The Phillies made a huge splash in the MLB trading pool by picking up 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee Wednesday to bolster the starting rotation but the rotation might not be the place the Phillies most needed help.
Lee gives the Phillies a spoil of starters – a nice thing to have even if the Phillies rotation leans further left the Dennis Kucinich.
But one question still needed to be addressed sooner rather than later -- the closer, a.k.a. the black hole into which runs are allowed that was once known as “Lights Out” Brad Lidge.
That’s right the same guy who was the hero of the 2008 World Series champs now can’t get it done.
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The 2009 edition of Lidge showed some similarities with the closers of old, namely the allowance of base runners a la Tom Gordon and the “oh-God-here-we-go-again-please-don’t-blow-this-again-let-me-know-when-it’s-over” Jose Mesa.
Now don’t get me wrong, Lidge is miles above those closers, but if it weren’t for last year, you wouldn’t know. He has blown six saves already and his ERA is Eaton-esque.
Simply put, if the Phillies want to contend with the big boys in October, one of two things needs to happen at the backend of the pen: A - the real Lidge escapes from imprisonment and kills the Evil Robot Lidge that’s pitched this year. Or, B - the Phils get a new closer.
As entertaining as option A sounds, option B is the better bet.
But finding a new closer is no easy thing – teams often experiment with a few different things before they find something that works.
It’s unlikely that the Phillies get a top guy in the trade market so they will need to look within the organization.
And other veteran bullpen guys like J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey and Chad Durban don’t really have closer material and all currently sit on the DL.
But what about the players coming off the DL?
Brett Myers surprised some fans when he announced that he could be ready to pitch out of the pen still this season after it was announced that he likely would miss.
Myers can close. He proved it in 2007 when he helped take the team to the playoffs. His stuff is nasty with an above average curve ball and a strong fastball when he goes all out.
Myers numbers as a reliever in 2007 were actually pretty good (5-5 record, 2.87 ERA, 64 strikeout and only 18 walks in 53.1 innings) -- way better than Lidge’s current 0-4 record with a 7.11 ERA and 41 K's to 24 walks in 38 innings pitched.
The Phils could go with one of the guys crowded into the rotation -- Pedro Martinez. He hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen in years, but the fact that the eight-time All-Star signed a contract that rewards not only starts but also relief appearances showed that he wants to pitch again in the bigs -- no matter the spot on the staff.
The Phillies must not let their loyalty to Lidge get to them. He went a perfect 41 for 41 last year and helped us win the first World Series in a generation but when it comes to closing, more than any other position, teams must ask, “what have you done for me lately?”
This isn’t last year. The Phillies showed that they are playing for the championship this year by signing Lee. They need to continue the trend and do something about Lidge now.