Replacing Brad Lidge

The offseason may have brought lofty expectations upon the Philadelphia Phillies, but recent preseason injuries have put a damper on that excitement. The latest Phil to fall victim to the injury bug is closer Brad Lidge, who will miss 3-6 weeks before he can begin throwing again. When healthy, Lidge has proven to be one of the most dominant relievers in the game. To replace that dominance, the Phillies have annointed Jose Contreras as their interim closer. With Ryan Madson reprising his role as a top set-up man, will the Phillies even miss Lidge?

Jose Contreras may not have a long history as a relief pitcher, but his results have been impressive. Over his career, Contreras’ strikeout rate surges from 6.57 to 9.07 when used as a relief pitcher. When used in shorter stints, Contreras experiences an increase of velocity on nearly all of his pitches. Combine that with the fact that Contreras has to go through a lineup only a single time, and it’s easy to see why he has been able to fool hitters more when he pitches out of the pen. These gains seem to be due to Contreras’ new role, and seem completely sustainable going forward. While he lacks the upside of Lidge, Contreras looks like a formidable replacement for the time being.

Should Contreras struggle in his new role, the Phillies could hand the reigns over to the long-time set-up man, Ryan Madson. Madson has the longer track record of success in the pen, and is generally viewed as one of the strongest set-up men in the game. Over his career, Madson has posted his strongest peripherals in high-leverage situations. When pitchers are feeling the pressure the most, Madson has been at his best. In high-leverage situations, Madson is able to raise his strikeout rate while also lowering his home run rate.

For some reason, however, that success hasn’t translated when Madson has had the opportunity to close games. In 44 attempts, Madson has successfully converted 20 saves but has blown 24. By comparison, Kyle Farnsworth has posted 27 saves and 30 blown saves over his career. For a pitcher who has shown the ability to succeed in the most important moments of the games, his struggles in save situations are puzzling. Despite the statistical oddity, there’s no reason to believe Madson would continue to struggle if thrust into the closers role again. If left as a set-up man, we know exactly what to expect from Madson.

Although Contreras will close in Lidge’s absence, Madson will likely be the Phillies best pitcher over that time (and possible even after Lidge returns). The Phillies wisely realized that fact, and Madson will reprise his role as a “high-leverage extraordinaire” again this season. As long as Contreras continues to sustain his gains as a reliever, he should be an adequate closer until Lidge returns. Much of the Phillies’ Spring has been spent trying to find adequate replacements for their injured players. While Lidge’s injury is something to be concerned about, the Phillies definitely have the pieces to replace him without feeling any effects.



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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


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Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson
5 years 3 months ago

As a Phillies fan, I’m almost glad Lidge won’t be starting the season with the big club. He was struggling to get above 90 with his fastball this spring which is worrisome to say the least. He’ll always live and die off his multiple varieties of sliders, but if his very straight fastball is only touching 90 he’s going to have a hard time getting outs.

NEPP
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NEPP
5 years 3 months ago

He was sitting 85-86 mph before he was finally shut down. The hardest he threw all spring was 88 mph per scouting reports. He was down to 91ish during the 2nd half last year. He’s lost a TON of velocity over the past few years thanks to the arm and knee issues (most of a pitchers velocity comes from his legs and Lidge has baically bone on bone in his knee from all the surgeries he’s had on it).

Mcneildon
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Mcneildon
5 years 3 months ago

Brad Johnson,

I couldn’t agree with you with more. His no-movement, 90 mph fastball is something that can’t be thrown too often to Major League hitters. The fact that he threw it only 39.8% of the time last year indicates that he is aware of this as well. Also, that “get it over” breaking ball that he throws early in the count is very hittable if batters are looking for it, which they should be considering that he doesn’t throw his fastball very much–or very effectively–anymore.

Popeye
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Popeye
5 years 3 months ago

Aren’t Madson’s save stats basically meaningless, because he gets many chances to blow saves but not many chances to earn saves?

hunterfan
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hunterfan
5 years 3 months ago

I believe even his numbers for straight up save situations (enters in the 9th with the lead) are pretty terrible as well…below 80%.

(The numbers are still basically meaningless because of SSS…but just responding to your concern.)

conshy matt
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conshy matt
5 years 3 months ago

popeye – yes. that number is very misleading.

Sean
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Sean
5 years 3 months ago

The way you used “blown saves” with Madson, as if they were actually blown save situations, is misleading at best, and ignorant at worst. That was the spot I decided to stop reading your post.

Andy
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Andy
5 years 3 months ago

Dude, he said right after the blown saves remark that there’s no reason to expect Madson to continue struggling if he’s thrust into a closer’s role. You obviously should have kept reading.

fjmanuel
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fjmanuel
5 years 3 months ago

this was a poor, poor article.

krub16
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krub16
5 years 3 months ago

I’m a first year teacher and I’m really glad there aren’t people sitting in my classroom saying things like “that was a poor, poor lesson plan” every time I make a mistake.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of your work so far Chris. Keep at it.

Booond
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Booond
5 years 3 months ago

It wasn’t a mistake or he’d correct it with the actual numbers. It was a lazy way of using statistics to support a point. Find the real numbers, use them and let’s see whether it fits the hypothesis.

