Should Happ be the Closer?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, September 24, 2009 01:00 PM | Comments: 67
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts, Raising Questions

Philadelphia Phillies' J.A. Happ pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second inning of the baseball game in Pittsburgh,  Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)J.A. Happ to the closers role? It’s probably more intriguing than watching Brad Lidge in the ninth.  Definitely reduces the risk of heart attack as well.

On top of that, Ryan Madson hasn’t been able to close out games with regularity and Brett Myers is an unknown because of his shoulder and hip ailments. So who can be trusted?

Clay Condrey is coming back from his own injuries and really isn’t thought of as a ninth inning pitcher.  Sergio Escalona?  No thanks.  J.C. Romero is still fighting off a sore elbow, so his involvement in the postseason is a concern at this point.  Scott Eyre is a specialist, cross him off the list. Tyler Walker is a former closer with decent returns from the spot, but the Phillies like using him in a seventh inning role, it would appear.

Chan Ho Park, if he were not laid up with a hamstring pull, would probably have a chance to succeed in that role.  But his availability is also in question.

A very thought-provoking scenario could include Pedro Martinez as your anchor.  He’s never done it, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t shine.  Pedro clearly has the tools, the mental makeup, and the cojones to flourish in that situation. With neck issues clouding the picture, it seems more a fantasy than a reality. Besides, he would work better as a fourth starter because of his postseason credentials.

That leaves us with James Anthony Happ.  It’s not as crazy as it might sound.  Happ has worked out of the pen this year, and the results are there.  And while his stuff is not overpowering or heat seeking, his command is pinpoint, and his attitude and fortitude give him a leg up.

He has dominated in his position as the Phillies fourth starter this year, but with desperate times come desperate measures.  The kid is a gamer, so with the remaining two weeks in the season, see if it works.  If Charlie is going to put him in the pen anyway, why not use him when it counts the most.

A similar move occurred a few years ago when the St. Louis Cardinals tabbed a young righty Adam Wainwright to be their closer for the playoffs.  Of course, this hinges on the health of Happ, who is still dealing with that sore oblique.

Looking at the entire scope of things, I really can’t find a negative with moving Happ.  Of course, he would look better in the rotation, that we can all agree on. But with four very capable starters already in the rotation, this can work.  Do you like or dislike this possibility?

Hey, it couldn’t get any worse, right?

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Pat Gallen has written 1676 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff Y.

    It’s worth a shot. Lidge should not even pick up a baseball in a Phillies uniform.

  • Posts: 0 Griffin

    It’s a better than Lidge, but how long would it take to get Happ’s arm able to pitch on back to back days? Also, after Chollie tried to end Pedro’s season, will Pedro be healthy enough to make his playoff start(s)?

    Although the Phils did this with Myers in ’07, I don’t have any faith in them doing something as creative as this.

  • Posts: 0 Chris.I

    As much as I would be ”HAPP”Y to see this go into effect as soon as possible…There is one problem…He’s pitching tonight, and he wouldn’t be ready to take the mound in the 9th inning until monday or tuesday. I think its a great idea to give him a shot before the Playoff’s to see how good he performs in that role.

  • Posts: 0 Kevin

    Definitely not Pedro, he leads all pitchers with the most lead-off home runs given up… and his first inning ERA is much higher than his later inning’s ERA. He likes to settle into games, I don’t see him being a shut-down 1 inning closer.

    Happ can definitely pitch out of the pen, but if this were a possibility the Phils were considering – they might have eased him back into the rotation with a couple of spot appearances out of the pen, maybe in the ninth inning – but then again, our SP is dwindling and we needed him back in the rotation.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Interesting idea, but first we gotta see what happens today with him on the mound.

  • Posts: 0 ryan

    I think ya really gotta think outside the box here. I’m willing to try anything. do you realize that in 2006 Adam Wainright was only 3 for 5 on save opportunities for the entire season before the playoffs. They were really taking a shot in the dark with him. Same with David Price who was pretty dominant at least for the ALCS against Boston last year when he had never been a closer. I say we try anything. Maybe Bastardo. Maybe Happ. Maybe Pedro. Whatever works. I’d still go situational and use Eyre or Romero against lefties for the ninth.

  • Posts: 0 George

    I can’t see why people seem to think Walker would be any kind of an option. His stats show that he has not been an effective closer. He’s saved 34 but has also blown 14. He’s better off where he’s at. Lidge has saved 31 0f 42. There’s not much difference. Walker is effective where he’s used at present. It could be a mistake to move him to the closer’s role, as it would weaken the Phil’s bullpen in the earlier innings. You don’t replace awful with slightly less awful.

