The numbers suggest the Phils need two closers this year.
Well, we can all pretty much agree that pitching Brad Lidge on four consecutive days is officially a bad idea. It is safe to assume that, after Tuesday night's conflagration in Pittsburgh, that Phils manager Charlie Manuel won't be running Lidge out there back to back to back to back anymore.
But, well, what is the proper way to use a closer who was perfect last year, who is signed for two more years of big money after this one, but who has now blown nine saves this year?
I think there are enough numbers that suggest a pretty clear course of action, and it is this: the Phils should not pitch Lidge on back to back days anymore (no less back to back to back to back). That's it. They need two closers if they are going to win another World Series.
Now for the numbers. You can argue with my assumptions, but here goes. First, I'm limiting myself to the games since Lidge returned from the disabled list in late June. To me, that just makes sense. It's a decent-sized sample and it has the benefit of being the most recent experience. Second, I'm removing the four games when Lidge was brought in with the Phillies trailing. He was terrible in three of those four games (two with rest, one without rest). This suggests it isn't a rest issue but a closer-lacking-adrenalin issue, which is common and which will not happen in the post-season.
Best as I can cipher, that leaves us with 21 appearances where Lidge entered a game either tied or with a lead, 12 with at least one day of rest and nine with no days of rest.
With rest: 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 75 percent of the appearances without allowing an earned run.
Without rest: 9.95 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, and 56 percent of the appearances without allowing an earned run.
That seems plain enough. I think the evidence is there. They need another guy -- not to take over the job but to augment what Lidge can still give them. Or they need a committee of guys to work on the days when Lidge cannot. Over at High Cheese, Dave Murphy has a post where he runs you through potential members of the committee.
But they need to start recognizing the framework around which they can build their ninth innings. The goal for September should be to pitch Lidge only when rested and see if the numbers hold up. If they do, you have continued to express a reasonable level of confidence in your struggling closer and you have created your framework. If they don't, you have spent the month getting somebody else ready -- and my money would be on Mr. Escalade, Brett Myers.