Andy
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Andy
5 years 3 months ago

While I have no idea what your objection was to this article, because you were to lazy to tell us, the criticism I’ve seen of this article is ridiculous. Sure, the blown saves stuff wasn’t necessary, because even the writer is obviously aware that those stats are irrelevant, but it’s not like he made a case for Madson being a bad option at closer. He said Madson would be fine in that role, and he demonstrated his smarts by saying that it’s actually a good thing he’s not in that role, because he’s better used in the role he has now. You people must all be Phillies fans, and you must all be getting pretty pi$$ed off about all the sports-writers jumping off your ginormous bandwaggon. Stop whining about it and give an article half a chance before you shower it with ridicule.

Vision
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Vision
5 years 3 months ago

Being a little hard on the guy, no? The tweak I’d make would be to only use his traditional save chances (lead in 9th, starting inning etc), which as has been pointed out is also low. He also correctly points out that Madson is actually being used wisely, in the high leverage situations regardless of 9th.

Any decent ML reliever should be able to get three outs before giving up 1-3 runs a vast majority of the time. Contreras will be fine, and the Phils are using them correctly in the roles stated. Especially with Contreras and his odd stranded baserunner rates (in a SSS), it might be beneficial to be starting an inning with bases empty the vast majority of the time.

NEPP
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NEPP
5 years 3 months ago

Which is why the MLB save rate is something like 75% over the last 10 years…

On Contreras…his forkball is a great outpitch when paired with his 95-96 mph fastball (where he usually is in short stints if not a bit higher). That forkball is just nasty.

test
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test
5 years 3 months ago

Information on Contreras – good, I actually didn’t know that stuff, it does sound like a promising replacement.

Information on a non-closer using Saves/blown saves – bad, and yes, it’s piling on. other examples on non-closers, looking at the active games pitched list:
Arthur Rhodes – 32 SV, 43 BS
Alan Embree – 25 SV, 32 BS
J.C. Romero – 7Sv, 26 BS

Other point – who is the replacement for Lidge at the bottom of the pen? Since the top guys are likely to pitch the same # of innings regardless (even if a new guy gets saves), it’s really the bottom guy who changes things. For this rotation, it might not matter as much, I suppose, but the issue is really who gets Lidge’s 15 IP while he is out.

NEPP
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NEPP
5 years 3 months ago

David Herndon made the club instead of going to AAA as a result of this injury. The rest of their bullpen is as follows:

CP Jose Contreras
SU Ryan Madson
RHP Danys Baez (7th inning guy)
LHP JC Romero (LOOGY)
LHP Antonio Bastardo (LOOGY)
RHP Kyle Kendrick (long man)

Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson
5 years 3 months ago

Herndon has picked up a more effective slider over the offseason so his previous results may not reflect his expected performance.

neuter_your_dogma
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neuter_your_dogma
5 years 3 months ago

Lidge hasn’t dominated since 2008.

Does Madson purposely save his best stuff for high leverage situations? Or does he help create high leverage situations (ex. giving up a few hits then striking out the side, or by IBBing a masher to pitch to the 6 hole)? Can he really control his HR rate in high leverage situations?

Just wondering…

J. Bowman
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J. Bowman
5 years 3 months ago

Hand the REINS over. The REINS!
That drives me crazy.

On the other hand, thanks for teaching me something new about Contreras.

Austin Brancheau
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Austin Brancheau
5 years 3 months ago

Considering the amount of previous comments that provided no useful commentary or constructive criticism, I shouldn’t be picking on this one. The proper term is indeed “reins”, but I feel that, in this community, we should have a better method of pointing of such minor errors. Perhaps adopt a simple corrections hashtag (#corrections). Hopefully this will take any emotion out of pointing out a tiny mistake.

bureaucratist
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5 years 3 months ago

Doesn’t K-Rod to the Phils make a lot of sense?

hunterfan
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hunterfan
5 years 3 months ago

It might make sense except for the following 2 things:

1) The Phils front office values character and makeup very highly. They’re not going to take a guy who beats people up and is generally a loose cannon.

2) The whole money thing. Amaro says there is really no money left and he’s not kidding.

bureaucratist
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5 years 3 months ago

1. If they’re struggling for a playoff spot in June because they don’t have a reliable closer, that priority may well change.

2. If a closer looks like the missing link for another World Series run, Rodriguez is a free agent after this year. The Mets may even be persuaded to play a little bit of his salary, just to save whatever they can, if they’re desperate enough. I know there’s “no money left,” but that does mean $5 or $6 million can’t be scrounged up.

mattmaison
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5 years 3 months ago

Lidge is a free agent at the end of the season. Any chance he resigns with PHI or is the job in 2012 Madson’s to lose?

joe
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joe
5 years 3 months ago

I assume the article is asking a rhetorical question?

So the question is how do the Phillies replace a reliever who’s managed to top 1 WAR just once in the last 5 seasons? Or how do they replace a reliever who’s managed to accumulate -0.4 WAR over the last 2 seasons?

Is there a replacement level arm that can contribute 0 WAR?

Anthony
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Anthony
5 years 3 months ago

I know stats people don’t care about emotion or the fact that humans really do play the game. However, what kind of emotional loss do the Phillies have? I don’t mean “o man, we lost lidge” I mean “wow, Ultey, Brown, now Lidge?”.

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