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Philadelphia Phillies: 8 Reasons Ryan Madson Will Close After Brad Lidge Returns

Sean ZerilloCorrespondent IIOctober 24, 2016

Philadelphia Phillies: 8 Reasons Ryan Madson Will Close After Brad Lidge Returns

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 27:  Relief pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phillies defeated the Diamondback
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    For at least the time being, Ryan Madson appears to be Charlie Manuel's choice as the closer of the Philadelphia Phillies.

    The ninth-year veteran has picked up two of the Phillies' three saves since interim closer Jose Contreras hit the disabled list on April 22 with an elbow strain.

    The third save was picked up by Antonio Bastardo on what would have been Madson's third consecutive day of work.

    Madson's ascension to the closer role has always seemed inevitable. The 6'6" righty has never found a real niche in the Phillies staff since his true rookie year in 2004. 

    He's been used in every role, from setup to long man to starting pitcher (17 starts in 2006). But Madson hasn't ever been given an extended shake in the ninth inning.

    With Brad Lidge expected back from the disabled list soon from his partially torn rotator cuff, the time for Madson to capitalize is right now.

    What follows is a list of eight reasons why Madson will fend off Lidge (and Jose Contreras) and remain the Phillies closer moving forward.

     

    Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com.

1. He's a Power Pitcher

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees strikes out against pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies to end Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsy
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Over the course of his career (580.1 innings in 440 games), Ryan Madson owns a 7.72 strikeout per nine inning rate (K/9).

    Since being converted to a reliever full time in 2007, his strikeout rate has gone up every season: from 6.91 in 2007, to 7.29 in 2008, 9.08 in 2009 and 10.87 in 2010.

    Among qualified relievers last season, Madson had the 14th-highest strikeout rate. He's sustained the increase thus far with 13 Ks in 11 innings this season.

    Managers always say that they want to have power arms in the ninth inning.

    There's no argument to be made that Madson doesn't strikeout enough hitters. He's among the elite.

2. He Has Good Control

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    PHOENIX - APRIL 24:  Relief pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Phillies defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Like his K/9 rate, Madson's strikeout to walk (K/BB) ratio has increased every year since 2007 as well.

    General managers typically look for relief pitchers who own at least a 2:1 ratio. For elite closers, the ratio should be above 3.5:1.

    Madson's strikeout to walk ratio has increased as follows: 1.87 in 2007, 2.91 in 2008, 3.55 in 2009 and 4.92 in 2010. His 2010 mark placed him ninth among qualified relievers.

    But the improvement is not due to just an increase in strikeout rate. Madson has trimmed his walk rate from 3.7 batters per nine innings in 2007 to 2.5 in 2008-2009 and just 2.21 last season.

    Madson already had impeccable control, but he has continued to fine-tune his abilities.

3. He Keeps the Ball on the Ground

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 17:  Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants in Game Two of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Citizens Bank Park on October 17, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylva
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Even if he weren't an extreme ground-ball pitcher, Ryan Madson would be an elite major league reliever because of his ability to strike batters out and avoid walks.

    But in two of the last three seasons, Madson's ground-ball rate has been over 50 percent. His career mark is 47.7 percent.

    Since ground balls do the least amount of damage out of the three batted-ball types (fly balls, liners, grounders), ground-ball pitchers tend to get out of trouble because of the double-play.

    As a result, they have lower ERAs and expected ERAs. Among qualified relievers, Madson finished 13th in expected fielding independent pitching in 2009, with a 2.62 projected ERA (actual: 2.55).

4. And in the Park

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    PHOENIX - APRIL 24:  Relief pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Phillies defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    As a result of being a ground-ball pitcher, Madson is able to avoid home runs.

    The major league average for pitchers is right around one home run per nine innings (1.0 HR/9).

    Since 2007, Madson has allowed 22 home runs over 223 innings, good for a .88 HR/9 rate. This indicates that he may have a slight ability towards keeping the ball in the park.

    Even though the difference may be only one or two home runs over the course of a season, one or two games (and saves instead of blown saves) could go a long way towards a team making the playoffs and a closer keeping his job.

5. He Throws Three Above-Average Pitches

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 14:  Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the New York Mets on August 14, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    During the past three seasons, Madson has slowly fazed out a mediocre curveball in favor of a much more effective cutter.

    The switch has given Madson a third effective, above-average pitch.

    His fastball usually sits between 93-95 mph and is thrown about 55-60 percent of the time. The cutter sits between 88-90 mph and was thrown a career high 18.1 percent of the time last season.

    Madson's best pitch, however, is his changeup,  an offering that he's been crafting since his earliest days of little league. The change comes in between 83-85 mph, giving Madson a perfect 8-10 mph split from his fastball.

    The pitch is thrown about 25-30 percent of the time and also serves as Madson's primary strikeout pitch.

    The result is three above average major league offerings.

    Closers typically have a major grasp of only one or two pitches. With three offerings at his disposal, Ryan Madson has an extra weapon with which to attack hitters.

6. Brad Lidge Only Throws One, and His Velocity Is Declining

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 08:  Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates the win over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 2 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park on October 8, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Lidge has one of the best sliders in all of baseball. You need to if you're going to throw it 60.2 percent of the time as he did in 2010.

    Even still, the pitch was worth 15.3 runs above average for the season. His fastball, however, hasn't generated a positive return since 2007. And before that, 2004.

    If Lidge comes back and his slider isn't sharp, there's no way that he'll get a grasp on the closer role. Without his slider, he is a worthless pitcher.

    Lidge no longer throws in the mid-to-upper-90s as he used to with the Astros, or even as he did when first arriving in Philadelphia.

    He lost about two miles per hour off of both his fastball and slider last season, but still managed to have a successful year.

    When you only throw two pitches, however, losing speed on them is a big deal.

7. Tears Don't Ususally Heal Themselves

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 01:  (L-R) Brad Lidge #54 and Carlos Ruiz #51 of the Philadelphia Phillies talk on the mound in the top of the ninth inning against the New York Yankees in Game Four of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 1,
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Part of the explanation for Lidge's loss of velocity could be the tear in his rotator cuff that has caused him to miss the start of this season.

    Both Lidge and his doctors now say he is healthy as he nears the start of a rehab assignment, but I'm skeptical

    Torn rotator cuffs don't usually heal on their own. With more time, it's certainly possible, but not this quickly.

    Once Lidge starts whipping 83 mph sliders around again, I expect the injury to become re-aggravated at some point. Once the shoulder flares up, it will be impossible for Lidge to maximize his velocity.

    I could very well see the injury re-surfacing, forcing the Phillies to shut down Lidge for the season.

8. Madson Makes More Sense Financially

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    PHOENIX - APRIL 24:  Relief pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with catcher  Carlos Ruiz #51 after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Ryan Madson is 30 years old. Brad Lidge is 34.

    Madson's $4.5 million contract could come off the books at the end of the year.

    Lidge's $11.5 million salary could as well, though the team does hold a $12.5 million club option on him for 2012.

    It's unlikely that the Phillies would front that money to an injury-prone pitcher, however. They're more likely to pay the $1.5 million buyout.

    Madson is likely to be re-signed either way. Since he's been there for nine seasons, he'd probably take a discount to stay with the Phillies if it'd be as the first-choice closer.

    The Phillies could re-invest the Lidge money into two other relievers to work as setup men.

    Three good relievers are better than two. Committing to Madson for the future could improve the Phillies as a team overall by affording them better payroll flexibility.

    Otherwise, he should also close merely because the numbers show that he's the best reliever on the team.

     

    Data courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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