Lidge Blows It Again: What to Do About a Closer Who Can't Close Games

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Lidge Blows It Again: What to Do About a Closer Who Can't Close Games
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Similar scenario happened tonight.

Phillies are up 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, enter Brad Lidge, and boom! It's tied.

 

Another blown save for Lidge.

 

The Phillies still held on to win 4-3 in 12 innings courtesy of Ben Francisco's home run, and in the process took the first game of the series with the Chicago Cubs, but it was shaky.

 

What would have been automatic for Lidge has now become anything but.

 

Last year's postseason hero converted 41 of 41 save opportunities during the regular season and seven of seven during the playoffs, including the final out of the first World Series Championship for the Phillies in 28 seasons.

 

This season?

 

Lidge has seven blown saves after tonight. His 7.35 ERA is close to four times what it was last year. He's pitched in 46 games and given up a run in 21 of those appearances. That's almost half the time.

 

Compare that to last year when Lidge blew no saves, posted a 1.95 ERA, and gave up runs in 12 of his 72 appearances, just one-sixth of his games.

 

Last season was magical. I know that.

 

It's unfair to expect a repeat performance of a perfect season, in which Lidge finished eighth in the National League MVP voting, earned the MLB Comeback Player of the Year award, and DHL Delivery Man of the Year award.

 

And that World Series trophy, along with the image of a victorious Lidge moments after he struck out Eric Hinske to end Game 5 of the World Series, is priceless.

 

Lidge set the bar pretty high in his first season, and I had a feeling he would slump a little this year.

 

I thought that ERA might double to a mark around 3.50 or close to 4.00, and I expected a handful, maybe three or four, blown saves.

 

But a 7.24 ERA and seven blown saves? That's absurd.

 

The walks aren't so much the problem. Lidge has struggled with his control this season, but even last season he walked his fair share of hitters.

 

2008: 4.5 walks per nine innings

2009: 5.3 walks per nine innings

 

That's definitely a decline in Lidge's performance, but the more telling numbers are the rise in home runs allowed, hits allowed, and the decrease in strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

 

2008: 0.3 home runs / 6.5 hits / 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings

2009: 2.2 home runs / 10.5 hits / 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings

 

There reaches a point in which Lidge needs to have his closer role taken away from him.

 

It's that time.

 

Someone else needs to take over the role of the team's closer.

 

I think Ryan Madson is the best choice. He is arguably our best relief pitcher and has been on the team for quite some time. He even has experience as a closer from earlier this season when Lidge was on the DL.

 

Brett Myers has some experience as a closer, remember 2007 when Myers struck out Wily Mo Pena to win the division, but he is still injured.

 

I think Madson should take over the duties for now. If he does well, he should stay in that role. If he struggles, I would put Myers as the closer when he returns.

 

Lidge has lost his closing job before. He's had an up-and-down career, to say the least. I have faith in him that he can battle back and regain his closer role.

 

The bottom line is the Phillies appear to be going to the playoffs, and you cannot win in the postseason with a closer who can't close games.

 

It cannot be done.

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