The optimist in me wants desperately to believe that Phillies closer Brad Lidge is still the same pitcher that was absolutely perfect in 2008. However, this part of me is being shouted down by the raging pessimist in me that cringes every time an opposing batter connects with a Lidge fastball.
Last year, even early on in his perfect season, Lidge produced a confidence that no matter the situation; he would rise to the occasion.
In 2009, that fire and determination seem to be no longer there. And so goes the confidence as well.
His slider is still a formidable pitch, but he has become far to predictable in his repertoire to be pitch like the 2008 version. Repetition in a game like baseball will eventually catch up with a pitcher.
It is unreasonable to ask that Lidge perform as he did in 2008. To ask of perfection is insane wishful thinking.
For Lidge and this ball club to be successful in the long run, stability in the closer's role is a must. Perfection is not a requirement. Realistically, an 85-90% success rate would make for a well above average year for a major league closer. This is the kind of ratio that Lidge would ultimately need to fall into.
To kick a player to the curb that brought a city its first championship of any kind in twenty-five years is the most unreasonable thought of all. Lidge had a year that no closer will ever have again in a single season. It is expected that the following year would pale in comparison; which is why a grace period should be implemented until things get way out of hand.
Many believe Ryan Madson has closer-type stuff. In a pinch, Madson can assume Lidge's duties when called upon. When this may happen is anybody's guess.
Do not be surprised that Lidge's recent struggles result in a mysterious disabled list stint with Madson taking over at closer. This may be necessary to get either Lidge's head or suspect knee cleared up for the time when the games start to count even more down the stretch.
Lidge needs to bare down to silence the critics that say he has reverted to his post-Albert Pujols home run days. 2008 is over. 2009's script is yet to be finished. Will Lidge make the final draft?