Listen to any Lady Antebellum song ever recorded and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Not that I… listen… to… um… yeah, never mind. Let’s move on.
Signing Brad Lidge to a multi-million dollar Major League contract certainly would qualify as being blinded by nostalgia.
Last week, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted that the Phillies might bring Lidge back in 2012, with Heyman calling it a “logical fit.” The Rockies have also been mentioned as a possible destination in recent weeks, but no decision has yet been made by Lidge’s camp.
Now, unless Heyman is talking about a minor league deal, or something that pays Lidge less than $1 million a year, it’s hard to see the logic in bringing back “Mr. Perfect”.
(For the record, Lidge was certainly no Curt Hennig, may he rest in peace, as evidenced by this awesome piece of video from the way-back machine.)
The Phils probably could use one more late-inning set-up guy. Jose Contreras and Antonio Bastardo both have the ability to lock down the 8th inning, but there are question marks concerning both. Is Contreras healthy enough to hold up for an entire season? Has he been lying about his age? Is he really 53? Is his name really Jose Manuel Ortega (I HAD to throw a little Fausto Carmona joke in there)? Will Bastardo be able to put his disastrous September behind him and throw strikes consistently without Danys Baez, his Spanish-speaking guardian angel, around?
And is Brad Lidge really the answer to any of those issues?
Frankly, Lidge brings just as many question marks to the table as Contreras and Bastardo. He only pitched in 25 games last season, going 0-2 with a 1.40 ERA. The ERA was good, as were his strikeout numbers, 23 in just 19.1 innings. However, Lidge continued to battle with his control, posting a WHIP of 1.500, walking more than six batters per nine innings. Who can forget one of the more frustrating losses of 2011, the walk-off hit-by-pitch loss in Washington?
Of course, Lidge’s control has always been an issue, posting a WHIP under 1.200 in only two of his 10 seasons. What has always bailed him out was his mid-90s heat and nasty slider that generated a ton of swings and misses. And, to his credit, the slider was still doing the job last year.
But is it good enough to create enough swings and misses that he can get by with a fastball that he can neither control nor throw by anybody anymore? Last year, Lidge averaged 89.1 mph on his four-seamer and threw it only 17% of the time. He threw his slider 70.7% of the time. He essentially became a one-pitch pitcher, trying to control his slider for strikes in order to get ahead in the count.
That’s a dangerous way for a late-inning reliever to earn his steak money.
And in an act of magic David Blaine would be proud of, Lidge was somehow able to strand 90% of all runners he allowed to reach base in 2011, a career high.
Essentially, Lidge became the Wild Thing, only without the mullet.
Perhaps just as important as Lidge’s abilities at this stage of his career is the cornucopia of young arms the Phillies have at their disposal. Strong right-handers Michael Stutes, Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimmer, and Phillippe Aumont will all get a very long look in spring training, while left-hander Joe Savery will also get a peek as a lefty specialist.
All these guys are cheap and controllable. And with the Phils so close to the luxury tax, it doesn’t make sense to sign Lidge to a $2-3 million contract, given all his question marks.
It seems as if Amaro is leaning towards not signing Lidge, saying recently that the Phils were done making “major moves.” But if Amaro decides Lidge has enough swinging strikes left in his quiver and brings him back, I won’t scream bloody murder. Perhaps Lidge has one more effective year left on his arm. And he would provide veteran leadership to a bullpen stocked with kids.
The worst reason to bring Lidge back would be because he was a part of “the perfect season” of 2008, which, let’s be honest, was filled both with flukes and luck. Hey, you need those to win a championship, and for the rest of his life, Lidge can say he was perfect for an entire season.
But that bit of nostalgia doesn’t make him the best fit for a Phillies bullpen that already has a lot of question marks and youth waiting to take the reigns.