Lyon, Tigers, and... Phillies

There’s a big picture in Citizens Bank Park of Brad Lidge falling to his knees as Carlos Ruiz chooches his way out to the mound to embrace him just after the final out of the 2008 World Series.  It’s on the cover of the 2009 DVD yearbook; it’s available in the gift shop for an amount of U.S. dollars that could feed a South American village for months.

Perfection rained down from the heavens as the 48/48 closer screamed in sheer ecstasy; a World Series Trophy was waiting, an award not seen in this city since before CNN was a channel. This was 10,000 losses forgotten because of a single win; this was almost 30 years of suffering, gut-checks, letdowns, pleasant surprises and concerned looks between crowdmembers, all irreverently crammed together into the joy of a single moment.

And THIS is the look of a man who’s watching it all come crumbling down.

Brad did a lot of this in 2009, making “Brad Lidge Grimacing” the citywide symbol for “SON OF A BITCH!” Notice the hands on the hips and the tightened face.  All you had to do was tune in to a close Phillies game in the later innings, and you were granted admission to “Brad Lidge’s 9th Inning of Terror.”

The man is capable of strange and terrible things.

And while we all know that Brad is going to get his confidence back, put together a tactical yet aggressive set of pitches, and show up in Clearwater ready to blow the doors off every bottom of the 9th he sees, we would be fools (fools!) not to have some options.

The Detroit News is reporting that Brandon Lyon, the Tigers setup man, is being examined for tenure in Philadelphia, as a replacement or alternative to Brad Lidge, who recently underwent elbow surgery and a horrible season.

Well, let’s go to the numbers.  Lyon’s got a 2.86 ERA in 78.2 innings in 2009?  Okay, that’s a pretty low number.  I would see the benefits of involving myself with those numbers.  Cool.

“Not so fast!” yells Tyler Hissey at MVN.com.

Oh, come on.  Why don’t we just put him in the game and relax, waiting to reap the benefits of making statistical-based assumptions.  We looked at the numbers.  They’re fine.

A-ha!  But they’re actually not fine.  The Tigers’ defense jumped from 24th to 9th in the AL this year.  Lyon was surrounded by better D the whole year, and with a personal low BABIP (.229) and personal high rate of leaving guys on base (80.8%), it’s clear he wasn’t as competent of a closer as his defense was.

That’s exactly right, Picture of Brad Lidge.   The last thing we want is to sit through 2010 making that face.

Lyon was offered arbitration, so if he is to be a Phillie, the Tigers are owed a draft pick.  Using his numbers as proof, Lyon could come into this (whatever “this” is) with a bigger check than he can cash.  I’m sure the Phillies brass doesn’t want to spend 2010 hoping that Lyon throws well enough to pay for himself, especially with that $140 million salary cap getting closer and closer.

However much use we’ll get out of a J.J. Putz or Brandon Lyon is also going to stem from how old “Lights Out” performs. Why couldn’t this upcoming season mean the biggest redemption story in baseball?  A closer with everything to prove to himself, his team, and his fans, rallies passed his rocky season to win the World Series.  Also, he finds out he has a daughter he never knew about!  And a romantic subplot forms between him and the daughter’s teacher.  And he discovers that the passion and dedication he uses on the field can also be used to forge meaningful relationships.  Due out spring 2010.

Right, Brad?!  It’s possible!

Damn.

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