The Batter's EyeNovember 11, 2007
Solving the Brad Lidge Puzzle
By Jeff Albert

In the case of Brad Lidge, there seem to be two questions: confidence and mechanics. For example, Phil Garner has alluded to bad "karma" and catcher, Brad Ausmus, has mentioned a change in mechanics that has affected Lidge's performance. Of course, the fans and others have their opinions as well.

Looking at the stats, Lidge's WHIP did make a downward turn in 2007, but his K/9 (although healthy at 11.82) and BB/9 have been going in the wrong direction. Before jumping off the deep end, however, we have to realize that Lidge is still pretty good. Keith Law, for instance, argues that Houston should have got more in return in their recent trade with Philadelphia. Lidge's stats are on the decline partly because his 2004-05 seasons were so totally dominant. When you're at the "top", there is usually only one way to go.

But what if Lidge could stay at the peak of his game? This brings us back to confidence and mechanics.


Most of us remember this - Albert Pujols' 3-run game winner off Lidge in the 2005 NLCS:

Without getting into specifc speculation about Brad Lidge, I just want to present some objective information from the world of Sports Psychology. There is something called attentional focus that directly relates to each person's ability to concentrate. Subsequently, there are a number of internal distractors which can deter focus, and one of these distractors is attending to past events.

When a player gets pre-occupied with past performances (or mechanics, which we'll get to) it can cause performance to suffer. Here is a good illustration:

Ideal attentional focus is shown at the top. But if a player is thinking about too many things - like the crowd, past peformance, mechanics, etc. - then his focus is too broad (middle). Conversely, his focus may be too narrow (bottom) if he doesn't consider critcal information about his situation (ie. read the scouting report).


Here is a look at Lidge in 2005 and 2007:

Below is a 4 minute video comparison with my commentary on Lidge's mechanics from the 2005 and 2007 seasons. Click the "play" button:

Launch in external player

Opponents still aren't getting great looks off of Lidge, as evidenced by a .222 BAA in 2007, but since 2005, Lidge is walking about one more and striking out one less batter per nine innings. Perhaps most telling, though, is that Lidge is giving up double the HR/9 over the last two years. Judging by Ausmus' comments, it appears that the main issue is with the slider. Ausmus says other batters are getting a better look at his slider and the video seems to back this up. So if they are laying off a bit more and jumping on more mistakes, this makes some sense.

Also on the slider, I mentioned in the video that the 2005 Lidge should, in theory, create more arm speed. If this is true, it may serve to create more/tighter spin on the slider which would equate to a sharper break. Combine this with a bit more deception, and maybe Lidge is right back to his old position as a dominant closer.

If I was in the position of an organization such as Philadephia, these are exactly the types of players I would try to pick up - players that still have the ability, but whose "stock" might be slightly down. Especially when you can pick out elements of change and try to help them get back to things that they have already done in the past, rather than attempt to create new changes. From that standpoint, I have to say I like this move by Philly.


As an Astros fan, I have been frustrated trying to figure out what is wrong with Brad Lidge. Over the last two years, the possibilities which have been accepted as "cures" from time to time, include tipping his pitches, need for more types of pitches, need for fewer types of pitches, and even "too nice a guy"(not throwing inside) as Jeff Kent helpfully advised after a series against the Dodgers.

I have never subscribed to the "Pujols ruined him" view. Now, the constant media questioning about it may have gotten into his head. But Lidge had been worked very, very hard, though he performed spectacularly, during the Astros' playoff drive in 05. The strain started to show in the final regular series of 05 when Lidge blew one save and almost blew another. During the playoffs that followed, Lidge was constantly living on the edge, with few clean saves. He almost blew the NLCS Game 4 save the night before the Game 5 blast by Pujols. He was saved in Game 4 by an amazing DP turned by Adam Everett which prevented the Cards from tying the game. Then he blew another game in the World Series when light hitting Posednik hit a HR in extra innings.

If it is any comfort to Phillies' fans, Brad Lidge's stuff looked as good as ever to me in the final couple of months of 07. He still had the misfortune to blow saves by giving up inopportune HRs though. Maybe he is the unluckiest guy in the world, but it seemed like he was constantly hurt by guys hitting balls out of the park which were way out of the strike zone, or just about shoe top level. The other odd thing is that Lidge was virtually unhittable if he worked the 7th or 8th inning, but seemed to have bad stuff happen to him if he pitched the 9th. What does that mean for him as a closer in Philadelphia? Heck, if I know.
But I will say, good luck, Brad.

Great job, Jeff. Your video comparison was superb.

I'm not crazy about controlling Lidge for one year only but think he is just what the Phillies need - a potentially lockdown closer - if they are serious about playing next October.

I agree - fantastic video analysis. I'm another Astro fan, and I also believe that Lidge's knee-buckling slider has been mostly MIA since '05 due to mechanical issues.

I'd also like to point out that in the '07 clip, it looks like Lidge's lead shoulder is turned about 5-10 degrees more towards 3rd. Maybe it's a trick of the camera angle, but I doubt it.

Right, it seems that for whatever reason, the big hits come off Lidge at the wrong time. I'm in no place to makes guesses about his mental approach, that's why I only presented some objective info. - it may or may not apply in this specific case. But it helps to have an overall understanding.

DC - it does look like he is a bit more closed in '07. Again, these are things that could actually be measured with legit biomechanics equipment, but a rough guess is all you can make with this type of video. As always, that is why I try to stick to the most obvious observations.

The fact that Ausmus mentioned batters picking up the ball earlier and the difference in his arm action clicked for me. When I first did a longer version of the video back in July I made a guess that hitters were somehow seeing the ball better. Maybe it isn't just a coincidence.

DC - going back to what Ausmus said about Lidge opening up more to the first base side...that very well could be a result of over-compensation for the intial change in shoulder position.

Maybe that is having the same effect on the slider as Hudson

Flying open toward first: that makes good sense...!

Great work, Jeff. I'm sick and tired of the shallow psychoanalysis (the Pujols theory that CJ mentions) and it's refreshing to see some serious light being shed on the mystery.

Hey Jeff, do you think you could check out Vernon Wells at some point? There are a couple factors for his 2007 "season" if that's what that's called nowadays (contract, supposed shoulder problems stemming from a wall collision in late '06), but let's see how his swing managed to get so awful.