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On the Deployments of Lidge and Sabathia

This is not a second-guess, as Boz can attest -- he was sitting next to me yesterday at Citizens Bank Park and heard me question out loud why Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel took starter Cole Hamels out of the game after eight brilliant innings (and a mere 101 pitches) in favor of closer Brad Lidge.

My arguments against the move:

*Hamels was still dominating the Brewers (he had retired eight straight Milwaukee batters),

*His pitch count was getting up there, but not beyond his capabilities (Hamels has gone 110 pitches or more 11 times this season),

*And by avoiding Lidge yesterday, Manuel could have gotten two innings out of him tonight, in the (admittedly unlikely) event Brett Myers matches Brewers ace CC Sabathia frame-for-frame and brings the bullpens into play late in the game.

This was not among my arguments -- the notion Lidge would very nearly implode and cost the Phillies the game. But that is what happened. The Phillies were lucky to escape with a win.

Did you like the Hamels/Lidge move? Tell me why I'm wrong.

Also, it's not to late to make your LDS predictions.

And while you're at it, feel free to weigh in on Boz's column on the Sabathia situation. Sabathia's performance -- and his plight -- fascinate me to no end. In discussing the story with Boz yesterday, I kept coming back to two questions:

1) Would the Brewers be pitching Sabathia on three days' rest all these times in a row if they had $125 million or more invested in him, as opposed to the present realization he will almost certainly leave after this season?

2) Does Sabathia really and truly have a choice here? When the Brewers asked him if he could pitch on short rest, his options were to say no and risk being branded a selfish mercenary (which would forever diminish his legacy in Milwaukee and perhaps his free agent value as well), or say yes and gamble that it won't do any physical damage that might jeopardize his lucrative future. I realize he may be a special creature, both in the physical sense and in his competitive nature, but there is a reason he had never been asked to do this before in his career -- because it is widely considered to be a risk to the pitcher's health. (Otherwise, every team would be sending their best pitchers out there on short rest every time.)

Am I being too cynical? Or does anyone else out there, like me, feel a little sorry for Sabathia in this situation?

By Dave Sheinin  |  October 2, 2008; 8:37 AM ET
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As I said in response to your previous post that touched on this issue, good for CC. Dave, I just don't buy the premise that pitching on 3 days' rest is necessarily a risk to CC's health. Boz just assumes this to be the case in his column, but he does nothing to establish it.

I'm not saying that every big league pitcher today can go on 3 days' rest. They are generally babied too much to be in condition to do that, and in the past many pitchers' playoff performance pitching under such conditions has suffered as a likely result. But that doesn't mean that anyone who goes on short rest is risking his health. Lots of pitchers just a generation ago regularly pitched on 3 days' rest, and threw complete games as well. Steve Carlton was an example I pointed to previously. So I just don't get you and Boz treating this like it is some sort of calamity, where CC is walking a tightrope and will be lucky to escape with his arm intact. Maybe he is just better conditioned than most of his peers today? A "throwback," if you will.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | October 2, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Hindsight's always 20/20. If Lidge blew away the Brew Crew 1-2-3, we wouldn't be second-guessing Charlie Manuel.

As for CC, this could really be a Faustian deal for him. Could he be trading the rest of his career for a shot at glory now?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I think the better closer-related question is why didn't Scioscisosciaiscia bring in KRod in the 9th of last night's game?

That's where closer orthodoxy REALLY kills.

Posted by: Chris | October 2, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't feel bad for Sabathia. He's a big boy - literally and figuratively - and he can handle his own. I don't see how turning down a fourth start on 3 days' rest can be seen as "selfish," as you suggest. Why is he doing it? Seems crazy to me, to be honest. I hope he doesn't get hurt tomorrow, but if he does . . . it will be a big "I told you so" to him and to the Brewers.

As for the Hamels-Lidge decision, I would make the same move that Manuel made. Hamels went 9 innings only twice this year. He's our best pitcher. And we hope to need him for several more starts this post-season. The starter's job is to go 8 innings, and the closer's job is to go one inning. Lidge has been perfect all season - if shaky recently - but you have to go do him. It's his job. And he's been the best at that job all season.

