Who's the better closer: Brad Lidge or Francisco Rodriguez?
I'm going with Lidge here. Now, can you say I'm choosing Lidge because I'm a Phillies fan? Maybe. But I have the statistics to back it up.
To me, who cares if Rodriguez has the most saves in baseball and broke Bobby Thigpen's save record. I care more about blown saves; they truly tell you about the closer.
Sure it is extremely difficult to have 64 save opportunities and save them all. But it's extremely difficult to have 36 opportunities and save them all as well.
Anyway, let's run down the statistics between the two.
Earned Run Average (ERA)- Lidge has 2.01, Rodriguez has 2.42
Saves- Rodriguez has 58, Lidge has 36
Blown Saves- Lidge has 0, Rodriguez has 6
Strikeouts- Lidge has 80, Rodriguez has 72
Walks and Hits per Innings Pitcher (WHIP)- Lidge has 1.20, Rodriguez has 1.26
Innings Pitched- Rodriguez has 63.1, Lidge has 62.2 (Lidge has pitched in many non-save opportunities, Rodriguez has not)
Earned Runs- Lidge has 14, Rodriguez has 17
Hits- Lidge has 46, Rodriguez has 49
Looking at these statistics, Rodriguez only has the edge in two of the categories; saves and innings pitched, and innings pitched is very close.
But as I said before, saves are overrated. The closers on the best teams are going to get more save opportunities than those on the lesser teams. If the Phillies were as good as the Angels, Lidge would be closing in on 50 saves.
The real stats to look at are blown saves, earned run average, and earned runs/hits. These three stats tell you how efficient the pitcher is. They show you if the pitcher comes out and dominates and gets the job done all the time.
Lidge shows that in each of these stats. He's yet to blow a save, and he doesn't give up many hits or runs. And not giving up hits and runs is huge because you save more energ, and you don't run that risk of blowing a save.
With all that said, I do not think Brad Lidge is the best closer in baseball. I would say he's the second best, right behind Mariano Rivera. Rivera's 34 saves in 35 opportunities, 72 strikeouts, 0.70 WHIP, 10 earned runs, and 1.41 ERA is fantastic. Matched up with Rodriguez and Lidge, he blows them away.
I'm not saying Rodriguez is not a good closer; he's a fantastic closer. He broke Bobby Thigpen's save record and I applaud him for that. But I do think Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera are better closers.
So if someone came up to me and asked me which closer I would want on the mound in in a save situation, I would say Mariano Rivera first, Brad Lidge second, and Francisco Rodriguez third.