Posted tagged ‘Brad Lidge’

Phillies Clinch

October 2, 2009
Philadelphia Phillies Clinch the N.L. East

Philadelphia Phillies Clinch the N.L. East

It should feel great that the Phillies clinched another playoff birth.  Though, for some reason, I’m just a little anxious.  I guess the only thing that would make me feel great is if I was confident in the Phillies winning a playoff series.

I have significant questions about the Phillies, specifically, their starting pitching and closer slot.  The Phillies boast a solid roster of starting pitchers, especially on paper.  However, the likes of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez aren’t really pumping out the dominating performances we need to get over the playoff hump.  Lee has been mediocre at best since his strong start here in Philadelphia.  Hamels is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t gotten any run support.  Pedro has pitched ok, but he doesn’t have the ability anymore to crush opponents and win games on his own.  Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ both have looked good, but aren’t top of the rotation guys right now.  In fact, Happ is battling a little bit of the injury bug.  Further complicating things is that the old stand-by, usually good for a solid start and long relief, Jamie Moyer is done for the season with some groin and hamstring issues.  They key to this situation is that the starters need to pull it together.  We need the dominating performances out Lee and Hamels.  Pedro and Blanton need to step it up.  There is nothing else that can be done.  We have to rely on our starting pitching.  If these guys want it bad enough and they should, I think that Lee, Hamels and the crew will prove they are capable of providing dominating playoff performances.

Even scarier is the closer situation.  Brad Lidge, Tyler Walker, Ryan Madson and even Brett Myers will be on the post-season roster.  Yet, we’re not sure who will show up as the closer.  As discussed in previous posts, we think Ryan Madson should be handed the role and be able to prepare like the closer.  Keep Lidge off the post-season roster and let Walker and Myers battle it out for the set-up role.  Whatever happens, the Phillies post-season relies on the bullpen, specifically the closer role.

As I look forward to the playoffs and the determination of the match-ups, I sit and wonder – which Phillies pitching staff will show up for the defense of the World Series title?

Phillies Bullpen Woes

September 25, 2009
Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Brad Lidge, the perfect closer from last season, has 11 blown saves.  Yet, Charlie Manuel keeps giving him opportunities to regain his form, because there isn’t anyone else to fulfill the role.  Ryan Madson has thrived as a set-up man last season and currently.  Brett Myers isn’t healthy enough to perform the closer role that he successfully manned a few years back.  Tyler Walker, a former Giants closer, could hold down the fort, but I really haven’t seen him close a game or pitch a tight inning since he has been with the Phillies.  None of the other relievers on the roster have the mentality or the power to close out games.  In fact, there is a rumor flying around that J.A. Happ could be the closer.  I’m sure Happ can close games, but a promising starting pitcher with some nagging injuries doesn’t the mental games that being a closer would bring. The hole at the closer position is going to be a huge problem come playoff time.

Quite frankly, the pressure is now heavily upon the starting pitching to provide at least 7 full innings of work.  Also, the offense will feel the pressure to provide significant run support for the starting pitching knowing that their bullpen is faltering.  Conversely, the opposing teams will do everything they can to get to the much maligned Phillies bullpen.  Having this glaring weakness on this Phillies team could not only be an issue dealt with each game, but could be extremely detrimental to entire psyche and mental state of this Phillies baseball team.

A simple solution, that I am not sure is the right one, would be to install Madson as the closer.  I think he could easily handle this duty if he is afforded the opportunity to prepare like a closer from the physical to mental aspects of the game.  Each game the Phillies go out and play without a designated closer, it supports each member of the bullpen to NOT have the mentality to close a game.  By designating Madson the closer, he’ll know and the rest of the team will know that Madson is their guy and each player can prepare for their roles appropriately.  Will it happen?  I doubt, I think we are stuck with some significant bullpen issues heading into a tough playoff field.

Another Blown Save for Lidge

August 26, 2009
Brad Lidge

Brad Lidge

The Phillies come from behind in the 9th inning to take the lead over the Pirates, only to have their supposed ace closer blow another save and game.  Brad Lidge, the maligned Phillies closer, couldn’t even record an out.  Lidge has issues and it’s now a problem that better be addressed heading into September and most likely the post season. 

