Monday is a travel day for the blog editor, so we're posting Closing Thoughts early this week. (Shortly before the end of the Sunday games. What could possibly go wrong?) There's much to cover and we're running low on bullets. Let's dive in…
• Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge(notes) has blown two saves this week, he's allowed six runs over his last 3.1 innings, and he hasn't pitched a clean frame since a non-save situation on August 4. His ERA is now 7.27. His WHIP is 1.85. He's just 22-for-30 on save chances. If you'd like an explanation for his struggles, don't ask Lidge himself. These were his comments to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"The ball is not bouncing the right way," Lidge said after a messy ninth inning resulted in a 4-3 loss to Atlanta at Turner Field yesterday. "Last year, it bounced the right way every time, and this year it has not."
Part of the problem is that Lidge has simply allowed more bouncing balls this season. His K/9 remains solid (9.6), but it's nowhere near last year's rate (11.9). Lidge has also lost nearly a full tick on his average fastball (94.3 in '08, 93.5 in '09). Phillies manager Charlie Manuel seems to be out of excuses:
Asked if he thought Lidge's confidence had suffered because of this rough season, Manuel said: "Go ask him, man. I don't know how he feels. If I knew that, I'd probably be a doctor or something."
Manuel referred to Lidge as "our closer" after Saturday's loss, but that arrangement can't possibly last into October if he continues to give away one out of every four leads. Ryan Madson(notes) remains the handcuff, but you'll recall that he was at his worst this season while filling in for an injured Lidge in June. Rehabbing former closer Brett Myers(notes) (hip) is the wild card in the 'pen. He's currently on the DL, progressing well (at least until his face ran into an Escalade). The injured JC Romero(notes) (forearm) is a darkhorse candidate, too.
Bottom line: If you're speculating, the 37 percent-owned Madson is the add. He has a 2.77 post-break ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 14 Ks in 13 innings.
• Here's a sentence that fantasy writers like to keep on hand for easy cut-and-paste: Rafael Soriano(notes) is having an outstanding year, but he's been battling shoulder discomfort recently. (We substitute "elbow" for "shoulder" as needed). Soriano has allowed runs in three of his past four appearances. Of course there's no shame in giving up a bomb to Ryan Howard(notes), as the Atlanta closer did in the ninth of Friday. Soriano still managed to strikeout Ibanez, Werth and Feliz. Nonetheless, we're on heightened alert. Keep Mike Gonzalez(notes) handy if possible.
• Frank Francisco(notes) was mauled by the Red Sox on Friday (0.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER), leading to widespread skepticism about his ability to survive back-to-back games. His ERA jumped 1.65 runs in the loss to Boston. Nonetheless, Texas manager Ron Washington offered a full endorsement. This from the Dallas Morning News:
Closer Frank Francisco wasn't available to pitch Saturday, but he's still the team's closer. Washington said that won't change despite his six-run ninth inning in Friday's loss to Boston.
Washington said Francisco would also continue pitching in back-to-back games, despite his recent struggles in second games. "I don't have any hesitation at all," Washington said.
The rest of us are hesitating just a bit, however. I haven't cut CJ Wilson(notes) loose in any leagues. Neftali Feliz(notes) picked up a two-inning save on Saturday in a 7-2 win, and he was dominant again (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K). Feliz has earned a spot in competitive mixed leagues without regard to his role. He's starter-eligible, and he has 16 Ks in 8.2 innings.
• If we gave you 100 guesses, would you have successfully identified this...
13.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 14 K
• If you'd like a shot at the Marlins closing job, send a resume. Both Leo Nunez(notes) and Matt Lindstrom(notes) have allowed runs in their last two appearances. Kiko Calero(notes), Brian Sanches(notes) and Brendan Donnelly(notes) all have sub-2.00 ERAs, though Donnelly has struggled lately.
• Jonathan Broxton(notes) has blown three of his last five save opportunities, and he allowed back-to-back homers to Mark Reynolds(notes) and Miguel Montero(notes) on Saturday. Velocity isn't a concern – he was hitting 96-99 against Arizona – but remember that Broxton is dealing with a persistent toe issue. Handcuff George Sherrill(notes) still hasn't been scored upon as a member of the Dodgers, and he's available in 28 percent of PLUS leagues.
OK, here's your minty fresh spreadsheet, now with 30 percent more flavor. In clinical trials, this thing has whitened teeth and helped prevent decay. Don't waste your money on any other bullpen review, gamer.
Lidge photo via AP Images, Soriano via US Presswire