Risk, or reward? That question was asked many times when the Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Michael Bourn for closer Brad Lidge after the 2007 season.
At the end of a season in which the Phillies bullpen ERA ended at a dismal 4.50—among the dredges of the league—it was worth the risk to sign a closer who had lights-out potential.
Brad Lidge (one win, 12 saves, 26 strikeouts, and a 0.82 ERA through 22 innings) has proven to be all reward in these first two months of the season, just two years after posting a 5.28 ERA through 75 innings with the Houston Astros. He has become the reliable closer that the Phillies have been missing in recent years.
At the end of May 2007, the Phillies' bullpen had 12 saves, and the team's record stood at 26-27. Now, a year later, the Phillies bullpen has 14 saves, and the team record is 31-24.
The fact that the bullpen in 2008 has only two more saves than at the same point in '07 is mostly the result of fewer overall save opportunities, as the Phillies have recently been on an offensive tear, scoring 67 runs in a seven-game span, while splitting a four-game series against the Astros and then sweeping the Colorado Rockies. Lidge scored a save in the Phillies' only save opportunity during that run.
So far in the 2008 season, the Philadelphia bullpen holds a combined ERA of 2.81. That's good for first in the Major Leagues, and a big reason why they are only half a game behind the first-place Marlins entering a three-game series against Florida on the last weekend in May.
Another discrepancy between the '07 and '08 bullpens is the combined ERA in and after the seventh inning. In 2007 that ERA was 4.53, 24th in the Majors, while in 2008 that number has dropped to 2.98, third best in the league.
Phillies team leaders in ERA:
1. Brad Lidge - 0.82 (bullpen)
2. J.C. Romero - 1.33 (bullpen)
3. Chad Durbin - 1.89 (bullpen)
4. Rudy Saenez - 2.75 (bullpen)
5. Cole Hamels - 3.18 (Starter)
Thank you to MLB.com for the statistical information.