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Thursday, February 18, 2010
Lidge joins long list of those playing hurt, hurting team

What? Brad Lidge was hurt last year? And it actually affected his pitching? I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you ...
A year after converting all 48 save chances, Lidge led the major leagues with 11 blown saves last season. He had surgery to repair his right elbow in November and right knee in January.


Lidge completed his first three save chances last year, then blew one April 19. Less than two weeks later, the Phillies briefly sidelined their closer due to right knee inflammation.

He said Wednesday the knee pain caused him to change his mechanics: He put more pressure on his right arm, leading to the elbow injury.

"You try to convince yourself that you're not 100 percent but you're fine, you'll be able to go out there and do the same thing and get results as normal. You try everything to do that," Lidge said. "It's not about trying to trick people as much as convincing yourself. If you can't sell it to yourself, there's no reason to go out there. I think the biggest thing is I was trying to convince myself I could get it done the same way and I felt I could do it, but I wasn't the same guy last year."

No kidding? What was your first clue?

Your pain?

Your drop in fastball speed?

Or was it the 7.21 ERA?

I know it's easy to say these things now. Of course Lidge was hurt, now that he's had a couple of postseason surgeries.

My point is that it should have been obvious to everyone last summer that Lidge wasn't healthy.

Amazingly, the Phillies very nearly won a World Series despite routinely deploying the game's worst reliever in critical situations. Considering that the Phillies won 93 games during the regular season, and that they did reach the World Series with Lidge pitching reasonably well in four postseason innings before the World Series, at this point the only truly interesting question is this:

If the Phillies had acknowledged Lidge's injuries, would they have won four World Series games rather than two?

Well, they lost Game 4 when Lidge gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning. That game had been tied, and the Phillies might easily have lost regardless of who'd pitched that ninth inning for them; they weren't exactly swimming in good relief pitchers, and wouldn't have been even if they'd excised Lidge from the roster.

But if the Phillies had won Game 4 and Games 5 and 6 had gone as they actually did, a Game 7 presumably would have pitted C.C. Sabathia against Cole Hamels at Yankee Stadium. You can guess who'd have been favored in that one.

Without Lidge, I would give the Phillies something like a 40-percent chance of winning Game 4 and a 45-percent chance of winning Game 7 ... which adds up to something like a 1-in-5 chance of winning the World Series if they'd properly diagnosed Lidge's various maladies before November.

That's not great, 1-in-5. It's just better than losing.