Of all of the pitchers struggling on the Phillies, Brad Lidge is the most surprising. A glance at the relievers’ WAR board has Lidge firmly at the bottom of the totem pole; something unimaginable just a few months ago. Lidge’s 9.15 ERA is a scrambled mess of the 1.95 ERA posted last year. Lidge’s important metrics aren’t fairing too well either.
About 32% of the batters to step to the plate against Lidge last year went down via strikeout. That number is down to 21% this year. Fewer pitches are being thrown inside of the zone, and far less first-strikes are being recorded, leaving Lidge down in most counts. Batters are still swinging out of the zone at about the same rate but Lidge is still getting fewer strikes overall. When he is throwing pitches in the zone, batters are making contact at a ridiculously high rate. Lidge’s career Z-Contact% is 74.5%, this year it’s 86.4%.
Of the 29 hits given up, 12 have gone for extra bases, including six homeruns and doubles apiece. Lidge’s BABIP is a rotund .400. Combining this information, it would be easy to infer that Lidge is having a ton of line drives hit against him, yet this is simply not the case. His line drive percentage is at 16.7%, lower than last season or his career total. The Phillies defense is middle of the pack in UZR and BABIP against, which suggests Lidge is an outlier, that or the story lies beneath the numbers.
Looking at the pitch data, Lidge’s pitch usage is roughly the same, but velocity on his fastball is down just a bit. Lidge’s slider is still moving about the same, as is his fastball, which raises all kinds of questions about why both pitches are being hit harder than before. Our linear weights have Llidge’s fastball at -5.51 runs per 100 pitches and his slider at 0.27 per 100; last year Lidge’s fastball was worth -0.53 runs per 100 pitches and his slider 2.5 runs per 100. So again, what’s the deal here?
Per Baseball-Reference, Lidge’s fly balls have resulted in three doubles, the same amount as his line drives allowed. Lidge has a .192 fly ball BABIP against while his line drive BABIP against is .900. If those numbers seem high, well, they are. Major League average for fly ball BABIP is .143 this year; .725 for line drives. Either Lidge is unlucky, is being hit harder than the league average pitcher – which the homeruns support, although not the line drive percentage – or a combination.
Until we get more data to suggest otherwise, I’m going to assume Lidge will be fine, but he’s an interesting case none the less.
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