His stuff is
still plenty good enough to get outs. The loss in velocity is quite
real, but there was a bigger drop-off prior to 2008 than there has been
since. Given time to work on his delivery and maybe attempt to hide his
slider a little better, he has a chance to come back and reemerge as a
shutdown closer. In the meantime, the Phillies will be just fine in the
ninth inning with Ryan Madson. Getting to him in the seventh and eighth
could be a problem, but at least they have J.C. Romero back from his
suspension.

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