|Lidge Carries Burden in Phillies Bullpen|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 31, 2010
Acquiring Roy Halladay was an upgrade for the Phillies, but it may be instructive to look at the other end of the team's games for an indicator of how this season will go.
Brad Lidge suffered from knee pain early in the season and altered his mechanics to continue playing. That hurt his command and his deadly slider. Relying more on his fastball, Lidge transformed from someone who converted 48-of-48 save opportunities in 2008 to a 0-8 trainwreck with a 7.21 ERA.
Ryan Madson performed well filling in for Lidge last season, but he isn't anyone's ideal closer. He blew almost as many saves (6) and he converted (10). He had a 1.23 WHIP. He allowed seven home runs and almost a hit an inning.
Some people argue that closers aren't that important. And to a certain extent, they're right. Closers only throw 80 innings a year. You can find a good one via the Rule V draft (Joakim Soria), by converting a weak starter (Mariano Rivera) or tossed in a trade (Joe Nathan). But considering the strength of the other National League East teams, the Phillies need Lidge to settle their bullpen.
Check out the rotations of the expected top three teams in the East. The Phillies return four of the five guys who won the division last season. They upgrade Cliff Lee with Halladay. But J.A. Happ is bound for a decline, while Jamie Moyer is 46. Do you expect him to easily best last season's stats? The beginning of the end has to begin sometime.
The Braves feature a deep rotation, while the Marlins boast the same strength. The only difference is that neither team has sure things at the end of their bullpens. Atlanta's Billy Wagner threw 15 1/3 innings last season while coming back from Tommy John surgery. His command and velocity has looked good this spring, but he won't pitch on back-to-back-to-back days much, if at all, this season. Takashi Saito, who has looked horrible this spring and has been battling injuries of his own, stands second in line.
The Marlins are more of the same. Leo Nunez, who blew seven save opportunities last season, allowed 13 home runs, posted a 4.06 ERA and recorded a 1.25 WHIP. Dan Meyer appears to be a LOOGY at this point in his career. Beyond those two, there's not much in the Marlins bullpen.
A strong bullpen figured to be the Phillies' advantage over their competitors in the east. The offense and Lee carried them to the World Series last season. The offense and Halladay could do the same this season. Manager Charlie Manuel would probably love having a stronger and healthier option at closer, though. It would make things a little bit easier.