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