StrategySeptember 11, 2009

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Closer Complex: Philly Panic

By Matthew Robertson

Okay, let’s weigh in on the latest and most talked about closer situation in baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies have a mess on their hands. First, the good: the Phillies are in line to once again win the NL East and on their way to possibly defending their world championship. The bad: the best closer in the National League last year, Brad Lidge, has blown 10 saves so far this year and has been removed from closing duties. The very bad: the move has forced the Phillies to weaken their overall bullpen by moving Ryan Madson to the ninth inning while Lidge attempts to fight through his struggles.

Personally, I’ve been a fan of Lidge, and why not? High strikeout capability is what makes a closer elite, and Lidge has some of the best strikeout numbers per innings pitched in baseball over the last few seasons. Lidge just has not looked like the closer that he was last year. He saved every game he was brought into. That’s right he converted 100% of all games he entered with a save on the line. He echoed that performance in the 2008 playoffs and was a main cog on the world championship team. Some people are saying that Lidge has been washed up since blowing a save by giving up a game-winning home run to Albert Pujols. Obviously, his 2008 season makes those naysayers without doubt wrong and you should question knowledge from these people in the future. Still, it doesn’t take an expert to see that Lidge is not his old self this season. He’s been battling knee issues for much of the year and even though his velocity is there, his sharp slider looks much duller than usual.

Something all fantasy leaguers need to remember is that Ryan Madson has not been a good closer during his time in the ninth inning. He served as Lidge’s replacement while Lidge was on the DL and was very bad. Madson has converted his last two opportunities in mediocre fashion. So, those investing in Madson have to take that into consideration. A few people are touting Brett Myers as a possible replacement and that might happen if Madson fails and Lidge makes no improvement. But trusting a pitcher that has spent all these months on the DL might prove unlucky as well. Make no mistake though, when Lidge is on he’s the best option in the Philly bullpen by fa,r and if/when he proves he’s back to normal he’ll close, as it makes the Phillies once again title contenders.

Matthew Robertson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Matthew in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Havok1517.
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