    Happ is probably the only option, unless Myers can come back. Martinez has been pretty bad in the first innings of his starts. While it might be nice to use Happ as closer now, one or two “practice” games in the regular season won’t really make much difference. He can do the job or he can’t, simple as that.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I dont think anyone will be “moved to the closers role” … but we’re a couple games ahead .. it would be foolish NOT to try some different options before the season ends

    At this point, Condrey, Walker, Park have been under the radar kinda guys from the bullpen

    I think Walker is the only one with closing experience … I bet Condrey could do it, cause he throws gas and doesn’t get scared to throw inside, etc. BUT.. he also walks people, which isn’t good

    at least if you’re giving up hits, the guys behind you have a chance to make a play.. there is no defense for the walk

  • Posts: 0 john fire

    I think Happ would be fantastic in that role. His poise on the mound has been obvious all year – whenever he gets into jams, he’s cool as a cucumber and usually works his way out of it.

    That said, it’ll never happen. Ever.

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I kind of agree with John Fire. It’s probably not going to happen. But never say never. Lets see if Charlie can pull something out of his hat here and surprise us all.

  • Posts: 0 Philly Geoff

    If he is healthy it could work… was Wainwright a starter when he went on his post season run a few years back… or was he a reliever in the minors, and they turned him into a starter?

    Not comparing the two, but it is not unprecedented to move a rookie starter to closer. (See David Price last year… he was a starter)

  • Posts: 0 Jeff Y.

    It’s obvious that Lidge is done for the season. I would let Walker close for the remainder of the year.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Imagine J.A. Happ getting tackled by Ryan Howard as they clinch the WS title!!

  • Posts: 0 rtbamam

    Anyone is better than that pathectic excuse of a human LIDGE

  • Posts: 0 Adam G

    Tyler Walker… just have to try it.
    Happ doesnt have the stuff for the role.

  • Posts: 0 Adam G

    Wainwright worked the whole year in relief. Didnt start till 07.

  • Posts: 0 Dave

    Georgie, you do realize that a BS do not just occur when someone is closing out the game.
    So Walker hasn’t gone 34/46 in save situations. He’s saved 34 games and blown 12, some of which no doubt occurred when he was not in a save situation.

  • Posts: 0 Dave

    *BS does

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    I remember when Chahlie took Lidge out of the game on Sept the 8th, he said that Lidge was his closer but the team comes first. You have to do whatever it takes to win.
    Why the sudden reversal? Why, after the lead off baserunner in the 9th got to third base with only 1 out was Lidge left in? Why, after allowing the tying run to score and there were still men on base did he leave Lidge in?
    Why has Chahlie gone back on what he said? “.. you have to do whatever it takes to win..”

  • Posts: 0 joedad

    F off rtbamam.

    The only problem with Happ closing is that he may not be able to pitch on back to back days. He could because he is young but you generally want to have at least a week or 2 of conditioning your body to going all out for one inning rather than pacing yourself for 7+.

  • Posts: 0 Kate

    I was actually thinking about this last night as I was falling asleep. Or why not Pedro? We can’t have like a 6 man starting rotation in the playoffs.

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Game 1… Cliff Lee goes as long as he can and we bring in Joe Blanton if need be

    Game 2… Cole Hamels goes as long as he can and we bring in Walker/Madson/Lidge

    Game 3… Pedro/Happ go as long as they can and hand the ball off to whoever is not pitching… with a day off before game 3, we’ll have all of the bullpen arms ready by game 3, only if need be.

    Game 4… Joe Blanton with Cliff Lee in relief

    Game 5… Cole Hamels to the pen…

    If we do it like that, we get three games (1,3 and 5) that don’t require a reliever… Lee/Blanton are both capable of giving us a couple of innings in relief on 3 days rest. Gallardo did it last year with the Brewers…

  • Posts: 0 Greg V.

    Sure, why not Happ? Why not anybody at this point? I’d rather throw Taschner out there! I love Lidge, I’ll never speak a bad word abut the man for ’08. BUT HE CAN’T CLOSE GAMES AS OF SEPTEMBER 24!!!!!!

  • Posts: 0 hotstove

    Im thinking we use differnt guys when leftys to start a inning you go eyre. then righties madson and taschner or go Happ

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Vote for Pedro! Put simply Smoltz did it and so could Pedro who could extend his hall of fame career and make more money by closing than starting. The only other option is Myers which worries the hell out of me.

    ps. you don’t screw with your starters in relief until game 7 of the world series (unless you’ve burnt your bullpen)…

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Disagree, NJ… Brew Crew used Gallardo in games 1 and 4 (pen) last year (earmarked CC, who pitched game 2 as their game 5 starter). The key to winning playoff series’ is doing whatever the hell you need to do to get a win in any game that you’ve got that chance to get a win. Don’t blow leads, don’t squander opportunities and put teams away… I don’t trust anyone stepping into the game in the 9th inning and I’m avoiding it at all costs.

