Brad Lidge has been bad so far this season.
I’ll just get that out of the way early. He’s been smacked all across the ballpark in quite a few of his outings thus far in 2009, and it’s become a legitimate cause for concern. Even after he voiced his assurances that his injured knee was healthy, Lidge continued to get hit around.
Let’s take a deeper look at his appearances this year, separated into the “good” and the “bad.”
The “good” will be his nine appearances this season wherein Lidge has surrendered zero runs (as of this posting on 5/18). The “bad” will be just the opposite.
A cursory glance shows a difference, but not a cause.
It’s obvious that Lidge just gives up an incredible amount of hits when he’s off so far in 2009. His WHIP isn’t exactly sparkling even in good appearances, though (1.38).
Maybe it’s just a wide gap in opposition? Perhaps Lidge has faced really strong lineups on those bad days.
Runs Allowed: Atlanta (5), Padres (4), Nationals (4), Dodgers (2), Cardinals (1)
That’s an okay selection of clubs, so it’s somewhat understandable. But certainly not in those bulks. Atlanta has scored at least one run in each of the three appearances Lidge has against them already!
We’re obviously still missing something, though. Let’s bust out a trusty Pitch f/x analysis and see if we can spot anything.
Lidge’s worst appearance so far this year was April 18 against the Padres. This was his line:
0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 4 ER, 1 HR, 26 pitches (11 strikes)
You can see that Lidge’s release point varies by almost a whole foot. This means he was probably getting off to the side of the ball on his slider, flattening it out.
The boxed portion represents six pitches with very little movement. Surprisingly, only one of those pitches was put in play. That general cluster of six pitches plus the other six close by are all fastballs. What’s troubling is how scattered all of those are for fastball movement. The erratic nature of all of this is a bad sign and signifies bad command.
Now that we have a control for a “bad” outing, let’s look at May 16 against the Nationals, where Lidge did this:
1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 ER, 0 HR, 23 pitches (17 strikes)
Lidge only has two 1-2-3 innings so far this year, but neither of those really have enough pitches to good a good idea of what kind of stuff Lidge featured that day.
A much tighter release point, and hey, what do you know: more strikes! Lidge threw 77% of his fastball for strikes, and 70% of his sliders, too.
Everything seems to be shifted a good three to four inches toward the righty batter’s box. The slider plot – up and to the left – is also more compact and contains a great deal of strikes.
Who knows why Lidge was wild in that April appearance? What’s important is knowing that the key to Lidge’s effectiveness is consistency in his pitches. There was no significant velocity difference between the two starts; what it boils down to is having a solid release point and getting a somewhat common break to his slider.
Lidge needs to get things together soon. The Phillies need him. Soon.