2 nights in a row. 2 nights in a row we’ve had a chance to face the head case, Brad Lidge – and twice we’ve messed it up. Let me just be clear here, folks: Brad Lidge could not throw three strikes in an at-bat if his life depended on it. Let me repeat myself: Brad Lidge is a WILD pitcher. He has very little control over his pitches, and what control he does have abandons him when he gets rattled. It’s not difficult to understand!
Last night, Pujols comes up and swings at the first pitch. He doesn’t work the count…he doesn’t try to get on base…he just swings at the first pitch. 1 out. The rest of the team doesn’t do much better as apparently no one has learned anything from watching Lidge for the last few years.
Tonight, we faced Lidge again…bases loaded…one out…one run game…bottom of the ninth. Nick “The Stick” Stavinoha comes to the plate. A rookie. A triple A call-up. A man with zero history against Lidge (who, by the way, just hit a man in the back). Nick swings at 3 of 4 pitches he faces…and the one he didn’t swing at is a ball. What do they all have in common (the pitches)? All of them are sliders. Now let’s think about this…one run game, bases loaded…and a guy with a 96 mph fastball throws all sliders…a pitch that can easily get away from the catcher and allow the fifth run to score. Why? Well, let’s think back to last night again…Rick Ankiel at the plate…bottom of the ninth…down by a run. Ank swings at three sliders down in the dirt. Again…why not the fastball?
Because he is afraid of his fastball.
How do we not realize this (them…not me…I realize it…I SCREAM it when we face Lidge in these situations)? Do we even HAVE coaches or veterans? Does no one take the time to talk to anyone and say, “Hey…this guy…he’s a head case and he is terrified of his fastball in game-on-the-line situations…so work the count and let him throw his slider all over the place until he has to throw you his fastball for a strike.”
So…back to tonight…Nick “The Stick” strikes out because he is, quite simply, inexperienced. A freakin’ fly ball ties the game…and Nick swings at almost everything Lidge throws him. Did anyone else in TV land see Lidge shaking off his catcher like he was being offered free tickets to the Back Street Boys?
He. Is. Terrified. Of. His. Fastball.
This is not rocket science, people. Wait…did you miss the Ankiel at-bat last night? Couldn’t bear to watch the Stavinoha strikeout tonight? Never fear – Joe Mather is here! Again…this is not Mather’s fault. He’s a rookie. He’s spent more than half his season in triple A. He’s never faced Lidge. Why should he know?
Enter coaches and/or veterans.
At what point does a coach, manager, veteran, trainer, waterboy, bat boy, or a loud/obnoxious fan with an uncanny ability to yell over the roar of the stadium tell these rookies like Mather to lay off the slider and make him throw his fastball? The guy couldn’t throw 3 strikes in an at-bat if you held his mother hostage and threatened to make her watch Jack Clark on the post-game show over and over again. So, what does Mather do? He swings at any and all pitches Lidge is kind enough to offer him. Sliders. Low, away, in the dirt, out of the zone sliders. And Mather strikes out.
Everybody in Cardinal Nation knew Mather was going to get a two strike slider. We just knew it. I knew it – why didn’t you? Don’t you pay attention when Lidge pitches? Does ANYONE freaking pay attention when Lidge pitches?! Because at no time, clearly, did ANYONE on the rookies’ team (Mather/Stavinoha) step up and tell the kids how to approach Brad Lidge. No one. If they did, we wouldn’t have seen what we did. Not one, but two rookies in a row swing at every damn slider that wild-as-crap head case was willing to throw them.
And we lost the game. I ask again…do we even HAVE coaches? Are the veterans THAT much different than the rookies if they don’t know how to put together an at-bat against a guy like Lidge in this situation? Need an example? Troy Glaus. The guy went to the plate with a plan. He would lay off anything away or anything even smelling like a slider. Why? Because Lidge doesn’t have the control to paint the outside with his fastball and his slider is simply nasty. It’s not his “out” pitch…it’s his “bail out” pitch…as in, “this is the pitch I’ll go to when I’m scared to death of my wild fastball that tends to leave the yard when it’s in the zone.” So…Glaus layed off the pitches he didn’t like…he made Lidge offer a hard pitch on the inner half…and he punished him for it.
Really…what do we have coaches for if it’s not to tell these kids stuff they don’t already know? Stuff like, “Hey…head case…wild fastball…gets rattled…lay off the slider…make him pitch to you.”
And don’t even get me started on Pujols’ wild swing on ball 4 with a 3-0 count immediately before Ludwick’s solo home run…or the fact that Ludwick refuses to make an adjustment despite the situation. Are you aware that 21 of his 27 home runs have come without runners on base? Why do you think that is? BECAUSE, pitchers don’t give you the same first pitch in an at-bat with runners on base as they do with bases empty! That means you MIGHT have to change your approach at the plate a bit with runners on base and actually STOP swinging at the first pitch. But…even that is excusable considering the success he’s had this year…obviously his approach is working for him.
But tonight…and last night…against Lidge…is NO ONE willing to pull the rookies aside and prep them for what they were about to face and how to go about it????!!!!