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.

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Joe R
Joe R

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