Lidge keeps job after blowing MLB-high ninth save

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Between the regular season and playoffs last year Brad Lidge converted 48-of-48 save chances with a 1.83 ERA, .199 opponents’ batting average, and 105 strikeouts in 76.2 innings.
This year Lidge blew his first save on April 18, coughed up more runs than he did all of last season by mid-May, and after his latest ugly outing last night is now 0-6 with nine blown saves and a 7.33 ERA in 46.2 innings.
He’s gone from one of the greatest closer seasons in baseball history to one of the worst closer seasons in baseball history, yet amazingly the Phillies are on pace to win more games than they won last year and have a comfortable seven-game lead in the NL East. All of which is why manager Charlie Manuel isn’t feeling a ton of pressure to strip ninth-inning duties from Lidge:
He’s got to stay with it. He’s got to keep going. I mean, what the hell? That’s all we can do. That’s where we’re at. That’s our closer. I’ve said that all along. That’s the guy we give the ball to in the ninth inning.
Interestingly, while getting another in the long line of votes of confidence from his manager Lidge was hinting that he probably shouldn’t have been out there to begin with after working on each of the previous three days:
It’s frustrating. Obviously, I’ll take the ball 10 days in a row. I want to get out there and compete and get those guys out. Unfortunately today it just didn’t happen. I didn’t have enough in the tank, I guess. I didn’t have anything on the ball tonight. The fourth day in a row for me historically has been pretty bad. I wasn’t able to make an adjustment today and I just didn’t have anything on the ball. I need to be able to make an adjustment if I throw four days in a row.
Lidge has been bad enough that it’s tough to make excuses for specific poor outings, but he does have a point. Not only did he pitch on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before blowing Tuesday’s game, he also warmed up Friday. Whether or not that’s too heavy of a workload for a closer is perhaps up for debate, but it’s definitely a much heavier workload than Lidge is used to. In fact, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes it was just the seventh time in eight seasons that Lidge has pitched on four straight days.
Zolecki speculates that Manuel will stick with Lidge unless his blown saves start putting the Phillies’ division lead in jeopardy or Brett Myers looks absolutely dominant once he returns from the disabled list, neither of which seem particularly likely at this point. Philadelphia winning 90-something games with a closer who has the highest ERA of all time among pitchers with 25-plus saves is a testament to the roster’s all-around strength, but it’ll be a whole lot tougher making noise again in October like this.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: