The setup man for the Phillies, otherwise known as “The Bridge to Lidge,” is the 6’6″ righty Ryan Madson. A minor league starting pitching prospect, Madson jumped onto the scene in 2004 and made quite a splash as a rookie reliever. In 52 games and 77 innings, Madson posted a 2.34 ERA and 3.57 FIP, to go along with a 2.89 K/BB and 1.13 WHIP. In 2005, his ERA jumped to 4.14, but his 3.92 FIP suggested he was a bit unlucky. His BABIP rose from .277 to .305 and his strand rate dropped from 82% to 71%. His K/BB ratio improved, however, to 3.16.
In 2006, he had a poor season, with a 5.69 ERA and 4.95 FIP, meaning he was unlucky, but still much worse than his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Madson made 17 starts that season to go along with 33 relief appearances, raising his innings pitched total to 134.1, but his 1.68 WHIP and high rate stats were largely due to an abnormally high .358 BABIP. That regressed in 2007, when he posted a 3.05 ERA in 38 games before missing the end of the year with injuries. His FIP was 4.20, though, primarily due to his reduced strikeout rate and elevated walk rate. Those numbers normalized this season, when he posted an identical 3.05 ERA but a 3.33 FIP.
What’s interesting about Madson is that, since being permanently given the eighth inning role towards the latter part of the season, he has become a flamethrower. For those of you reading this that watched the NLDS, NLCS, or Game 1 of the World Series, and saw Madson throwing 95+ mph, this is not the Ryan Madson that Phillies fans like myself have come to know. Don’t get me wrong, he has been a solid enough reliever in the past, but he normally threw somewhere around 90-93 mph, with a tremendous changeup and the occasional slider. This year, he increased his average fastball velocity to somewhere around 93.5 mph, but that pales in comparison to his current velocity.
Suddenly, Madson is regularly registering 96 mph on the radar gun. Initially, I thought that FOX was just being generous, but the Pitch F/X data says that Madson really is throwing harder. In the eighth inning last night, he averaged around 96 mph on the fastball, even though his average for the season was 92 mph. Regardless of how he is doing it, this “new” Ryan Madson looks better than ever, and he is steadily inching towards that area in which Phillies fans have supreme confidence that he will get the job done. Most of the discussions focusing on the Phillies bullpens deals with Brad Lidge, but Ryan Madson did a heck of a job in the regular season and has been dominant in the playoffs.
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