Fatally Flawed Phillies: Can Philadelphia Win the World Series with Brad Lidge?

All the Ryan Howard HR's in the world won't mean a thing if the Phillies can't figure out their bullpen.

All the Ryan Howard HR's in the world won't mean a thing if the Phillies can't figure out their bullpen, and soon.

After a dominating showcase of offensive firepower and clutch pitching in last year’s World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Philadelphia Phillies quickly found themselves a favorite to become the first team since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees to repeat as winners of the Fall Classic. The team bolstered their already prolific offense with the signing of free agent Raul Ibanez, teaming the veteran slugger with Chase  Utley, Jimmy  Rollins, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to form the NL’s most feared and complete lineup. And as if that wasn’t enough ammunition to capture another pennant, Philadelphia added an one of the game’s elite starting pitchers in reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. World Series hero Cole Hamels was expected to be even better with one more year of maturity, and a healthy Brett Myers and Joe Blanton would serve as worthy counterparts in the middle of the Phillies rotation. Rookie J.A. Happ and a revitalized Pedro Martinez were both pleasant surprises and gave Philadelphia five quality starters to trot out to the hill. A stacked lineup, a quality starting five and a closer coming off one of the best seasons in recent memory…it seemed as if the all the pieces were in place for the Phillies to repeat as World Series champions. That is, until Brad Lidge took the mound.

The difference between the Brad Lidge of 2008 and the Brad Lidge of this year is so gargantuan that it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the real Lidge was abducted by aliens after last season’s historic run and replaced with a cheap knockoff version. In 2008 Lidge was nearly flawless, converting all 41 save chances on the strength of a 1.95 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 69 innings. Believe it or not, he got even better in the postseason, going a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities with a 0.96 ERA and recording the final out of the World Series. At only 31 years of age, the Phillies felt like they had found their long-term solution at closer. That is, until Brad Lidge took the mound.

Lidge hasn't received many high-fives for his performance this year.

Lidge hasn't received many high-fives for his performance this year.

Lidge is no stranger to meltdowns. After coughing up a titantic go-ahead 3-run HR to Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS something snapped and he clearly wasn’t the same pitcher afterwards, giving up a walk-off HR to Scott Podsednik in Game 2 of the World Series and a game-winning hit to Jermaine Dye in Game 4. The hangover from Pujols’ homer lasted throughout 2006 and 2007; Lidge blew 14 saves combined in those two years with a cumulative ERA of 4.36. He was demoted to the minors and moved to a set-up role, all to help him regain his confidence, but it never really clicked until he left the Astros and joined the Phillies last season. He looked like he had it all together again after a scintillating 2008 regular season and playoff run, which made it all the more the more puzzling why Lidge struggled so mightily this year. It looked like he had finally conquered the mental demons that haunted him since the 2005 postseason. That is, until Brad Lidge took the mound.

How bad has Brad Lidge been this year? So bad that if he was a free agent this off-season it’s unlikely that even the Nationals would try and sign him. In 57 innings Lidge has given up 47 earned runs for a whopping 7.34 ERA and has blown 11 saves in 42 chances. After only giving up 2 HRs last season, Lidge has served up 11 longballs in 2009, which helps to explain his 0-8 record. Sure even the game’s best closers blow 4-5 saves in a season, but 11? The Phillies still have been one of the NL’s better squads all year and they already clinched the East, but this team should be considered a disappointment because they had 100-win potential. That is, until Brad Lidge took the mound.

charlie-manuel

Charlie Manuel has some tough decisions to make heading into October.

So where do the Phillies go from here? Do they keep sending Lidge out to the mound hoping that one good outing will get him back on track or do they keep him off the playoff roster and pray that he never shows up at Citizen’s Bank Park again? Charlie Manuel has shown himself to be extremely loyal, but at what point does loyalty morph into utter stupidity? Philadelphia has other options in the bullpen, both Brett Myers and Ryan Madson have prior closing experience, but neither one is a sure thing. A team that should be riding high after clinching a playoff spot finds itself with more questions than answers in regard to their bullpen, and they only have four more games to figure it out. Despite having five players with at least 20 HRs, four players with at least 15 stolen bases, last year’s World Series MVP and the 2008 AL Cy Young winner the Phillies aren’t going to win the Fall Classic this October. Everything was lining up for Philadelphia to celebrate back-to-back World Series titles. That is, until Brad Lidge took the mound.

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One Response

  1. Baseballbriefs.com tracking back Fatally Flawed Phillies: Can Philadelphia Win the World Series with Brad Lidge?…

    Baseballbriefs.com tracking back Fatally Flawed Phillies: Can Philadelphia Win the World Series with Brad Lidge?…

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