    The way they do it, you get days off after games 2 and 4 and 5. SO Cliff Lee could pitch in relief in game 4 and be ready to pitch game 1 on three days rest. Realistically, you would only have to use Lee in relief IF the game was close (with us holding a lead). More likely, you’re going to have a manageable lead OR be behind (in which case, go with the guys that are used to pitching in that situation… Eyre, Taschner, Condrey, etc.). The key, in my opinion, is having Blanton work out of the pen in game one… he’s probably our strongest pitcher and is the guy that I worry about the least. I like our chances in any 7 game series… we have to get through the first round.

  • Posts: 0 jt

    charlie continues to put one guy ahead of an entire team…how do you think the guys that play hard the entire game watching lidge come in and blow 11 games they worked their butts off in…i know we don’t have many other options madson suffers from 9th aphobia,parks injured,so is myers and the rest of the guys don’t have the stuff to be a closer…they gotta start warming happ or pedro up to close because lidge is destorying the team anybody but him please.

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    SO, what then is the pitch count if we have no one to go in the 9th? Can Lee go 130 everytime?

  • Posts: 0 GWFightinsFan

    I like the idea of Happ as a closer…its certainly worth a shot…

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    JT- I think that Charlie’s trying to do what is best for this team. A healthy/confident Lidge is best for this team. If he magically turned it around in time for the playoffs, this team would be better off and all of these blown saves would have been worth it. That’s why he stands behind J-Roll when he’s slumping and Howard when he’s swinging at garbage and Utley when he’s dealing with issues and… in the end, he knows that it’s the best thing for the team.

    Unfortunately, Lidge is not going to be healthy/confident…

    So, at some point, the memo that Charlie needs to send to his guys should read, “We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win playoff games/series…” You can’t waste opportunities and you can’t give away games… simple as that. So Brad, your leash was just shortened quite a bit… first hiccup and you’re outta here.

    In 1965, Sandy Koufax started game 5 against the twins… he pitched a complete game shutout. Then he pitched game 7 on two days rest… he pitched a three hit shutout. Lee in game 1, relief in game 4… Blanton in game 4, relief in game 1.

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    CC Sabathia pitched his final four games of the 2008 season each on 3 days rest…

  • Posts: 0 Dhall

    I’m all for it. Lidge shouldn’t even be allowed into CBP without a ticket.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    You can’t have a sample for comparision when the two things being compared have different time intervals unless its stated beforehand. i.e. comparing tyler walker’s career stats. to lidge’s numbers this year. What is more important is to look at the context under which Walker was closing: he was a asked to do it after some else failed.
    Could Happ be a closer. Sure but keep in mind that its alot different to have runners on base against the braves in August, then it is against the Cardinals in October. Besides a reoccuring oblique strain is a prelude to surgery. The oblique attaches to the rib cage and is used primarily in rotating the torso which is the primary movement in batting and pitching. Just how much adaptive shortening the surrounding muscles will under go to protect the injured area is hard to say, but more importantly is how much will this affect his delivery. Too much of a liability for post season play I’d say. This isn’t like a calf strain…it is one of the most difficult muscle injuries to recover from… just goggle it.
    And myers….ut, mike lowel, a-rod all with the same injuries as myers…the big difference as a pitcher myers must bear his body’s weight one leg to initiate a pitch…this is leg that corresponds to his injured hip. Furthermore he pushes off the rubber with that leg. 3 or 4 months of recovery…for that and now a shoulder injury. Plus there is the normal post-op pain in the hip taht he, like mike lowell has experienced. This is alot of uncetainity for a position that is inherently mercurial.
    Ultimately none of it really matters…the blood is in the water and other teams will smell the fear from bull pen. The last thing you want in an emotionally charged atmosphere is loose batters who no longer set themselves up to fail because they can’t get your bull pen’s dominance out of their heads. We have failed to establish anything other than we are vulnerable. The powers that be lacked any creativity to solve this problem when there was time…the bed has been crapped. Also i can’t help think of the added pressure on the starters knowing that any lead once they leave the game is about as safe as scuba diving dressed in a meat suit off the coast of Australia.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    Charlie has to give up hope on Lidge. This team will make the playoffs but it costs us the best record overall. Everyone knew Lidge would blow up last night.

  • Posts: 0 jt

    rollins was benched earlier in the season for like 4 games when he was in that horrendous slump…charlie has to know lidge is done why did he pull him out of that game against the nats?he should of been pulled with that guy on 3rd with less than 2 outs even a blind guy could tell lidge will not get the next 2 outs without him scoring.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    This is why players on the team consider our fans to be FRONT RUNNERS …

    they just won the World Series last year.. probably thanks to Brad Lidge more than any other player in 2008 ..

    and because he’s struggling this year (eventhough we’re still in 1st place, by a pretty comfortable margin).. people are ready to run him out of town..

