“You know, just when I think you’re the shallowest man I know, you somehow manage to drain a little bit more out of the pool.”
The great thing about the line is it can be used in nearly any circumstance. So last night when watching Brad Lidge flounder through five hitters for his 11th blown save of the season, a derivation of that sentence immediately came to mind.
Just when you thought he couldn’t get any lower, he somehow managed to drain a little more out of the pool.
Nope, it’s not easy being Brad Lidge these days, especially since the playoffs are quickly approaching and his pitching and the results therein do not look any different from where we were in May. Yeah, Lidge has saved 31 games, which is pretty good considering he has blown those 11 attempts AND spent 19 days on the disabled list.
However, even with that time off Lidge has somehow managed to get into 63 games. That’s a lot considering he got into 72 games last year and barely missed any time at all.
Now here’s the thing about those 63 games… it’s a threshold number. In fact, according to the always interesting Baseball-Reference blog, of all the pitchers who have appeared in at least 60 games, Lidge has the fourth-worst ERA in Major League Baseball history.
I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking, “How does a guy with 11 blown saves, an 0-8 record, a 7.48 ERA (10.80 in September and 8.10 in the second half), all while allowing opponents to bat .305 (nearly .400 this month) off of him, get on the playoff roster let alone an entrenched spot in the back of the bullpen.”
Easy. Who else ya got?
There is an easy way to handle the Lidge situation where egos don’t take a beating and the team can win games the way they did last year. After all, something needs to be done because there are 11 games remaining in the season, home-field advantage is on the line, and the Phillies have lost 10 games this year when leading after eight innings.
Talk about demoralizing.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Lidge told the scribes after last night’s debacle. “I’m disappointed. They hit the ball. They did a good job. I’m definitely frustrated, a little bit at a loss. I’m sure there’s stuff I can do better.”
Indeed. Nevertheless, Manuel says he isn’t ready to pull the plug… that’s what he says.
“These are our guys. We’ll stick with him,” Manuel said. “Lidge has to do it. Between him and Madson, they’ve got to get it done. We’re waiting to see how long Brett’s going to be. Right now, Brett’s not even in the picture. We’ve just got to get better.”
This isn’t original, in fact I’ve been trotting it out there for a while now. But when push comes to shove, expect Charlie not to go batter-to-batter and matchup-to-matchup in particularly tight games. He’s done it before to decent results, too. Remember that game in Atlanta during August when Lidge got a one-out save? In that game Manuel used Ryan Madson for a third of an inning, Scott Eyre for two-thirds, and Lidge for the final out.
Of course Charlie had healthy arms back then, which is something he’s missing these days. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if two or three guys end up working in the ninth inning from here on out.
Why not? There are plenty of saves to go around.
Otherwise, perhaps the managerial defined closer role has not been assigned yet. Oh sure, Charlie calls Lidge the closer, but look at the World Series over the last few years and think about how quickly things change.
In 2006, the Cardinals’ Adam Wainright saved four games throughout the postseason and did not allow a run in nine games. It was Wainright, a rookie, who was on the mound when the Cards closed out the World Series in Game 5 over the Tigers. Wainright’s save total in the playoffs was one more than he had in 61 games during the regular season, since Jason Isringhausen was serving as the closer until injuries and 10 blown saves ended his year.
In 2005, another rookie Bobby Jenks took over the ninth inning for the White Sox as they sewed up their first World Series title since 1917. Jenks saved six games during the regular season and five in the playoffs during the White Sox run when manager Ozzie Guillen decided to give the ball to the rookie instead of veteran Dustin Hermanson, who led the club with 34 saves that year.
Ugueth Urbina wasn’t even with the Marlins when the 2003 season started, but he was on the mound at the end. Traded from Texas to Florida in July of ’03, Urbina saved just six games during the regular season for the Marlins, but got two during the World Series upset over the Yankees and two others during the playoffs.
Of course, who can forget K-Rod setting up Troy Percival during the Angels’ victory over the Giants in seven games in 2002? Francisco Rodriguez appeared in just five games for the Angeles during the season, and 11 during the playoffs. Four of those games were in the World Series. Imagine that… a guy pitched in four World Series games and just five regular big league games and did nothing but hang zeroes on the board.
In 18 2/3 innings during the playoffs in ’02, K-Rod notched 28 strikeouts. He had 13 in just 5 2/3 during the regular season.
Call K-Rod the Marty Bystrom of the bullpen.
So it can be done, folks. Just because Lidge is called “the closer” now, doesn’t mean much when the playoffs start. Besides, in 2007 the Rockies made it to the World Series with 29 blown saves during the season. The Phillies aren’t anywhere near that total…