Hey, another excuse to look back at Astros first-round pitching draftees and how they progressed. Remember when they took this fireballer from Notre Dame No. 17 overall in 1998? And how he didn't pitch more than 41 innings for the next three seasons?
But, Brad Lidge kept moving up the system, step by step, before throwing 122 innings in 2002, mainly for Triple-A New Orelans. Lidge struck out 128 that season, including 110 in 111 innings at Triple-A. He got a brief cup of coffee with the big league team that year, but didn't lose his rookie status until 2003.
That's when he put up a very decent rookie season in the bullpen, combining with Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel to give Houston one of the toughest 1-2-3 punches in franchise history. Lidge allowed 60 hits in 85 innings that year, striking out 97 with that wipeout slider. I kind of wish Tim could make a GIF of that slider making a batter look silly, because this post really needs that.
How dominant was that 1-2-3 punch? Houston has only had five seasons by a pitcher who threw at least 85 innings and allowed 60 or fewer hits. Three of those five came in 2003, by Lidge, Wagner and Dotel. The trio combined for 299 strikeouts, or almost a quarter of the team's entire strikeout total that season.
In those 85 innings over 78 appearances, Lidge went 6-3 with a 3.60 ERA and an FIP of 3.33. His fWAR that season, for a seventh inning reliever, was an unbelievable 1.5.
If there is a knock on that season, it's that Lidge walked a career-high 42 batters and saw his walk rate jump to 4.4 per nine innings. That was the highest he had as an Astro, and saw that cut all the way down to 2.9 BB/9 the next two years.
Lidge was a pretty clutch story of player development, showing a team may know something that small sample sizes and injuries preclude others from seeing.