Phillies can't afford Lidge closing in October
It is Game 1 of the NL Division Series, a work of systematic perfection for Charlie Manuel. His starter, Cliff Lee (or Cole Hamels, you choose) has dominated for seven innings. The offense clicks — homers by Ryan Howard and Chase Utley — the defense is breathtaking. Ryan Madson has thrown a 1-2-3 eighth.
All that remains are the last three outs.
Suddenly, Manuel shifts uncomfortably in the dugout as he wrestles with an impossible choice. The Phillies are leading by a run, which means it's time for Brad Lidge.
Actually, it's not. At least not exclusively.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed to FOXSports.com's senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal Friday that the team won't use Lidge as the sole reliever any more.
Amaro says of Lidge, with an 0-8 record and 7.48 ERA, "It's not
because we don't like him. We have a tremendous amount of respect for
him. He was the guy standing when we won the World Series. But the
fact of the matter is, he hasn't demonstrated he can do that now."
How Manuel negotiates this crossroads will likely determine how far the Phillies go in defending their world championship. It's hard to believe a closer-less team could possibly repeat, but contingency plans are being drawn as Lidge is trapped in an alternate universe.
After converting on all 48 save opportunities last year, Lidge has been reduced to throwing glorified batting practice — smoked to the tune of a .394 average this month alone. He has 11 blown saves, but even more damning is that his eight losses have occurred in the span of 4.1 innings, during which his ERA is 33.23.
According to research compiled at BaseballThinkFactory.org, Lidge has faced 43 batters in his losses — or 30 more than the minimum — which means opponents' on-base percentage is a stunning .690.
How could Charlie Manuel afford not to dump Lidge? The manager has three doomsday options for the postseason. The first would be turning Madson into the de facto savior, although he's 1-3 with a 7.24 ERA and 8-for-14 in save opportunities.
Brett Myers is a more logical choice, assuming he fully heals from a muscle strain in his back. Myers is scheduled to throw a bullpen session early next week, and insists he'll be ready by the regular season's final weekend.