Monday, April 9, 2007

Baseball is a Mental Game...

...and, Brad Lidge is no longer up for the task. Lidge is entering his 5th full season in MLB this year. He was a stud reliever during his first three years in the big's (2003 - 2005) -- just a dominating presence on the mound (had the best slider in the game). During the '04 season, he took over as Houston's full-time closer. During that season, he racked up 29 saves while compiling an impressive ERA of 1.90 (good enough for 8th in Cy Young voting). In 2005, Lidge was nearly as good (in the regular season) -- 42 saves with an ERA of 2.29.

Then, came the playoffs. Yes, the Astros made it to the World Series in 2005 (thanks in large part to a zoned-in Roy Oswalt, whom went on to capture the NLCS MVP)...but, this postseason symbolized the beginning of the end for the Brad Lidge which we had come to know.
Why? Two words...PHAT ALBERT. In the top of the 9th of Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS (with 2 outs), Pujols sent a Brad Lidge fastball into orbit...connecting on a 3-run HR, giving St. Louis a 5-4 win -- and forcing a Game 6 (which Houston won 5-1, on the heels of a stellar outing from Oswalt).

However, that Game 5 loss has proved to be detrimental to the Astros' organization (and more specifically, the Astros bullpen). Houston proceeded to be swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series, 2 of which losses were credited to the once reliable, Lidge. In short, Brad Lidge had lost all confidence -- think Mark Wohlers after Jim Leyritz lit him up during the '96 World Series!

...Fast forward to today -- and Lidge has yet to recover. He compiled a Keith Foulke-esque season in 2006 (5.28 ERA with a WHIP of 1.40). And, quite has only gotten worse during the first week of this current season. Hence, the reason for this demotion to middle relief.
Manager Phil Garner has finally stuck the proverbial fork in Lidge. In doing so, former WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND native, Dan Wheeler, should run with the job -- as he has admirably filled in for Lidge in the past (has posted 2 consecutive stellar seasons in the 'pen, with ERA's of 2.21 and 2.52, respectively).

In closing, a great closer quickly puts subpar performances behind him -- and demands to be handed the ball the following night. A great closer does not allow hindrances to compound into tailspins. For these exact reasons, Brad Lidge will never again be an elite closer while in an Astros' uniform.

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