Sunday, June 07, 2009

Marooned on Ceti Alpha Five

You are not going to get me to complain, right? I thought the Phillies would do well to play .500 on this trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and New York. The Mets portion is still to come- but the Phillies did a nice job through the west coast portion. They hammered the Padres- and played well enough versus the Dodgers to deserve a sweep frankly.

But they did not get the sweep because, frankly, the closer ain’t got much right now. Channeling his inner Randy “Boom Boom” Lerch, Brad Lidge is that deadly combination of unlucky and not too good right now. And thus, while the rotation continues to improve via subtraction (Park stinks and Myers is the most touted .500 starting pitcher in my Phillies’ history), the closer dilemma waxes.

Normally, you will find no bigger fan than me of Charlie’s inclination to let the stars play no matter how bad they are going. So I believe him when he says he is going to keep running Lidge out there.

But can’t we come up with a Jimmy Rollins' style solution here? Must Lidge be sent out to fail in the biggest possible spots- rather than easing him into a short term role with less pressure? Much like the recent easing Rollins out of the lead-off hole into a less-pressure packed six-hole solution?

I mean, I get Lidge's situation. Normally an ERA around nine gets you a mop up role or “disappeared”. But the Phillies are on the hook for a ton of dough and years. The situation does not lend itself to the same sort of exile Myers went through last year: marooned on Ceti Alpha Five until he got his act together.

But the Phillies do have a guy who could probably close for a few weeks (Ryan Madson), the recent addition of Romero gives the Phillies another back of the bullpen arm that did not exist a week and a half ago. So why not steer Lidge to “we’re up three runs in the ninth” saves and a few set-up/mop up appearances? After he throws a few successive scoreless innings, put him right back.

I know the organizational position is that Lidge lacks “confidence” right now- and to demote him would merely make matters worse. Well, we’ve tried it that way for the last month, and it has cost the Phillies six blown saves, a few losses, and a dozen or so additional “appearances” of quality relievers to pitch on into he games he’s blown. That is too much cost- and also, it isn’t working. Sending him out there to get shelled can’t be doing much for his confidence either. Plus, the dirty secret is that his velocity is down and his pitches are up. Right now he isn’t equipped to close, but to struggle. So why put him out there to fail?

Look, Lidge is making a zillion dollars- and the Phillies bullpen is a proven championship one only with Madson as chief set up guy, not closer. So like Charlie, I want the status quo back as soon as possible. But I can’t believe giving Lidge a few lower pressure outings, without disaster tugging at his elbow, can’t be good for his psyche (particularly heading back to Philadelphia and the AL East thumping crews)- and give him some room to work on his mechanics/velocity.