The Closer

Large_brad-lidge-carlos-ruiz_lehighvalley

(Source: AP)

Who else can close games? This question has been asked since around June of last year when it became apparent that Brad Lidge wasn't going to be anywhere near the same pitcher that he was in 2008. But since the Phillies led wire to wire last year, they were able to keep running Lidge out there, hoping he would regain his 2008 form at some point. There was no sense of urgency with the team in 1st place the entire season. And the result was 11 blown saves by Lidge and another handful or more by the rest of the bullpen. Their 2010 options seem as limited as they were in 2009, but it's a little more serious this time since the Phillies are chasing the Braves, rather than sitting in 1st place.

 
I don't think a committee approach will work. Most relievers need their roles defined to be successful over the long haul. And all the guys who would be part of any committee are guys who have not pitched well in a closer's role. It seems like all that would accomplish is to spread the blame among three or four guys, rather than one. Do you really think Lidge would be more effective pitching in the 7th vs the 9th? I doubt it. So what are the options?:
 
– Ryan Madson. Madson has the stuff to be a closer, but apparently doesn't seem to have what it takes upstairs to handle the job on a regular basis. He has had several brief auditions for the job over the years and has never pitched well enough to warrant sticking with him. The one plus with him though is when he blows saves, he usually blows them more quickly and less painfully, whereas Lidge drags it out with lots of 2-0 and 3-1 counts and numerous trips to the mound by Chooch. It's like death by shotgun vs death by a thousand cuts.
 
– Jose Contreras. Contreras also has the stuff to be a closer. And I would give him the job next if they decide to move away from Lidge. Unfortunately, he has also had control issues and most of his successful saves were adventures, similar to Lidge's back to back saves vs. Colorado last week.
 
– J.C. Romero. Romero has never really closed and isn't really an option. He also has control problems.
 
– Scott Mathieson. Mathieson made the AAA all star team and has been closing well for Lehigh all year. And his fastball is clocked in the high 90's. So it appears he has the stuff to do it. He's battled through several arm injuries to make it back to this point and he's still only 26 years old. Maybe he can reinvent himself as a big league closer like Jason Isringhausen did after similar injury problems a decade ago. Unfortunately, at the big league level so far he's looked a lot more like Tim Matheson. And actually now that I think of it, "You f*cked up, you trusted us…we'll make the best of it" or "My advice to you is to drink and drink heavily" are perfect mottos for dealing with the Phils' bullpen this season.
 
– Brad Lidge. We keep getting suckered into letting him keep the job after he has a few decent outings because he's the only guy on the staff who has ever done it well for any length of time. But you can't suffer too many more losses like Saturday night vs the Nats, where your offense battles back, Chooch gets a clutch hit to put you ahead in the top of the 9th, and then Lidge craps all over it. But yet every time you think this team will be demoralized after he blows a save, they bounce back like they did on Sunday. And then Lidge teased us again on Sunday by having an easy 1-2-3 inning. In this relationship it seems like we're Elaine and he's Puddy and we keep staying with him because there is no one better. At this point they ought to have some brand of hard liquor sponsoring a Lidge save situation, since I'm sure many of us are reaching for something strong at that point.
 
– Chan Ho Park. Park was released by the Yankees over the weekend after they acquired Kerry Wood from Cleveland. I don't think he can close though. The Phils wanted to keep Park last off-season and ended up signing Danys Baez to replace him after Chan Ho signed with the Yanks, so he should be worth a look. At the very least he would be an upgrade over Herndon and Baez, and the Yanks would be paying most of his salary. And he was one of the few guys in the pen last year who could give you multiple innings. Right now their entire relief staff seems to be 1-inning pitchers.
 
– Other? Anyone else would have to acquired through waivers. At best most likely you'd just be adding another arm to the pen for depth and not someone who could step in and close games for you.
 
So it's looking like Lidge's job by default again for now unless he really implodes.
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3 Responses

  1. can’t send down herndon unless they want to completly lose him back to the Angels. he was a rule 5 pick.
    they can’t get rid of baez because of the 2.5 they pay him to be a translater.
    stick with lidge. I see it like the war in iraq. I don’t agree with it but I back the troops up 100%
    they’re taking the division. bottom line

  2. “At this point they ought to have some brand of hard liquor sponsoring a Lidge save situation, since I’m sure many of us are reaching for something strong at that point.”
    The NINTH inning should be the Budweiser “Thirst Inning”, instead of whenever else they have it. Or just have Jameson, Guinness, and Bailey’s all team up for the “Car Bomb Inning”.

  3. Two things here.
    Herndon is Rule 5. WHO CARES?! He has not been good and his numbers indicate that he is pitching better than he has been. I don’t care how amazing he was in Spring Training. Right now we are being handcuffed by a future that may never materialize – and at the expense of OUR prospects.
    Baez is owed money. Great. In economics, that is called a sunk cost. Unless they can undo that contract, what he is owed at this point doesn’t matter. Baez needs to be sent down so he can figure out his life and maybe get some control. Hey, sending down Cliff Lee and Brett Myers worked for a period. Maybe it can work for Baez? We have nothing to lose at this point.
    If we are going to rely on Lidge for the rest of the year, we should have just traded Werth because hoping that he gets better is not a strategy that we can or should rely on. Give the guys in the minors a shot already. There’s no reason not to given the way Lidge has performed.

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