Lidge Blows Back-to-Back Saves: Time to Demote "Lights Out" To Setup Role?

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Lidge Blows Back-to-Back Saves: Time to Demote
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

 

What was the strength of last year's World Championship team is now the weakest link on the team.

 

Brad Lidge.

 

He was perfect in 2008.

 

41-for-41 in save opportunities during the regular season, plus an additional 7-for-7 in the postseason. The final pitch of Lidge's season brought the Phillies the franchise's World Championship in 28 years, solidifying Lidge's place into Philadelphia lore.

 

And 2009?

 

He's been one of the worst closers in baseball.

 

No. Actually, he's been one of the worst pitchers in baseball.

 

He has been a major weakness for a team that was so dependent on its closer last year.

 

Coming off a six-game streak, the Phillies took on the NL-best L.A. Dodgers in a weekend series.

 

Jamie Moyer pitched seven strong innings, cruising from part of the first through the sixth without allowing a base hit. For the day, he gave up just four hits and two earned runs, leaving the game with a 3-1 lead.

 

Enter Brad Lidge.

 

Lidge got two easy outs to enter the ninth, before a base hit, walk, and throwing error by Pedro Feliz loaded the bases.

 

Andre Ethier's double drove in the tying and winning runs, handing Lidge his fifth blown save of the season.

 

Tonight was close to the same scenario.

 

Joe Blanton pitched six superb innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run, in one of his finest outings of the season.

 

Heading into the ninth, the Phillies sported a 2-1 lead and once again handed the ball to Lidge to try to nail down the save.

 

And once again, Lidge failed.

 

He surrendered a one-out solo home run to pinch-hitter Rafael Furcal, just Furcal's second long ball of the season.

 

Both bullpens kept the game going until the twelfth, when Andre Ethier smashed a two-out, full-count home run off of Clay Condrey to win the game. It was Ethier's second walk-off hit in two days, and Lidge's second consecutive blown save.

 

It was Lidge's sixth blown save of the season.

 

Sixth.

 

At what point does it become time to take away Lidge's role as the team's closer? He has struggled with mental issues his entire career—see his tenure in Houston for proof—but was thought to have rebounded last year.

 

It's a difficult decision.

 

I would gladly take a pitiful season in year two if I knew I could have a perfect season and a World Championship in year one. That World Series banner will never be removed, and Lidge's place in the city of Philadelphia is forever ensured with his performance in 2008.

 

However, it's time to start thinking about the present.

 

And presently, Lidge does not have what it takes to close ballgames.

 

I don't feel the confidence I used to when Lidge entered the game. He always has given up many baserunners and gotten himself into a handful of jams, but he's worked through them.

 

Not this year.

 

After posting a 1.95 ERA in the '08 regular season and an even-better 0.96 mark in the postseason, Lidge's ERA for the '09 season has ballooned to 7.20, nearly four times what it was last year.

 

He is allowing close to two base runners per inning. He's given up three times as many home runs as he did last year in about one-third of the innings pitched. And he's converted just 68 percent of his save opportunities.

 

He just doesn't have it.

 

I would give Lidge about two weeks or so in the setup role just to get his head on straight and get his rhythm back. I don't care who would close games—Romero, Madson, Condrey—but it would hopefully allow Lidge to settle back and get his stuff back.

 

It's the cruel reality of professional sports.

 

A perfect dream season for Lidge in 2008, and he's on the verge of losing his starting job just several months into the following season.

 

That's the way it works.

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