Monday, April 2, 2007

It's opening day and it's already over.

Let me take you back to October 17, 2005. Game 5 of the NLCS and my beloved Astros are one out away from their first World Series. Forty three years of frustration was about to come to an end and in front of the home crowd. Only one batter stood between the Astros and history, Albert Pujols. The great Brad Lidge stood on the mound armed with serious cheese and killer slider. For the previous couple of years, Lidge had been as automatic a save as anyone in baseball

I was giddy with excitement. Jumping around my bedroom ready to celebrate over 1000 miles away in Queens Village, NY, probably the only person in New York who cared.

Unfortunately, the unthinkable happened. A slider didn't quite make it all the way inside of the plate and floated out over the plate, and like it was on a tee, Pujols crushed it to left. Now Minute Maid park has a short left field where its just 315 down the line. But this ball, I think, was still on an going up when it hit the window looking out onto the street.

Now the Astros won game six behind Roy Oswalt, and the Astros went on to the World Series to be swept by the Chicago White Sox. Maybe things would have been different if Oswalt would have started game 1, but probably in the end, the Astros wouldn't have been able to buy a clutch hit anyway. But the real question is what has happened to Brad Lidge? Ever since then, he has been terrible and basically kept the Astros from winning the NL Central last year. (Of course, their anemic offense didn't help. Heck, calling the Astros offense anemic is an insult to all those people out there who lack a sufficient number of red blood cells.) Pages could be and have been written about the Astros putrid offense, but I'm focusing on Brad Lidge.

Here is some statistical evidence:
2005: 4-4, 42 saves, 5 HRs, 2.29ERA
2006: 1-5, 32 saves, 10 HRs, 5.58ERA, 6 blown saves

In the middle of the season, the Astros moved to a closer by committee. After the All-Star game, he saved 10 of 12, but Dan Wheeler was their main closer.

Tonight, in the season opener, after Roy Oswalt has pitched a solid 7 2/3 innings and the offense put together a grand total of two runs, Lidge got the first two outs easily, but then gave up a tieing home run to Xavier Nady.

Lidge still has nasty stuff. Even last year when he struggled, he averaged well over a strike out per inning. But there is something wrong. Perhaps a change of scenery would help him get out of his funk, but he is done in Houston. He was terrible during spring training (9 in, 13 H, 2 HR, 11 ERA) and it doesn't look good for 2007. He can't be the Astros closer anymore. Perhaps the rest of league has caught up to him. If so, put in as the set up guy. He flourished in that when he joined Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel as the best bullpen in the big leagues. They have a guy who can close in Wheeler. If he can't handle that kind of demotion, trade him for a bag of balls and a fungo bat.

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