Can the Phillies “Close” the deal on another World Series Title in ’09?

By Ian West

If the Major League Baseball playoffs were to start today, those vying for the World Series would be the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angles, and the Boston Red Sox in the American League and the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Colorado Rockies in the National League.

What do most of those teams have in common? A solid, reliable closer, but one of those teams does not. Unfortunately that team is the local favorite, the Philadelphia Phillies. The closer for the Philadelphia Phillies, Brad Lidge, who has a record of 0-7 this season, has an ERA of 7.11 with 10 blown saves. As of right now the Phillies do not have a solid enough closer to be considered serious contenders to repeat as World Series champions. It is true that the Phillies score a lot of runs, however, the playoffs are a different ball game, and in a close game, which many of them will be, a solid bullpen and a lights out closer are imperative. For example, last year when the Phillies made their World Series run, Brad Lidge had a playoff ERA of 0.96 with 7 saves in as many opportunities. The season before the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Their closer Jonathan Papelbon did not give up an earned run in the playoffs and has never blown a playoff save. The New York Yankees, who seem to be the team to beat this season, have the greatest postseason closer on their roster, Mariano Rivera. His career playoff ERA is a record 0.77 and he has 34 saves in the October classic. Now that is the definition of a reliable, shut down closer.

As of right now the Phillies have been using Ryan Madson as their closer.  If you think he is a solid solution to pitch the 9th inning for the Phillies and close out games, think again. Yes, he has a respectable ERA of 3.11 but he is much better in the 8th inning than closing games out in the 9th. When given save opportunities, Madson has gotten the job done 6 times out of 11 tries. That means that Madson has blown 5 of 11 save opportunities this season. Combine Madson’s blown saves with Lidge’s blown saves and the Phillies bullpen has blown 15 games in the 9th inning alone. If you are a Phillies fan you better be ready for some stressful playoff baseball.

Now, compare the Phillies closers to the closers on the other NL playoff teams. The St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin has an ERA of 1.67 and leads the NL with 37 saves.  The Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street has an ERA of 2.96 with 33 saves. And last, the LA Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton has an ERA of 2.53 with 34 saves. They have combined for 9 blown saves this entire season. That is less than Brad Lidge alone who leads the Major Leagues with 10. All of these teams have solid closers in their bullpen that can get the job done come playoff time. That is a distinct advantage over the reigning World Series champions.

If the Phillies were to get themselves to the World Series this year they would as of right now face either the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, or the LA Angels of Anaheim. Like many of the NL closers, the AL closers are solid. The least reliable of all the AL closers is probably Brian Fuentes of the Angels. He has an ERA of 3.99 yet he leads the AL in saves with 40. Not a solid ERA, but still respectable numbers. The most reliable of all the closers has to be playoff tested Mariano Rivera. This season he has an ERA of 1.72 with 39 saves.  Also reliable is Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox. This season has not been his best, however, his ERA is still 1.92 and he has 35 saves.  Last is the Detroit Tigers’ closer Fernando Rodney. He has an ERA of 3.82 and 32 saves. They have combined to blow 11 saves. Still 4 less than Madson and Lidge combined.

Most people who read this article will most likely be Phillies fans. Some may agree with my assessment, some may strongly disagree. But one thing you cannot argue is that statistics do not lie. If you don’t believe that, below is a list of some statistics from the closers on the teams who have won the last 5 World Series. Note that they all had low ERAs and very few blown saves.

Team

Closer

Playoff ERA

Playoff Saves

Playoff Blown Saves

Phillies

Brad Lidge

0.96

7

0

Red Sox

Jonathan Papelbon

0.00

4

0

Cardinals

Adam Wainwright

0.00

4

1

White Sox

Bobby Jenks

2.25

4

1

Red Sox

Keith Foulke

0.64

3

1

I have no vendetta against the Phillies, in fact I enjoy when they win; however, with their current bullpen I do not think that they are a good enough team to repeat as champions. All hope is not lost though. There is no need to jump ship on this team yet. Not only can they hit the stitching off a baseball but Brett Myers just came back from injury and has been great. He has pitched 3 scoreless innings and has only given up one hit. Perhaps he could be what the Phillies need in the postseason to win. He has the mentality and he has been in the closer role before. One thing is for sure however, the Phillies will not win the World Series with Brad Lidge as their closer. If you think so you are simply blinded by team loyalty.

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