By Barry Jeffrey, Jr.:
If there is a weakness on the Phillies, most of the experts point to here. Many questions pertaining to the pen often come up. Among these questions is which Brad Lidge will show up?
Lidge is still the closer, and a pricey one ($11.5 million) whose in game stability has been questioned the last few years. After his “Lights Out” perfect season that was a huge reason the Phillies won the World Series, Lidge self destructed in 2009. His ERA in that year was higher than the federal deficit and by season’s end he had 11 blown saves and he completely lost his confidence. Last year, he began the season on the disabled list as it was found that some of his issues the previous year were health related due to injury. After he returned from the DL he had some ups and downs, but once he got loose and the season went on he became a shut down closer again. Very dominant in the second half and down the stretch Lidge once again helped the Phillies into the playoffs with 27 saves out of 32 opportunities. However most experts are saying he did it with smoke and mirrors because his velocity was down and his pitches did not have the movement that they did when he was completely healthy back in 2008. Smoke and mirrors maybe, but with a ERA of 2.96 and a 10.2 K/9 along with a 1.23 WHIP he got results out of all of it.
Maybe the experts are missing something here. Like maybe not having his great stuff of the past, Brad Lidge actually learned how to pitch, instead of just relying on heat and intimidation. This year will tell more about where Lidge stands. It is not only a big year for him as a Phillie, but a big year for him period as it’s not a sure thing the Phillies will pick up the $12.5 million team option of his contract and he may be going into possible free agency after the year.
Ryan Madson may be the most important reliever on the team. He is always Charlie’s first choice to pitch in most games especially in the 8th being the bridge to the closer. His season last year started out as a disaster. Thrust into the closer role because of Lidge’s injury, Madson pitched poorly blowing quite a few saves early on in the season. He was so bad that he made himself angry and he ended up kicking a chair and breaking his toe, landing him on the DL at the same time as Lidge was on it. This act leads many to question Madson’s mental makeup and maturity. He must have got in some good self-reflection time while on the DL, because when he returned Madson was downright dominant with a WHIP of 1.04. His pitching was so filthy he lowered his ERA almost 4 full points to 2.55 and re-established himself as one of the top set up men in the game. It seems you have to just keep him out of the closer’s role as he had 5 blown saves to go with his 5 saves. Madson should once again be the go to guy in the 8th inning once more and I am sure Charlie will go to him often.
Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.
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