Another Blown Save From Lidge

Brad Lidge blew another save last night. He has been a major story this year, after amazing results last year in the Phillies’ championship season he has totally fallen apart this year. Obviously his true talent then was not as good as he pitched and his true talent now is not as bad as he is pitching. The issue for the Phillies is just were that true talent is. Here I am going to look at some pitch-level indicators to see how things have changed for Lidge in the past three years (those covered by the pitchf/x data).

First off Lidge throws about 50% four-seam fastballs and 50% sliders, and the two pitches have a nice separation in movement.
movement

The average speed on each of these pitches has declined steadily since about 2005. And both have seen a corresponding drop in whiff (misses per swings) and o-swing (percent of pitches out of the zone swung at) rate. [The pitchf/x system was installed during the course of the 2007 season so the numbers from 2007 cover 400 of the 1100 pitches Lidge threw that year].

Whiff Rate
+----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
|          |  2007 |  2008 |  2009 |  LgAv |
+----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
| Fastball |  0.15 |  0.14 |  0.11 |  0.14 | 
| Slider   |  0.52 |  0.49 |  0.46 |  0.29 |
+----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
O-Swing Rate
+----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
|          |  2007 |  2008 |  2009 |  LgAv |
+----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
| Fastball |  0.19 |  0.19 |  0.17 |  0.24 |
| Slider   |  0.44 |  0.39 |  0.36 |  0.30 |
+----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+

Lidge’s slider was (and still is) a really nasty pitch missing lots of bats and inducing lots of swings outside the zone. While his fastball has always just been ok; used to set up the slider. But all of these rates have moved in the wrong direction over the past three years. This gives at least partial support to his big drop in strike outs and rise in walks so far this year.

Beyond that though, his poor success has been the result of factors he has less control over: a horrid BABIP, HR/FB and LOB% (all of which were unsustainably good last year). We expect these values to regress to more reasonable levels and his performance going forward should improve, the tricky question is by how much.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


15 Responses to “Another Blown Save From Lidge”

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  1. neuter_your_dogma says:

    I have read many theories on Lidge, including “lack of confidence,” “tipping pitches,” and “injured knee.” I agree that his misfortunes should regress, but as a Phillies Phan, I’d not only like to know “how much,” but “when.”

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    • B says:

      Well conceptually, the whole idea of regression to the mean is going forward (so every game in the future starting with the very next game), on average, he should perform at the level his peripherals suggest he would perform at without any good or bad luck involved. Basically there’s no real reason to think what happened in the past, if it’s simply a product of bad luck, will have any effect on what happens in the future.

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  2. Mike Ketchen says:

    Dave,

    Great piece, question for you. If this data is available to me and you would it not benefit the Phils to maybe look at it and try and have him mix in a two seamer or even a cut fastball? Again for all we know they have, but with Pitch/Fx available now it is questions like these I am curious about. Keep up the great work.

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  3. Richie Abernathy says:

    When is this guy gonna be found face down in a ditch?

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  4. mike says:

    The morning after he blows another save and the Phillies are eliminated.

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  5. The A Team says:

    A lot has been made of his velocity issues this year, BP did an article on it suggesting his problem is pitching like a guy with a 96 mph heater when it’s clocking in at 92 this year. Since slightly after the AS break his heater has been pumping at about 94 rather consistently which is perfectly in line with last years velocity readings. The explanation for his early season velocity drop? How about his knee?

    I agree with the other conclusion of the article, he needs to focus on improving his command over the offseason. When he absolutely dominated early in ’08 (as opposed to the 2nd half where he skated by looking like Mitch Williams) he credited it to his extended ST from injury helping him improve his command. He hit his spots and set up batters brilliantly.

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    • Paul Wilson says:

      Extended spring training, recovering from an injury in the preseason… Lidge was following the classic Clemens/Pettite pattern of HGH cycling

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  6. CaR says:

    Waaaay too many sliders. Falling in love with a pitch and listening when someone tells you that your 95mph fb is your second best pitch. FB command solves nearly all pitchers problems and breaking pitches are successful mainly when worked off the fb.

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    • Joe R says:

      I have a tough time fully buying into the theory that a pitcher w/ Lidge’s service time can forget what works for him, especially since his sliders are down from 2008 (but to be fair, up from 2005). No offense.

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  7. Ezra says:

    Lidge looks more like Billy Koch than Troy Percival. Even if his pitch quality regresses to the mean, his edge is gone. Finis.

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  8. Brandon says:

    From watching the games and looking at his numbers my take on Lidge is the following:

    The biggest issue for Lidge in my opinion is that hitters are not swinging at his slider out of the zone. Hitters and managers realized that he throws so many pitches out of the zone that they are being more patient. His O-Swing % and K rate are the lowest of his career and his walk rate the highest of his career.

    The run value of his slider is absolutely awful. His fastball has never been a great pitch but the value of it was based off the effectiveness of his slider. The slider isn’t working so he’s throwing more fastballs and getting absolutely killed. Giving up a run in 29 of 63 appearances as a closer is pretty pathetic. If hitters continue to lay off the slider, I’m pretty sure Lidge’s time as an effective closer is done.

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  9. Nick says:

    Lidge’s blown saves are just as much Manuel’s fault as his own. Manuel keeps giving him the ball and Lidge keeps blowing it. How long must a manger stick with a guy who is clearly failing to prove his loyalty? How about Lidge prove his loyalty by not being awful at finishing games anymore.

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