In fact, yesterday’s poll on Philly.com/Sports asked a question related to “Is Lidge back on track?”  I voted no, but it surprised me how many people thought that Lidge had turned the corner and his problems were gone.  While I don’t consider myself to be one of those pessimistic Phillies fans, I am a realist.  I realize that Lidge’s problems aren’t going to be solved in one game.  Also, it’s not that Brad Lidge is pitching poorly; it’s that he is pitching poorly with game control issues.  If he could control the game and still pitch poorly, he would record some outs and not get into as many jams as he has been in.  Lidge has to call upon the skill and dedication he showed last year.  He has to take each game one at a time and just focus on controlling the game.

If I was Charlie Manuel, you better bet that I would have a back-up plan in place.  There are a few options.  Ryan Madson, while struggling on his own, could close a few games if necessary.  J.C. Romero is coming back from injury and could provide an inning of shut down work.  Even more intriguing is that Brett Myers, fresh off of hip surgery, is throwing rehabilitation games and could slide back into the closer role he performed a few years back.  Of course, the whole injury thing to Myers could throw that for a loop.  Finally, I think Manuel needs to do whatever it takes to get Lidge back on his game.  

The Phillies starters have given the team strong 6 to 7 innings each outing.  The starters should be able to rely on their bullpen and especially their closer to finish off the games.

A Triple Play, Utley Errors, Cliff Lee and a Sweep

August 25, 2009
Eric Bruntlett after he completed the unassisted triple play

Eric Bruntlett after he completed the unassisted triple play

The Phillies sweep the Mets, although it was anything but weird.  Of course, Brad Lidge gets into trouble in the ninth – two runners on with nobody out.  The Mets put on the double steal; a line drive to second base, Eric Bruntlett makes the catch, tags the sliding runner from first and steps on second base to end the game.  An unassisted triple play completed by Chase Utley’s reserve second basemen.  Utley had the day off.  The final game, yesterday, Chase Utley makes two errors in the first inning.  Both of those errors led to runs, Cliff Lee’s only runs of the game.  Cliff Lee pitched another stellar game, giving up no earned runs and only 6 hits through 7 innings.  The Phillies extended their lead in the NL East to 7 games and now hold the second best run differential in all of baseball.

While the triple play was amazing, even better that it ended the game and gave the Phillies a big win, it doesn’t hide the fact that Brad Lidge is still struggling to get outs and be consistent.  A closer for a prominent and well playing team should not let the first two runners on base and not record a single out.  He got lucky that Bruntlett was lucky and in the right place.  Lidge pitched well yesterday, but still doesn’t make up for his inconsistent play.  He needs to get it together for the stretch run and apparent playoff games.  Chase Utley’s errors were really only a blip on the radar.  Maybe his one day off affected his game?  Although, one has to be concerned that Utley did commit the two errors in the same inning and that they led to runs.  I think this will be quickly forgotten.  Finally, how great an acquisition was Cliff Lee?  The dude has been nothing but dominant.  He really solidified this pitching staff and made the Roy Halladay rumors and requests all worth nothing.  Let’s hope he keeps it up.  In fact, he is one of the more interesting pitchers to watch.  He has great command not only of the mound, but the entire game.  He lands pitches in crucial spots and never waivers in his consistency.  His motions and wind-up are always the same and when they vary it is because the situation demands.  I think the Cliff Lee trade has been worth it, so far, and it should continue to reap benefits for the Phillies.

Phillies Pitching Steps Up – Finally

July 6, 2009
Jimmy Rollins - Photo by Tom Mihalek

Jimmy Rollins - Photo by Tom Mihalek

After a much needed 3 game sweep of the New York Mets, the Phillies sit in 1st place 4 games ahead of the rival Mets, but only 1 game ahead of the surging Florida Marlins.  Let’s remember that we have a whole division to win, not just to win over the Mets.

