Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brad Lidge: NL Comeback Player of the Year. Is the Cy Young award next?

As you no doubt have heard by now, Phillies closer Brad Lidge was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. Lidge was the obvious choice for the award given how he followed his 2007 season, when he lost the job as the Astros closer, with a perfect 41 for 41 on save opportunities in the 2008 season. Lidge is a deserving winner, but he may not be done collecting awards for his effort in 2008. Like the American League Comeback Player of the year, Cliff Lee of the Indians, Lidge has to be considered for the Cy Young award.

While Cliff Lee dominated the American League this year with a 22-3 record and seems like the runaway winner for the AL Cy Young, it's more difficult to make a case for Brad Lidge for the NL Cy Young, but not impossible. There is no clear-cut favorite in the NL as several candidates can make compelling arguments. Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks led the NL with 22 wins but only put up the 10th best ERA in the league. Tim Lincecum had an impressive 2.62 ERA but won only 18 games pitching for the lowly Giants. Despite playing only have the season in the NL, C.C. Sabathia has been mentioned as a possible candidate given his domination over the last few months, including a 1.65 ERA and 7 complete games in 17 starts.

So how does a reliever like Lidge enter the conversation? By having a perfect season. Lidge was 41 for 41 in save opportunities. Every time the Phillies called him to the mound to protect a lead, Lidge delivered. While Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels broke the major league record by getting 62 saves this season, he blew 7 saves, meaning 10% of the time he was asked to close out a game, he failed. Lidge's failure rate was 0%, making his season much more impressive than Rodriguez's because he did exactly what his team asked of him every time he went to the mound.

Lidge also has an advantage over the other candidates because he spent the entire year with a team headed to the playoffs. While being on a winning team isn't as important for Cy Young winners as it is for MVP's, Lidge still had to pitch in more big pressure situations as his team was in contention all season long.

While it is difficult to justify that someone who pitches 5 innings a week should be given an award as the best pitcher in the league, Brad Lidge has to be in the conversation. His perfect season from the bullpen has to rank amongst the best efforts by any reliever in history.

Will Brad Lidge win the NL Cy Young award? Probably not, voters will likely choose Brandon Webb, not that it will matter to Lidge. He would much rather win a World Series title anyway.

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