Aug 26, 2009, 3:01 PM EDT
Between the regular season and playoffs last year Brad Lidge converted 48-of-48 save chances with a 1.83 ERA, .199 opponents’ batting average, and 105 strikeouts in 76.2 innings.
This year Lidge blew his first save on April 18, coughed up more runs than he did all of last season by mid-May, and after his latest ugly outing last night is now 0-6 with nine blown saves and a 7.33 ERA in 46.2 innings.
He’s gone from one of the greatest closer seasons in baseball history to one of the worst closer seasons in baseball history, yet amazingly the Phillies are on pace to win more games than they won last year and have a comfortable seven-game lead in the NL East. All of which is why manager Charlie Manuel isn’t feeling a ton of pressure to strip ninth-inning duties from Lidge:
He’s got to stay with it. He’s got to keep going. I mean, what the hell? That’s all we can do. That’s where we’re at. That’s our closer. I’ve said that all along. That’s the guy we give the ball to in the ninth inning.
Interestingly, while getting another in the long line of votes of confidence from his manager Lidge was hinting that he probably shouldn’t have been out there to begin with after working on each of the previous three days:
It’s frustrating. Obviously, I’ll take the ball 10 days in a row. I want to get out there and compete and get those guys out. Unfortunately today it just didn’t happen. I didn’t have enough in the tank, I guess. I didn’t have anything on the ball tonight. The fourth day in a row for me historically has been pretty bad. I wasn’t able to make an adjustment today and I just didn’t have anything on the ball. I need to be able to make an adjustment if I throw four days in a row.
Lidge has been bad enough that it’s tough to make excuses for specific poor outings, but he does have a point. Not only did he pitch on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before blowing Tuesday’s game, he also warmed up Friday. Whether or not that’s too heavy of a workload for a closer is perhaps up for debate, but it’s definitely a much heavier workload than Lidge is used to. In fact, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes it was just the seventh time in eight seasons that Lidge has pitched on four straight days.
Zolecki speculates that Manuel will stick with Lidge unless his blown saves start putting the Phillies’ division lead in jeopardy or Brett Myers looks absolutely dominant once he returns from the disabled list, neither of which seem particularly likely at this point. Philadelphia winning 90-something games with a closer who has the highest ERA of all time among pitchers with 25-plus saves is a testament to the roster’s all-around strength, but it’ll be a whole lot tougher making noise again in October like this.
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