Can Brad Lidge be a reliable closer next year? I think so. There have been numerous players that have had decent years as closers after less than stellar preceding performances. A great example of this is former Phillie Mark Leiter.
Leiter, the inferior half of the pitching brothers Leiter, was signed by the Phillies in '97 after a mediocre year spent with the Expos and Giants. He was pretty terrible as a starter in his first year with the Phils, going 10-17 with a 5.67 ERA. So, the Phils move him to the bullpen and make him a closer. He responded with 23 saves, a 3.55 ERA and a very respectable 1.28 WHIP. [I can't believe they didn't move Schilling to the pen that year, you know, so he could pitch 4-5 times a week instead of just once or twice...]
That season earned him a trade to Seattle for pitcher Paul Spoljaric (who had a ERA of 15 for the Phils.) He pitched only 37 innings the rest of his career.
The Lidge Trade
I love it.
The big talk surrounding this trade is the reliability and pure ability of Brad Lidge. Perception is that he's been garbage since Albert Pujols pounded him in the playoffs. But that just isn't the case. Granted, he was total garbage in '06 and parts of '07, but for the majority of the time in '07, Lidge was solid.
Compare his numbers to last year's closer Brett Myers: Myers 4.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 83 K in 68 IP versus Lidge 3.36 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 88 K in 67 IP. Would Myers be a better closer in '08 than Lidge? Possibly, but factor in the value of Myers in the rotation, and it's really a no brainer. The starting rotation improves dramatically (for only around $6 million), the bullpen doesn't get worse, and as a little bonus, they fill the utility infielder spot.