Posted by: Philly Phan in Phairfax | October 2, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I hope Sabathia doesn't get hurt today, that is. Not tomorrow, as I said above. (That being said, I hope he doesn't get hurt tomorrow, either.)

Posted by: Philly Phan in Phairfax | October 2, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

You are wrong on the using of Lidge. My personal opinion is that Lidge is better when he is used, not overused or abused, but used and not sitting too much. Sitting too much is probably worse for him. Plus why overuse Hamels in the first game of the post season when you have one of the best closers in baseball?

As for 2 innings, Lidge does not pitch 2 innings. He comes in when the Phillies have a lead in the 9th and puts them away like he did yesterday, not the Phillies were lucky to "escape" with a win, the Brewers had little/no chance in the 9th. At least, I was at the game and not worried at all, personally. And I was right.

I'd love to see Sabathia on the Phils next year!!! But until then, I can't wait to go see the Phils beat him up tonight!!!

Posted by: Bob Johnson | October 2, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I think that after watching the Astros in the 2005 World Series I wouldn't have put Lidge in ANY postseason game. He simply can't handle the pressure.

Posted by: JJ | October 2, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

The Lidge move makes sense for a lot of reasons. He has already proven that he has put 2005 behind him, and he is now the best close in all of baseball. You don't want to overwork Hamels in game one, especially when you're a big favorite to win the series (5-0 against the Brewers this year).

But the biggest reason in my mind is by imagining the worst case scenarios.
1) Take Hamels out, Lidge gets killed, Phils lose.
2) Leave Hamels in. He gives up a couple of base runners, you put Lidge in in the middle of an inning and he gets killed, Phils lose.

Not only do I think situation 2 is a more devastating loss, I think it's more likely to happen than 1.

There is simply no way Lidge is pitching 2 innings tomorrow, even if he had a week's rest.

Concerning CC, it may be that, unlike a lot of pitchers, he isn't trying to rip his arm off every time he throws the ball. Most pitchers today couldn't stay healthy doing what he's doing, but I think it's more about how they're trained to pitch now than them being "babied".

Part of the problem in baseball is every player is forced to fit the mold, and most managers make calls strictly by the book. In reality, every player and every situation is different. Lincecum's a good example: an undersized flame thrower who has an unorthodox motion and doesn't ice his arm.

Posted by: Michaluk | October 2, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Great column by Boz on the CC dilemna. I agree there is an element of making up for last year in what CC's doing. Recall that one major argument for his Cy Young over Beckett was that he pitched so many more innings through the regular season. That appeared to bite him in the butt when the two went head to head in the playoffs. CC has a bit of a demon to fight, which is why he wants to do this. At some point, his innings will catch up to whatever team gives him a contract over 4 years in length at over $20 million a year. My guess is NYY will go 6 years, $140 million guaranteed, with an option year at $25 million, or perhaps an opt-out after 4 like A-Rod had.

Posted by: PTBNL | October 2, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Your argument is flawed because Charlie Manuel would never use Lidge for more than one inning. He hasn't done it a single time this year, because there's never been a reason to -- the Phillies' late relief has been outstanding this season.

Posted by: Tom | October 2, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

As Paul Brown used to say, "If you've got a cannon, you shoot it."

The guy is 41 for 41, its a save situation, he's got a 3-run lead in the first game of a best-of-five series. He's not hurt, he's not scared, he's not slumping, he's not overworked, and I have to assume he WANTS THE GD BALL, NOW.

You got a cannon, you shoot it.

Posted by: CE | October 2, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

OTOH, maybe if it's a shutout I let Hamels try to finish. But that's just me.

Posted by: CE | October 2, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Ok, what does Lidge have to do to get people to stop mentioning the da** homerun againt Pujols??? Is a perfect record in the regular season not enough??? Seriously, he is the best closer in baseball and to not put him in in a save situation would be stupid.

I am one of the few Astros fans that never gave up on Lidge. As upsetting as it was for me to see him go, I am very happy for him that he has had so much success and pitches for a team and fans that appreciate him.

Posted by: Angela | October 2, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

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