A change at closer needs to Happ-enby Eric Schwartz
When I got in my car this evening following Brad Lidge’s 11th blown save of the season I knew I would hear some pretty upset Phillies fans when I flipped on 610 WIP.
The first thing I heard surprised me. It was suggestion that J.A. Happ should be the Phillies closer going forward.
With just two weeks left in the season this move seemed ridiculous. Happ has never closed and wouldn’t have much time to settle into the role.
It just didn’t seem like a reasonable option.
Forty minutes later when I got out of my car I was convinced: Happ taking over the closers role is the right move to make.
At this point it seems all but certain that the Phillies will go with a rotation of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez in the playoffs. That means Happ will be in the bullpen. If he is going to be in there anyway the Phillies might as well use him where they need help the most.
Brad Lidge simply can’t close moving forward. Charlie Manuel has given him every chance to show he can turn the clock back to 2008, but it hasn’t happened. Lidge threw a few good sliders Wednesday night but when it counted the most his pitches were flat. Even after Lidge blew the save he had a chance to get his team into extra innings. With two outs Lidge had pinch hitter Brett Carroll in a 0-2 hole. He then put the ball on a tee and Carroll hit a line drive u the middle that scored the game-winning run and dropped Lidge to 0-8 this season.
We don’t know if Happ can close, but we don’t know he can’t either.
We do know that this season Lidge can’t. We also know that Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre and Can Ho Park have all blow saves when given the opportunity.
Happ has shown an ability to get left-handers (.208 against) and right-handers (.245 against him) out and has shown the ability to handle pressure (beat the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium in his 2009 debut).
The Phillies have the luxury of having six quality starters and this is a time to make that pay off. Let Moyer slide in to Happ’s rotation spot for the final two weeks and see if Happ can handle closing. Happ will need to get used to coming out of the pen anyway if he is out in the playoff rotation, so why not give it a try?
Others have suggested the Phils give Pedro a try, but I don’t see that as a realistic option. Pedro has a history of struggling in the first inning and likely wouldn’t be able to pitch in back-to-back games with his age.
That brings us back to Happ.
At this point, why not?