Revisiting the Lidge Trade

Brad Lidge, fireman turned arsonist. Lidge was a perfect 48-for-48 in save opportunities last season for the World Champs, including the playoffs. This year has been a whole other story, as Lidge blew his 9th save yesterday against the Phillies lowly in-state rival the Pirates in true swamp gas fashion.


There’s a Jekyl and Hyde thing happening here with Lidge.

1.95 2.41 3.06 3.03 11.9 4.5 3.9%
7.33 6.09 4.82 6.64 9.3 5.4 17.5%

The ‘why’ behind this isn’t all that cut and dry. Just by doing a quick-and-dirty analysis, his Pitch F/x numbers tell us his fastball velocity is down a little and the pitch is a tad bit straighter. His contact percentage is 84%, up from his career average of 75%. Hitters are swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone — 27%, compared to a 30% career rate. It’s been less whiffs, more balls and more contact for Lidge this year compared to last. While I don’t think Lidge has been as bad as his ERA would indicate, at this point I wouldn’t let him pitch in any situation other than mop-up duty until he can right the ship. Lidge’s contract extension of 3 years/$37.5M isn’t looking so hot right now.

The player Lidge was traded for, Michael Bourn, is trending in the opposite direction. Bourn was the living definition of a replacement player last year, but low and behold, Bourn has been worth 3.9 WAR this season. No, really. Michael Bourn has been a 4 win player this year. Some of the improvement may be for real — his walk rate is up to 10.4% compared to 7.3% last year — and some of the improvement can be credited to a fluky .367 BABIP. Bourn is one of the fastest players in the majors, so it’s expected that he will leg out a few extra infield hits, but that rate is pretty unsustainable.

Bourn sported a decent walk rate in the minors, so even while he’s been wildly lucky to be hitting .292, I don’t think it’s totally crazy to expect a .340 on-base percentage of Bourn going forward. A big chunk of Bourn’s value this year derives from his defense (+9 UZR). His career UZR per 150 is 6.5 in CF.

It’s as if Bourn and Lidge are on some sort of see-saw since being traded for each other after the 2007 season. Lidge isn’t probably as good as he was last season, but he’s not as bad as he’s been this season. Bourn’s not as good as he’s been this season, but he’s not as terrible as he was last year. I have to say, this trade is looking a lot more even than I would have ever expected it to.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

20 Responses to “Revisiting the Lidge Trade”

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  1. Joe R says:

    All I know is one night I looked at Bourn’s numbers and said to myself “wait, when did Michael Bourn become useful?”

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  2. rfs1962 says:

    Bourn could easily have a career similar to Brett Butler’s. Butler also had his first productive season at age 26. Same body type, same position. I expect the Astros would be quite pleased with that. On the other hand, I suspect the Phillies are happy with that World Champions banner they got last year.

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  3. Phillies Fan says:

    Last night was fourth day in a row that Lidge was used. Though he’s done that a couple of times previously this season with good restuls, I question how necessary it was to use him in a four run victory on Monday rather than leave in Park, who’s been great recently, for a second inning.

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  4. The Fonz says:

    It was a pretty sophomoric of me at the time, but I wasn’t too high on Lidge for this year largely because of his playing history. Regardless of the actual value of “saves,” Lidge seems to lack the mental makeup for that particular inning of work. Unfortunately for him, he’s played on teams where the occasional straight pitch leaves the park quite easily.
    What’s more, his walk rate has been steadily climbing as he’s become more apprehensive about using that fastball (who can blame him, it’s not doing much for him). If he wants to keep this career alive, he needs to bring back the change with the intent of improving the effectiveness of his fastball. It could also help him induce some more grounders (if he keeps it down).

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  5. slash12 says:

    and some of the improvement can be credited to a fluky .367 BABIP. Bourn is one of the fastest players in the majors, so it’s expected that he will leg out a few extra infield hits, but that rate is pretty unsustainable.

    Ichiro Career 20.7 LD% 55 GB% .359 BABIP
    Bourn 2009 21.3 LD% 55.9 GB% .367 BABIP

    If ichiro can do this over the course of his career, why can’t bourne continue to do this too, he’s just as fast, or faster. Of course, bourne won’t hit for .avg like ichiro without trimming the K’s significantly. I don’t think this BABIP is unsustainable for bourne.

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    • slash12 says:

      Ichiro Career: 12.7 IFH%
      Bourne 2009 12.7 IFH%

      Another stat that show’s it’s sustainable.

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    • Davidceisen says:

      Because Ichiro is one of the best all time at getting infield hits and Bourn is not?

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      • oal says:

        That’s begging the question, amigo. The reason why Ichiro gets many infield hits has very little to do with “Because he’s Ichiro.” The ball doesn’t care what his name is.

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      • Joe R says:

        FWIW, Ichiro’s contact rate is much higher than Bourn’s is. Of course Bourn’s also been swinging at far better pitches than Ichiro

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  6. Tom B says:

    i was at a mets/phillies game in april(?) in Philly, and i had to listen to some clown babble on for HOURS about how Lidge was better than Mariano because he didn’t blow a save last year.

    man, i would give anything to find that guy today.

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  7. don says:

    I don’t think the trade itself went too badly. Depending what you think of Victorino’s wildly fluctuating UZR, Bourn was sort of redundant and he’s probably not as good as he’s looked this year anyway.

    The early returns on the extension, though, are obviously not so great.

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  8. CJ says:

    Lefthanded batters have an OPS of .978 against Lidge. Lefthanders’ OBP against Lidge is .457. With that kind of OBP, you wonder why lefthanders swing at any sliders. When Lidge has had bad years in the past (like 2006), he has terrible numbers against lefthanders. But, still, in 2006 he continued to be tough on RHPs, even though his meltdowns against lefthanders caused his overall ERA to balloon. This season, I notice that, even though he continues to have bad platoon splits against LHBs, he also isn’t geting RHBs out (.928 OPS against). That makes me wonder if his problem is worse than just the mechanical issues of 2006.

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  9. CJ says:

    As for Bourn Supremacy…. Even if Bourn’s batting average regresses somewhat from this year, I am somewhat hopeful that his slugging will continue to improve. Bourn’s ISO spiked this year to the highest it has been since his last AAA season. The Astros believed that Bourn had the potential to develop more power in the majors, and this season may indicate they are right. Having watched him all year, and having seen a lot of other speed players (like Willy Taveras and Juan Pierre), Bourn definitely drives the ball more than they typical singles hitting speester. I don’t think he will ever be a HR hitter, but I think he can continue to improve his slugging. He is tied (with Victorino) for the NL triples lead, with 11. He has 24 doubles so far, which is the same number as guys like Utley and Cameron. Minute Maid is good place to hit triples, and with Bourn’s speed, he should continue the triples. However, if he continues to drive the ball like he has this season, I could see him becoming a Biggio-type doubles hitter.

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  10. bobo says:

    Thank you for discussing this trade without bringing up Eric Bruntlett and his unassisted triple play against the Mets, oh nevermind

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  11. Conballs says:

    This trade will never be even. Lidge was an integral part to getting a WS ring. If we want to look at this in a vaccuum, then fine, the trade is close. But the whole point is to win it all. I’m not saying Lidge was amazing last year b/c I watched a lot of his saves and a lot were shaky. But he still got it done. Advantage Phillies by a landslide.

    Now you wanna talk extension… ehh..

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