When the highlight of your season comes on Opening Day, one of two things has happened. A. You’re Tuffy Rhodes. B. You’ve had a forgettable season. Unfortunately for Brad Lidge, the answer was certainly the latter.
2012 Projection (ZiPS): 1-1, 3.69 ERA, 37 games, 31 2/3 IP
2012 Actual: 0-1, 9.64 ERA, 11 games, 9 1/3 IP
Lidge signed with the Nationals in late January, a one-year deal worth $1 million after being released by Philadelphia at the end of a 2011 season that saw him spend three months on the disabled list, during which time he lost his closer’s job to Ryan Madson. The reason for the signing was two-fold: Lidge was expected to be a 7th-inning kind of pitcher in front of established bullpen names Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen while also providing some veteran guidance to the younger players. Lidge is one of only a handful pf players to have recorded the final out of a World Series, so Mike Rizzo and the Nationals were hoping some of that post-season swagger would rub off on Lidge’s bullpen-mates.
But when Storen came down with elbow inflammation during spring training, Lidge’s role changed. Davey Johnson decided to split the closer’s duties among Lidge and fireballing youngster Henry Rodriguez (the fact that Rodriguez has already had his review written tells you how well that decision worked out.)
More or less alternating save chances, Lidge and Rodriguez gave Washington a gray-and-green tandem at the back of the bullpen, and it worked great in the Nationals season-opening series win over the Chicago Cubs, with each of the two pitchers converting save chances. But it turned out that Lidge just didn’t have it any more — combined with Rodriguez’s stunning inconsistency, it became necessary for Johnson to slide Clippard into the closer’s role.
By this time, Lidge had been put on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal wall strain, one night after his second blown save of the season in only four tries, against the Miami Marlins. By the time Lidge returned in June, swapping spots with Rodriguez who had a strained index finger, Clippard was firmly entrenched in the closer’s role and Lidge was battling for mop-up time, which even then did not suit the 35-year-old.
Three of his four outings after returning from the DL featured Lidge giving up runs, including a pair of soul-crushing outings against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park to help lift the Bombers to a weekend sweep of the Nats. At this point, it seemed Rizzo had seen enough. One day after that series, Lidge was designated for assignment, and he was released on June 25.
Season Highlight: Lidge closed out the Nationals 2-1 Opening Day win against the Chicago Cubs, kicking off Washington’s best-ever season.