Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Brad Lidge is 36 years old. In December, when he was still 35, he announced his retirement from professional baseball. He hadn’t been much of a factor since 2010, so in that sense it felt inevitable that Lidge would hang them up. In discussing Lidge’s career, Mike Axisa wrote up the memorable moment that was Albert Pujols taking Lidge deep. Below, in the comments section of that post, some Phillies fans chimed in to say they most remember Lidge for completing the 2008 World Series. Me, I find both of those to be memorable moments, and when it comes to most memorable, that’s entirely subjective. But when I think of Brad Lidge, I don’t think first of Albert Pujols, nor do I think first of Eric Hinske. I don’t think of any one particular moment. I think of the whole sequence of moments that was Lidge’s 2004 season with the Astros. Craig Kimbrel is coming off an impossible season with the Braves, in which he struck out more than half of the batters he faced. Opposing batters made some sort of contact 61% of the time that they swung. Aroldis Chapman, too, was incredible with the Reds, collecting 122 strikeouts. Opposing batters made some sort of contact 62% of the time that they swung. Going further back now, Eric Gagne was downright unfair as a Dodger in 2003. He won the National League Cy Young, and opposing batters made some sort of contact 56% of the time that they swung. For Brad Lidge, 2004 was his second full season in the major leagues. Along the way, he turned into the Astros’ closer, and he never looked back. Over 80 regular-season appearances, he logged nearly 95 innings, and he reached 157 strikeouts. Opposing batters made some sort of contact 51% of the time that they swung. To be more precise, 50.5%, according to Lidge’s FanGraphs player page. We have some plate-discipline data going back to 2002, and since 2002, there have been 3,546 individual pitcher seasons of at least 50 innings. Here’s the contact rate top-five: Brad Lidge, 2004, 50.5% Eric Gagne, 2003, 56.2% Michael Wuertz, 2009, 58.1% Rudy Seanez, 2005, 58.7% Brad Lidge, 2005, 59.6% If you prefer swinging-strike rate instead, here’s that top-five as well: Brad Lidge, 2004, 25.0% Eric Gagne, 2003, 22.3% Eric Gagne, 2004, 21.4% Eric Gagne, 2002, 20.9% Brad Lidge, 2005, 20.3% In 2004, one out of every four Brad Lidge pitches generated a swing and miss. One out of every two swings against a Brad Lidge pitch made contact. It’s not just that 2004 Brad Lidge leads the way; it’s also about the separation between Lidge and the runner-up. The difference between 2004 Lidge and 2003 Gagne by contact rate is nearly six percentage points. Swinging against Brad Lidge in 2004 was essentially a coin flip. Brad Lidge never repeated what he did in 2004, and Brad Lidge in 2004 didn’t post baseball’s highest-ever strikeout rate. But when I think about unhittability, I think about difficulty of making contact, and that’s where 2004 Lidge is the winner over at least the last 11 years. Consider that, in 2004, the league-average contact rate against relievers was 78%. Armed with a high-90s fastball and a high-80s slider, Lidge allowed batters to make contact with the same frequency with which Barry Bonds reached base in 2001. In this paragraph, a pitcher’s contact rate is compared to a hitter’s on-base percentage. If you need still more numbers for whatever reason, Lidge missed as many bats in 2004 as Felix Hernandez did in 2010, when he won the American League Cy Young. Felix was a starter and Lidge was a reliever. Lidge missed far more bats in 2004 than AL Cy Young-winner David Price did in 2012. Price was a starter and Lidge was a reliever. Lidge made a mockery of the whole pitcher-batter interaction. The glimpse I hinted at in the headline — that’s because I was able to find some video. Below are two .gifs of Brad Lidge throwing sliders in 2004. This is all the video I could find of recent baseball’s most unhittable pitcher. It looks a lot like other Brad Lidge videos, but the knowledge that these particular pitches were thrown in 2004 adds a little contextual substance, I think. That’s clearly a knockout slider, and Lidge threw it nearly half of the time. As a rookie in 2003, Lidge threw 65% fastballs. As a sophomore in 2004, Lidge threw 49% fastballs, and his various numbers went in all the various right directions. Lidge rode his heat and that slider to a season unlike any we’ve seen lately. Other pitchers have the stuff, but they haven’t deployed it with the consistency to match Lidge’s results. For Brad Lidge in 2004, in terms of swings and misses, it just all came together. Of course, one might blame Lidge’s slider for Lidge’s arm problems. His slider, and his heavy early-career workload. If Brad Lidge pitched differently, Brad Lidge might still be pitching. But now that it’s all over, it’s not like Lidge has a lot to regret, and he’s the author of one incredible season, a season in which batters had as good a chance of whiffing as they had of making contact, in the event they opted to pull the trigger. Nobody’s matched Lidge’s contact rate in 2004. And nobody’s really come all that close. That second .gif shows Lidge and the Astros locking up the National League Wild Card. Lidge would make seven postseason appearances, striking out 20 of 44 batters faced. Batters attempted 87 swings against Lidge in the playoffs, and about 52% of the time, they made contact. For 2004 Brad Lidge, you could say October was a swing-and-miss slump.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Sharper, NFLers called spiked drinks 'horny juice'

Rex Ryan: My wife could coach Tom Brady

Jim Harbaugh won in laser tag by 'hunting' 10-year-old kid

Eddie Lacy is ‘very blind,’ refuses to wear goggles

Michael Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, gets probation

NFL scouts not in love with Amari Cooper?

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: No teams interested in trading for Lance Stephenson

It is not Chip Kelly's fault if Eagles miss playoffs

FCC declares that 'Redskins' is not obscene

Padres reportedly acquire Justin Upton

Rajon Rondo after trade: My love for Celtics fans is 'unmatched'

Report: Athletics trade Derek Norris to Padres

The Toronto Raptors reveal their new logo

Things Johnny Manziel, Browns can do to avoid a bad repeat

No. 9: What if the Bengals hired Bill Walsh?

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Predicting the winners of the four NFL divisions up for grabs

Game of the week: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys

Chase Utley bids farewell to Jimmy Rollins

Are the 49ers going to rebuild or reload?

Ranking NFL coaches on hot seat heading into Week 16

Five draft picks why the Browns won’t make the playoffs

Peyton goes Belichick with 'we're on to Cincinnati'

Mark Cuban finalized Rondo trade on "Colbert Report' set

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Report: NFL players used 'horny juice'

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Game of the week: Colts vs. Cowboys

Phelps gets probation for DUI

NFL coaches on hot seat in Week 16

The Roy Williams-Terrell Owens horse collar turns 10

Most underpaid NFL players in 2014

Gronk jokes about Brady compliment

In Matt Kemp, did the Dodgers find a pigeon in Padres?

Why the Saints are legit playoff threat

Impact of U.S.-Cuba relations on MLB

Andrew Hawkins, other athletes gain support for social statement attire

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.