Brad Lidge has been temporarily sidelined with some elbow soreness, a fact which likely comes as no surprise to Phillies fans. As Todd Zolecki notes, “It is the same elbow that required surgery following the 2009 season and two cortisone shots earlier this year.”
While many Phillies fans roll their eyes at another Lidge-related injury headline, it is worth noting that he has been effective since the beginning of August. In his last 17 appearances, he recorded 16 and one-third innings with a 0.55 ERA, 18 strikeouts, and just three walks. He even went ten straight appearances (August 1-24) without issuing a walk. Overall, Lidge has a 3.16 SIERA on the season and has improved his strikeout and walk rates compared to last year, despite losing velocity on both his fastball and slider.
The focus on the Phillies has shifted away from the bullpen and onto the offense given their struggles, so it is understandable that Lidge’s success has been overlooked. While he is no longer the closer we grew to know and love in 2008, he is also nowhere near as ineffective as he was last year. The only thing separating him and a successful season is a clean bill of health. Should the team lose him for a third time this season, they would be without their second-most effective reliever behind Ryan Madson and his 2.04 SIERA.
With close races for both the NL East and the Wild Card, Charlie Manuel can’t afford to keep Lidge on the sidelines. But if the skipper employs him strategically (i.e. not using him to nail down a lead of three-plus runs), Lidge can both help out a playoff-hopeful team and get some necessary rest for his ailing elbow. As we learned in the World Series in each of the past two seasons, the closer is an integral part to a World Series champion team.