Brad Lidge: Is Lights Out Back For The Philadelphia Phillies?

August 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

On July 31st, Brad Lidge blew yet another save for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The three-run bomb by Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was Lidge’s fourth blown save of the season, and for many fans, it was the last straw.

Yet again, talk radio and the blogosphere was flooded with fans screaming that Lidge should be moved out of the closer’s role, possibly in favor of set-up man Ryan Madson.

Manager Charlie Manuel refused to consider such a move. And over the last three weeks, something interesting happened.

Lidge started looking good. Really good.

In fact, Lidge has went seven-for-seven in save opportunities in the month of August, and has yet to give up a run.

So is this rebound a small sample size-induced mirage, or has Lidge finally figured it out? Is he back to being the same “lights out” closer of 2008?

The hard truth is that Lidge will never fully return to the heights of 2008. But yes, it does appear Lidge has worked past his issues, and is back to being a solid closer.

The “Perfect” Season Revisited

In 2008, Brad Lidge was perfect.  In 48 chances, he did not blow one save, and was about as valuable as a closer not named Mariano Rivera can be. Lidge was undeniably fantastic.

He was also a bit lucky.

During the 2008 season, only 3.8 percent of Lidge’s fly balls left the yard. The league average is around 10 percent, but due to small sample size and matchups, elite relievers do often beat that average.

However, Lidge’s career HR/FB ratio is 11.0 percent.

As a result, it seems likely that his 2008 percentage was an anomaly. He should not be expected to ever reach that level of home run prevention ever again in his career.

Therefore, fans waiting for a return of the perfect closer will continue to be frustrated.

Back to 2008 Levels?

By all statistical measures, Lidge had an awful 2009 season. His strikeout rate dropped to its lowest of level of his career, as he racked up a 9.36 K/9 rate.  That was down from his 2008 rate of 11.94.

In addition, Lidge walked more batters. His 5.22 BB/9 was also a career high.

And his home run rate, while abnormally low in 2008, went through the roof in 2009. His 1.69 HR/9 rate was yet another career high.

After a poor start to the 2010 season, many observers dealt with “deja vu.” Lidge’s struggles seemed to be a carbon copy of 2009.

Therefore, it may be a surprise to learn that Lidge’s strikeout and walk rates in 2010 are almost identical to his 2008 numbers.

2008 Lidge: 11.94 K/9, 4.54 BB/9

2010 Lidge: 11.12 K/9, 4.45 BB/9

His elevated 2010 ERA in comparison to 2008 is purely a result of his home run rate. While in 2008, his 3.8 percent HR/FB rate was lucky, this year, Lidge has been a bit unlucky. His 15.2 percent HR/FB rate is even higher than last year, and considering his improvements in strikeouts and control, is probably just bad luck.

But Lidge appears to have his stuff back. His control has never been stellar, but he has returned to his career averages, which is a fantastic sign.

August Success

But has Lidge actually turned the corner? Will he sustain his improvements in strikeout rate and walk rate, or should fans still be concerned of a regression back to 2009 Lidge?

The most promising sign that the new reliable Lidge is here to stay comes in his newfound August aversion to the free pass.

In eight August appearances, Lidge has not walked one batter. He is pounding the strike zone and getting batters to chase when he throws outside the zone.

This run is his longest streak of consecutive appearances without a walk since 2008, when Lidge went 10 appearances between April 21 and May 9 without issuing a free pass.

August has not been a fluke. It’s much easier to finish a game in the ninth when the closer is not giving anyone a free trot to first base.


Phillies fans have seen the best of Lidge (2008), and the worst of Lidge (2009).

This has sadly resulted in a tendency to be reactionary when it comes to Lidge. When he strings together a few strong appearances, “Lights Out” is back. 

But when he blows a save, the “Madson for closer” brigade comes out in full force.

The fact is, all closers blow saves sometimes. Lidge is no different.

But his improvements in his peripheral statistics should help Lidge limit those occurrences going forward.

The 2008 Lidge will never come back. But the embattled closer has returned to reliability.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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