The Hall of Fame Case: Brad Lidge
The likes of Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero -- and even first-timers like Jim Thome and Chipper Jones -- shouldn't have too much trouble racking up National Baseball Hall of Fame votes. But there are plenty of other players on the 2018 ballot who require a little more voter-cajoling. Players who may not have the on-field resume, but deserve an impassioned Hall of Fame case nonetheless. Players like ...
Brad Lidge. A Hall of Fame case is built upon some combination of longevity and peak performance. Players inducted on their first ballot, like Greg Maddux and Ken Griffey Jr., combine peaks that placed them among the best players of their generation -- with careers long enough to amass eye-popping career totals.
Lidge was robbed of longevity by injuries during his Minor League career. After the Astros drafted him following his junior year at Notre Dame in the first round of the 1998 Draft, Lidge spent four years as a starter in the Minors and racked up a grand total of ... 100 innings. Those injuries -- a torn rotator cuff and a broken forearm -- not only forced him to the bullpen, but delayed his debut to 2002 when he was 25 years old.
He (and five other pitchers) threw a no-hitter
Throughout his career, Lidge found himself at the center of historic moments. That started in his rookie season when he pitched two innings in a six-pitcher tandem no-hitter of the Yankees on June 11, 2003. After a strained groin forced Roy Oswalt out of the game in the second inning, the Astros called on five relievers to complete the no-no. Lidge picked up the win for his work in the sixth and seventh innings.
After retiring Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Robin Ventura in the sixth, Lidge got Hideki Matsui and Todd Zeile in the seventh, before capping off his performance by striking out Raul Mondesi on his signature slider:
He recorded the final out of a World Series
When a trade sent Lidge to the Phillies prior to the 2008 season, he joined a team that had just been swept in its first postseason series since 1993. Less than a year later, he was on the mound for the final outs in the World Series. Of course, he threw his slider:
He went 48-for-48 in save opportunities
That final strikeout of Eric Hinske completed a perfect 2008 season for Lidge in which he went 48-for-48 in save opportunities. During the regular season, he converted all 41 of his save opportunities. Thanks to those 41 saves and a 1.95 ERA, Lidge was one of only three players to receive first-place votes -- along with Albert Pujols and teammate Ryan Howard -- in the NL MVP voting.
His 41-for-41 regular season represents one of only four pitcher seasons of 30 or more saves without a blown save (Eric Gagne, Zach Britton and Jose Valverde have also done it).
He was part of one of the most majestic dingers in postseason history
Remember what we said about Lidge finding his way into historic moments? Well, before Lidge became one of the heroes of the 2008 Phillies, he generously helped Pujols become a hero in 2005. With Pujols' Cardinals facing elimination with two out and two on in the ninth inning of the NLCS, Lidge allowed the slugger to hit the ball a long way:
It remained -- arguably -- the best-known home run hit at Minute Maid Park until George Springer hosted a historical reenactment in the 2017 World Series.
He struck out the side in his first All-Star Game
Lidge made his first All-Star team as an Astro in 2005. It only took him 11 pitches to make it through the bottom of the seventh inning. He struck out all three batters he faced -- Melvin Mora, Mike Sweeney and Garret Anderson. Making that even more impressive was that not one of those hitters made contact on a single pitch from Lidge. As usual, he did it with his slider and fastball:
He offers a compelling campaign pitch
It's not often that professional athletes publicly display self-awareness. But Lidge knows that his Hall of Fame candidacy isn't as strong as some of his peers on the ballot, at least on the surface:
What an honor to be on the HOF ballot. Honestly humbling to be with those much more deserving studs! Looks like I will need to throw in my scar stats (Spread Crushing Above Replacement) and minor league ping pong titles to have any shot at a vote...- Brad Lidge (@SlidersNSaves54) November 24, 2017
Are you convinced? Does Lidge -- with his saves, no-hitters, strikeouts and ping-pong championships in tow -- deserve a spot in Cooperstown?