One year ago Friday, the Phillies traded outfielder Michael Bourn, pitcher Geoff Geary and prospect Michael Costanzo to the Houston Astros for pitcher Brad Lidge and utility man Eric Bruntlett. At the time — at my former personal blog — I said the move was an initial win:
“If Lidge can at least play like he did last season, it immediately upgrades our weakest place.”
Nobody — not even in their wildest mind — thought it would be this good.
The Phillies did give up some value to net Lidge and Bruntlett. Bourn, a speedy baserunner and strong fielder, swiped 48 bags for Houston, but was atrocious at the dish, ending 2008 as the worst hitter among qualified National League players. Geary, meanwhile, recorded a 2.53 ERA in the Astros bullpen; luckily, the Phils would never miss his middle-relief prowess. And Costanzo could end up a bonafide slugger, but that doesn’t seem likely today.
That aside, the Phils absolutely crushed Ed Wade on this deal. Bruntlett was a steady utility man. Think about this: He started at shortstop when Jimmy Rollins hit the DL; he started at third base when Pedro Feliz hit the DL; and Bruntlett served as the defensive replacement for Pat Burrell. He saw 120 games — second among non-regulars — and provided good defense and passable offense. He even had a few big hits along the way.
Of course, the focus of the deal is Lidge, and his value in 2008 alone gives the Phils a win. Let’s look at his 2008 numbers, shall we?
62 G / 69.1 IP / 2-0 / 41 SV / 41 SVO / 92 K / 35 BB / 50 H / 1.95 ERA
As flawless a season as you’ll ever see. I counted one bad outing among the bunch — an implosion by the hands of the Braves in mid July. Every other outing was successful. Even in his more troublesome outings — which were few — he succeeded.
To be short, it’s the greatest single season by a Phillie reliever. It may not equal Eric Gagne’s insane 55-for-55 season in 2003, where he recorded an unfathomable 1.20 ERA, but this one still stacks up well.
And think back to the earliest days of the deal, when critics questioned Lidge’s head. Two years removed from an Albert Pujols blast, a year removed from a demotion from the closer role, months removed from a potentially career-deflating injury. Could Lidge ever close again? Most people doubted it.
Yet Lidge throws a perfect relief season, leaping to the sky and dropping to his knees after recording the final out of the 2008 season, a strikeout of Eric Hinske that delivered the Phillies their second world championship.
For that alone, this deal was a tremendous success.