    I’m almost embarassed to call myself a Phillies fan, after reading half of the comments on here

  • Posts: 0 tm

    basically anyone other than the guy name brad lidge should be the closer.

    it’s seriously a joke in the 9th inning. no opposing team is scared/intimated of lidge and they’re probably looking forward to facing him because they know they have a pretty good chance to score runs and brad rarely is going to have an easy 1,2,3 inning

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Charlie isn’t as dumb as you all want him to be … he realizes that he needs to get Lidge corrected more than he needs homefield advantage for two postseason series

    If we have home field, but no definite closer.. we’re going to lose anyway…

    You’ll see some different guys getting chances over the 10 days.. and since all those guys sh!t the bed too, it falls back to Lidge .. lets support him instead of bash him ..

    Holler Back yo’s

  • Posts: 0 jdoze

    man i would love to see them do something like this. you dont need someone that throws 97 closing games just someone that has control and can get 3 outs. but you know damn well its gonna be lidge or madson from here on out. i would imagine madson but you never know with charlie.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    just because i think the management failed the bull pen doesn’t mean i don’t like charlie or think he should be fired. 1] we know he just doesn’t get pitchers, 2] this team is like teflon coated Kevlar. However, it could not withstand the shock if charlie was fired. The stituation just sucks dog farts.

  • Posts: 0 Phillies Fan in NYC

    Interesting info:

    Since the save became an official statistic in 1969, only one team has won the World Series with a closer blowing as many as Brad Lidge’s 11 this year. Dan Quisenberry of the 1985 Royals blew 12 saves.

  • Posts: 0 rtbamam

    Hey joedad f off yourself

  • Posts: 0 rtbamam

    by the way joedad what makes you an authority on baseball. If you have something to say state it there is no need to be arrogant about it

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    your wrong don. We are all Phillies fans. Yes lidge did great last year but this is this year. if mcnabb was throwing 5 picks a game and losing the game you pull him. bottom line.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    Don M. – i really like lidge but putting him out there is cruel. Because of the elevated adrenaline the muscle memory of that stituation is etched deeper into the neuromuscular system…so if their was a problem with his mechanics during these failed which there is evidence of, each failure can encode more failure even if the the mechanics are corrected in practice sessions. If there is still a ghost in the machine then as soon as he takes the mound in a real game stituation the brain recalls the same neuromuscular pattern he thinks he’s corrected because the stimulus of the stituation is too strong. it is like have a virus you eliminated from your files but not your registry…as soon as you turn on your computer the bad code reloads itself. Some are more suspectable to the effects than others…i think that is what is going on with lidge…he needs time and a sport pyschologist . He’ll always be aces in my book eventhough he makes me want to throw my hammer through the tv screen.

  • Posts: 0 Matt

    Don M.,

    I completely agree with you. Both posts, actually. Lidge was huge last year, and without him we wouldn’t have won the World Series. Now, one bad (albeit, terrible) year goes by and people are calling for his head, saying he shouldn’t be allowed in the park without buying a ticket, etc. Hearing stuff like this makes me almost embarrassed to be a Phillies fans, and to be associated with some of you people. Yeah, I know it’s “what have you done for me lately?” but you can’t forget what Lidge did last year. I don’t think he should still be closing for us, I think we should try some other options, but I’m not wishing ill upon him or calling him a pathetic excuse for a human being like some people. You don’t think Lidge hears all this stuff, people bashing him? I’m sure he hears it, he probably can’t even go out to dinner in Philly without being treated like he killed their mothers. You don’t have to be all “Oh it’s ok, Brad. Just try your hardest! xoxo!!!11!!” but at the same time, don’t treat him like he’s the worst thing since AIDs…

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Not if your backup QB couldn’t lead the team either.. and the year before McNabb had just lead us to the SuperBowl

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    and if “McNabb” (Lidge) was throwing 5 picks per game… his backup (Madson) has been worse, percentage wise

    … yet the team was still in 1st place, and playoff bound again, for the 2nd straight year with him as the starting QB …

    you would stick with McNabb in that role

  • Posts: 0 Phan in TN

    sorry to be off topic but I just got a bit misty eyed

    i found the audio clips of harry kalas calling those games on this site.

    thanks for keeping those, gentlemen

    hope you don’t mind that I downloaded them and will play them every once in a while.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    If a guy is not getting the job done you cant keep running him out there. Its not last year, its this year. Just because a running back has over 1500 yards rushing doesnt mean they will keep him the next year. Brad cannot keep closing. The season will go under. As a manager you do whats best for the team.

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