4. Brad Lidge
Shockingly enough, Brad Lidge was drafted in the 1st round of the 1998 MLB Draft, but was never in the MLB Top 100 Prospects list and only ONCE made it in the top 5 of Astros prospects. That came in 2003 when he was the #3 prospect in the Astros pipeline behind John Buck and Jason Lane.
Quick fun fact here, Jon Buck was actually drafted in the 7th round of that same draft and made the Astros top prospect list four separate times and the MLB Top 100 on two separate occasions as well. Baseball is a funny game.
So, while I know that Brad Lidge was a known commodity (in some circles) and probably puts this list in flux, there is a lot to be said about his career and how people didn’t know much about this starting pitcher-turned closer.
Lidge would bounce around in the Minors for five years before finally finding a spot in the bullpen. This was largely due to the fact that he only had two solid pitches and a changeup that never really came to be a reliable pitch. His fastball-slider combo was too tantalizing for managers to pass up. So, they took their time and groomed the young pitcher to become a weapon.
Finally, debuting in 2002, Lidge found himself on an Astros team that was trying to build up a young budding roster. His first taste of Big League action found him giving up two runs in one inning of work. Something of an omen maybe.
He would finish out his rookie season in the bullpen piling up a hefty 6.23 ERA over 8.2 innings of work.
2003-2004 were different stories as he was part of the (debatably) best 7-8-9 pitching combos in recent MLB history. Lidge would start the 7th, Dotel the 8th, and Wagner would clean up the scraps. He would post a 2.71 ERA in that span with 44 holds and 30 saves. He would also receive Cy Young votes in the 2004 season, as his slider fooled everyone to the tune of 157 strikeouts in only 98 innings of work. That is a 14.9SO/9IP strikeout rate.
Then 2005 happened. It was all going so well. Lidge was posting literally lights-out numbers, 70 innings of work, 103 strikeouts, 42 saves, 2.13 FIP, a sparkling 2.29 ERA, and giving up only five home runs all year. He went to the All-Star Game and garnered MVP votes from the writers. It was the Year of Lidge.
Enter Albert Pujols.
In what can be only be described as the “Shot Heard Round the World”, Brad Lidge watched his confidence (as well as the ball) launched into orbit on October 17th, 2005.
He would finish the postseason giving up two home runs and a total six runs. 2006-2007 was miserable for Lidge as he would give up a total of 20 home runs and post a 4.37 ERA and watching his FIP inflate from 1.23 to 3.83.
He would find redemption in the form of a clean World Series win with the Phillies in 2008 however, and that would be that for Lidge. He would go on to fall back down to earth in 2009.
The six years with the Astros were great. Going from a forgotten 1st round draft pick, too untouchable closer, to fallen star, then back to a redemptive gladiator. Lidge belongs on this list, and if not for the next two players, he would be number one.