Former “perfect” closer and World Series hero Brad Lidge was signed to a one-year deal worth $1 million by the Washington Nationals. The former Philadelphia Phillies closer imploded in 2009 after getting the final punchout in the World Series and was worth -0.8 WAR. Lidge has been worth exactly 0.3 WAR in the past two seasons and should be viewed as an average reliever at this point. He is injury-prone and is no longer a reliable option as a closer (Drew Storen is firmly entrenched as the closer for obvious reasons), but this deal carries no risk to it and is incentive-laden based on appearances.
The Nationals have added some solid depth to their bullpen, and they have indicated that Lidge will be one of their set-up men next season. He will be mediocre in this role and won’t be a liability, but Lidge will never be a standout reliever again. He can still pitch in high-leverage situations and is projected to have a 3.85 ERA next season.
Lidge has the ability to strike out ten batters every nine innings, but his lack of control causes him to walk around five per nine. His BABIP is usually higher than most other pitchers, so expect a BABIP of around .315 next season. The main problem Lidge has at this point is a declining fastball velocity due to age and injury. He uses his slider much more than his fastball at this point, as his fastball velocity has dropped from 94.3 miles per hour in 2008 to 89 mph last year and 91.7 in 2010 (he only pitched 19.1 innings in 2011).
In fact, Brad Lidge’s fastball velocity has has dropped in every season since 2005 (96 mph). Although his fastball is poor, Lidge still has a nasty slider that is still extremely effective, even with a considerably higher usage rate.
At the age of 35, there isn’t much left in the tank for Lidge, but there is the chance that he gets back on track. While there isn’t any true “upside” for a reliever well into his 30’s, Lidge could feasible become a solid high-leverage reliever again. This is doubtful, but Lidge is as clutch as it gets and should continue to be an average reliever with his high K/9.
Brad Lidge will most likely be worth 0.3 WAR next season, because he is basically the same pitcher he was two seasons ago. However, there is the same chance that he is better or worse than 0.3 WAR given his age and conflicting strikeout rate.
$1 million usually buys a team about 0.2 WAR on the open market, so this deal was right in-line with other deals given to 35-year-old middle relievers with some upside and downside to them. Expect Lidge to be slightly better than his meager contract, and this was a decent, depth-building move by the Nationals to acquire a veteran reliever on a deal worth basically nothing. Both parties have benefited from this move, and Lidge actually had higher offers from other teams. However, he liked the stability the Nats provided and should transition seamlessly as a mentor for the young arms around him. There are intangibles involved in this move, and it’s hard not to love this deal for the Nats. Lidge is far from a spectacular reliever, but he’s an average one who brings veteran wisdom to a young ballclub.
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