Anyway, the Phillies got excellent starts from call-up Rodrigo Lopez, wily veteran Jamie Moyer and rotation main stay, Joe Blanton.  Lopez went 7 innings, but got tremendous run support from the Phillies offense.  Moyer was the winner in a 4-1 game that saw Jimmy Rollins have a huge 2 RBI double to help seal the victory.  In yesterday’s series finale, Joe Blanton pitches shut-out innings before the bull-pen completes the victory.  It’s important to note that the offense did just enough to allow the pitchers to win.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the pitchers were consistent and powerful in the same games that offense scores bunches of runs?

A few important notes about this weekend’s series win.  First, Brad Lidge picked up a few saves and pitched very well. He didn’t get into a jam and he threw hard, fast and in control.  Second, Jimmy Rollins, battling a ridiculous slump, came through with big hits in two games.  Finally, the Phillies players realized that they have a good squad and should be playing with more confidence.  I hope that this weekend’s success continues and helps keep the Phillies in the W column.

Oh and by the way – David Wright is SO overrated.  If he didn’t play in New York, he would just be another third baseman with potential.

JA Happ Goes the Distance and Lidge Gets a Save

June 30, 2009
JA HAPP

JA HAPP

This past weekend, we saw JA Happ 5-hit the Blue Jays in a complete game performance.  This is the kind of game the Phillies are looking for from their starting pitching.  What’s more interesting is that the Phillies offense came alive for 10 runs.  Anytime a pitcher sees run support, it makes that pitcher relax and take control of games.  While I have no specific facts to back it up, I am going to assume pitchers pitch better and great pitchers are great pitchers because of run support.  Back to JA Happ, he should have been the fifth starter out of training camp, as I discussed in an earlier post.  Happ could have had a few more starts had he been the outright fifth starter and gained even more confidence.  Happ really controlled the game and looks like he will have plenty of more opportunities to win games for the Phillies.

It was good to see Brad Lidge back in a save opportunity.  The Phillies had come back from 3 runs down to take a one run lead.  Lidge came on the mound and took care of business for his 14th save.  This was the kind of game Lidge consistently blew in the beginning of the season.  I realize that this is one game and Lidge has a long way to go to put the blown saves and issues behind him, but it is encouraging that he came in and looked decent.

Of course, this was one weekend of games for the Phillies.  Who knows how the bullpen and starting pitching will be this week.

Phillies’ Bullpen Issues

June 17, 2009
Phillies Reliever, Ryan Madson

Phillies Reliever, Ryan Madson

During the Phillies fantastic run to the World Series championship last season, the bullpen would always deliver.  Brad Lidge converted all of his save opportunities and Ryan Madson was regarded as one of the best set-up men in the league.  Others were dependable, including J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin.  Not sure what is going on this season.

Lidge has blown 6 saves before his stint on the disabled list with a sprained knee.  Prior to coming to the Phillies, he was a head case with the Houston Astros and consistently had problems being a consistent closer.  We thought this all changed after his marvelous season last year.  The change of scenery, the winning attitude and some of the old-school type of ball players on the Phillies definitely helped him out.  What’s going on this year?  Has he returned to the head case he once was?  The team hasn’t changed much and his role didn’t change.  Maybe added pressure to repeat?  Maybe players know how to hit him now?  Or, perhaps last season was an illusion/aberration?  Our Dad thinks the entire Phillies team was an illusion.  Hopefully, Lidge’s stint on the DL and his rehab assignment will help him get back to 2008 form.  We need him.

In the last week, Kyle Kendrick and Clay Condrey have given up multiple runs in late innings.  Both times, I think they were each given the ball by Charlie Manuel and were told something like this:  “It’s your game to win, there is no else who is going to pitch.”  They both blew it.  Even dependable Ryan Madson, forced into a closer’s role has blown 2 saves. 

The once dependable Phillies bullpen has become my biggest concern.  The inconsistencies of starting pitching can be masked by a strong bullpen.  This current lot of Phillies relievers better get their act together or we can stop talking about the playoffs, let alone a repeat.