February 27, 2010

Reason number two why the Phillies will return to the World Series.

It still surprises me that no closer has chosen Warren Zevon's "Boom Boom Mancini" as their entrance music. Great opening, the "hurry home early, hurry on home" part -- that's not better than fucking "Bodies" by Drowning Pool? If anyone with any sway reads this, please rechristen our latest, greatest pitching prospect (and possibly future closer) Phillippe "Boom Boom" Aumont. That has a nice ring to it.

Speaking of closers, ours is one of the reasons the Phillies will make it back to the World Series.

I know that sounds odd, considering that Brad Lidge was 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA, a 1.807 WHIP, 11 blown saves and the lowest K/9 rate of his seven-year career in 2009. But the year before, he was eighth in MVP voting with a 1.95 ERA and zero blown saves. So we've seen the best and worst of Bradford Lidge, and I, for one, am banking on him turning it around.

It's conceivable that Cole Hamels reached the ceiling of his potential in 2008. The league may have figured him out, and relying primarily on two pitches may end up keeping him from ever becoming a true, Lee/Halladay-esque ace. But Brad Lidge has had two seasons with an ERA+ of over 225 and one with a 184; those are very, very good years. He has a lights-out slider and, when he can locate it, a very competent fastball. Simply put, when healthy, he's a top five closer.

And he wasn't healthy last year. We all knew it, and Lidge has admitted it numerous times in the offseason. I don't know if it happened when Howard jumped him after the final out of Game 5 and smushed his knee or not, but it happened, and the two surgeries he had in the last few months (elbow and knee) should help rectify that.

As last year becomes more and more of a memory, it's amazing to think that the Phillies made the World Series with Lidge providing what may have been the worst full season of relief pitching in the history of the game. Not only did he suck when he got on the mound, but it must have crept into the players' heads that their closer was unreliable, that no lead was safe and that, despite all their best efforts, losing a game on any given day was a possibility.

And they persevered anyway. Credit for that goes to them, of course, and to Charlie Manuel for leading this team the right way. Even though sticking with Lidge as long as he did last year was downright idiotic, it's part of his charm. He has his guys, and he believes in them, even when logic and rationality and facts say otherwise. If we didn't win the World Series, we'd probably run him out off town on a rail. But we did, and he was a huge part of it. So was Brad Lidge.

Charlie's faith is going to pay off this year. Lidge can't possibly be that bad again, and even a halfway-decent closer is worth at least four or five more wins. The Phillies have, top to bottom, the best lineup in the National League. They've got an ace, a World Series MVP and the makings of a decent bullpen. If they get something, anything, from Brad Lidge, they'll be right back in the thick of things. And in my opinion, this will be the bounce-back year we're all praying for.

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