Shades of 2009
Brad Lidge‘s blown save tonight in a 7-5 loss to the Nationals stirred more memories of his nightmarish 2009, when he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 31 saves in 42 opportunities (73.8 percent). But Charlie Manuel wasted no time in his post game news conference telling folks Lidge is his guy.
“He’s our closer,” he said. “We’ve been working with him now for two years. I guess right now we’ve got to keep continuing to work with him. He has his moments.”
Lidge, who is 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA and 10 saves in 14 opportunities (71.4 percent) this season, allowed a leadoff single to Michael Morse and walked Adam Kennedy with one out when he threw a 92 mph fastball to Ryan Zimmerman, who crushed the ball to center field for a three-run home run to win the game. Lidge said he shook off catcher Carlos Ruiz to throw the 2-1 pitch inside because he had success with that pitch against Zimmerman in the past.
Manuel said the Phillies have to keep working with Lidge. Why?
“Because that’s what we’ve got,” Manuel said.
The Phillies picked up Astros ace Roy Oswalt before today’s non-waiver trade deadline, but did not address a bullpen that entered the night ranked 10th in the National League with a 4.11 ERA. The Minnesota Twins got Nationals closer Matt Capps (3-3, 2.74 ERA, 26 saves) before the deadline, although it required their top prospect. The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Octavio Dotel (2-2, 4.28 ERA, 21 saves) from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two players. (Had the Phillies not traded Cliff Lee, perhaps they could have swung a prospect or two to get somebody like Capps or Dotel, right?)
Internal options? Ryan Madson has struggled as a closer, converting 18 of 24 save opportunities in his career. The Phillies said Danys Baez could be an option when they signed him to a two-year, $5.25 million contract, but he is 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA and has not pitched recently in many close situations. Jose Contreras might be the best option. He is 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA and three saves in three opportunities this year as closer.
“I hear you guys say that for two (gosh darn) years,” said Manuel, when asked about Madson. “I hear this and that, this and that. What the hell? We try this guy. We try that guy. We try this guy. Then I hear you bitch to me sometimes about their roles: ‘Guys don’t know their roles.’ I can go on all night now. Let’s just drop it right there.”
Lidge’s fastball this season has averaged just 92.5 mph, according to fangraphs.com. That is the lowest average of his career. His fastball averaged 93.6 mph in 2009, 94.3 mph in 2008 and 95.2 mph or better from 2004-07 with the Houston Astros. As his fastball has lost velocity, so has the separation in mph between his fastball and slider. He had 7.8 mph of separation between his fastball and slider this season, 8.2 mph in 2009 and 9.2 mph in 2008.
“I’m a guy that in the past has thrown 95, 96,” Lidge said. “This year I’m learning to pitch with a little bit less on my fastball. You don’t want to pay too much attention to it because you want to execute your pitches … it’s something I’ve got to learn to pitch with.”
Lidge, who had offseason elbow and knee surgeries, said he is not sure why his velocity is down, but said he is healthy.
“I don’t feel hurt or anything,” he said. “To me it’s not something I’m going to make a big deal of. It’s something I need to be able to pitch with. My rehab outings all the way through, it’s kind of stayed the same. If it’s not going to get back to the 94, 95 as it has in the past, then I’ve got to pitch with what I’ve got.”