Ryan Madson: Closing Once Again

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Due to an injury to a Phillies’s closer, Ryan Madson will take over the 9th inning duties until further notice. No, really, Ryan Madson is getting opportunities to close games again.

It seems like the same thing has been written about Madson the past few seasons with Brad “I’m as fragile as a french vase” Lidge hitting the DL at various times. Since Lidge has been on the DL since the end of spring, it was octogenarian Jose Contreras’ turn to get injured and turn the reins over to Madson. With FIP’s of 3.23 and 2.61 over the past two seasons he’s actually pitched better than incumbent closer Brad Lidge. Madson has been tasked with being the team’s relief Ace, putting out all of the pre-ninth inning fires.

Even wiith the amount of time Lidge has been injured, Madson racked up only 15 saves from 2009-2010. If you ask a Phillies fan they’ll likely tell you many a tale about how Madson has given them indigestion whilst pitching the ninth inning. His GM and manager even recently shared some disparaging jokes about his ability to close in public. And maybe they have a point, as Madson himself seems to get a bit too emotional at times, going so far as to break his toe after kicking a wall following a blown save last season.

If there’s one thing Madson can do, it’s strike batters out. His 10.87 K/9 was 14th among qualified relievers last season. That number is far above his career average of 7.70, but his 2009 average of 9.08 shows that it wasn’t a fluke. In fact, he’s already picked right up where he left off last season, with a K/9 of 10.00 thus far in 2011. So long as he stays in Phildelphia it seems less and less likely he’ll actually get a shot to be the full time closer, but he’s a very competent reliever to use as a stop gap when their closer inevitably gets injured. He’s currently owned in only 58% of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. Philadelphia is going to win a lot of games this season, grab Madson and pick up cheap saves while he’s still available.

Left hander Antonio Bastardo picked up the save in Sunday’s victory of San Diego, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. Madson had been given the day off. As well as Bastardo has pitched in his 28 innings over the past two seasons (his K/9 is above 12.00), it’s unlikely the team would put the 25 year old southpaw in that type of situation when someone like Madson is around.

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Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

9 Responses to “Ryan Madson: Closing Once Again”

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  1. JohnnyComeLately says:

    I wouldn’t dismiss Bastardo so easily. It’s not like Madson has had a bunch of success in that role. Some guys just can’t close, no matter how good their numbers are in other innings.

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    • Jeff M. says:

      Nonsense. It’s all whining from the reactionary Philly media/baseball fans that insist he can’t close while they ignore the fact that he’s gotten huge outs in the 8th innings of playoff games. But somehow a 9th inning against San Diego is harder. He’ll be fine.

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    • Phillie697 says:

      As opposed to what, someone with mediocre stuff but just “knows how to close?” Ask the Cardinals and Ryan Franklin how that’s working out.

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  2. David Lynch says:

    I think what this example and lots of closer examples tells us is: Don’t EVER pay for saves. It amazes me how many people will draft a closer in the first 8 or 10 rounds, and frankly, I just don’t get it. The amount of turn-over at the closer position is ridiculous. In one of my deep 12 team mixed 5X5 roto keeper leagues (28 roster spots), I drafted exactly ONE closer… In the 13th round. Joel Hanrahan. Many people thought I was nuts. Cries of, “the punk is punting on saves!” Now, if that were true, why would I have drafted ANY closer? For my HEALTH? No… Because less than 4 weeks into the season, I have a total of FOUR closers and the three I picked up only cost me 14 FAAB dollars out of a budget of $100 for the year. Jon Rauch, Matt Capps and Ryan Madson. Punting on saves? Hardly… But I refuse to waste unnecessary draft picks to get them when the probability of them getting replaced before season’s end is SO high. Instead, I was able to draft guys like Jay Bruce, Max Scherzer, Adam Dunn, etc. Much more limited risk on THEM becoming worthless or being removed from THEIR every day job.

    Think about the number of closers who are currently closing RIGHT NOW that have maintained their closer role for the last 3 seasons… You know how many there are? I can count them on ONE HAND. Mariano Rivera, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Jonathan Pabelbon and Francisco Rodriguez. Yep. THAT’S IT! Everyone else has either been replaced at SOME point due to inconsistency or replaced because of a trade. I don’t know about anyone else, but unless you’re playing with house money, I’ll take ANY OTHER position player or starter in the first 10 rounds than I will make a bet that the closer I draft will remain closer throughout the year. NO THANKS.

    P.S. I’m 4th in my league in Saves having drafted only ONE closer who no one has ever heard of. It’s early. But every Save counts in roto, and it will put me in better standing later in the season in case I need to trade for one.

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    • oscar says:

      That strategy works provided you’re in a league of schmoes. In any competitive league, players like Rauch, Madson and Capps would have each been drafted.

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  3. Matt says:

    I think we can dismiss bastardo as a closer at least in the short-term. With J.C. Romero also on the DL, bastardo is the only LHP in the pen, and it seems unlikely that they’d save their only lefty for the 9th instead of using him situationally against LHH.

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  4. fredsbank says:

    is it legal to write an article mentioning jose contreras and not making a joke about his age?

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  5. pine22 says:

    I just don’t understand why the phils would publicly say that Ryan Madson can’t cut it as a closer. Here is the exact quote from Ruben Amaro Jr earlier this year: (i got it from rotowire)

    “There’s no question that we think that Ryan is a great fit for us, but Ryan has not proven to us he can be a closer in the major leagues,” Amaro said. “Can that happen? That’s possible. Can we necessarily rely on him? I don’t think so.”

    I don’t get the logic behind this sentiment. At some point, the phillies are going to have to give Madson a chance to be their long term guy, ripping him in public has far too many negative consequences if you ask me.

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    • Jeff M. says:

      The pitching coach Rich Dubee was even worse. His quote was, “What did he do, take a crash course in how to close or something?” I think that’s what they truly believe, that he doesn’t have the fabled “closer mentality”. Don’t think you’ll find too many readers of fangraphs.com in the Phils’ org. Old school to the max.

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