Ryan Madson has finally returned from the disabled list, and will resume his role as the Phillies closer in the near future. That could be today, or perhaps later in the week. Either way Antonio Bastardo is going back to his role as the eighth inning man. Or maybe even the seventh inning and situational lefty role when Brad Lidge returns, which is seeming closer and closer every day.
It’s a nice problem to have for a contending team heading into August, trying to figure out which role to pitch your most effective reliever will pitch in. It says something about the quality of the other guys in the bullpen. However, does it make sense to move Bastardo around? Should the Phillies leave him in the closer’s role?
Charlie Manuel is set in his ways as a manager. Ryan Madson is his closer and will remain so, just as Brad Lidge did in 2009. With four division championships and a World Series trophy under his belt it’s difficult to question his judgment, but in this case he might be wrong.
When the regular season comes to an end Antonio Bastardo’s numbers will not be as good as they stand today. His statistics at the moment are insane. In addition to having an ERA under 1.00, he is seven for seven in save opportunities and averaging better than a strikeout per inning pitched. Bastardo also has allowed a ridiculously low 27 base-runners in 36 1/3 innings.
Not walking anyone and not giving up hits is a great way to be successful, but it cannot continue forever. Bastardo will come back down to Earth, but what is that for him? With electric stuff, a deceptive delivery and his confidence building with each outing, even a drop-off for him might be better than most pitchers.
The Phillies have been lucky this season, especially in the bullpen. After watching the nail-biting acts of Brad Lidge the previous two seasons, this year the Phillies actually have had fewer blown saves (three) than closers (four). In 30 chances the Phillies bullpen has converted 90 percent of their opportunities.
At some point the closer-shuffling will come back to haunt them. If Bastardo is doing the job, let him continue.
Neither Ryan Madson nor Antonio Bastardo have proven they can be a closer down the stretch for a contending team.
We know what Madson can be as a lights-out setup man in September and October. However, up until this season, Madson has had his struggles handling those precious last three outs. Will he revert to that when the games start to mean that much more?
It’s true that without Antonino Bastardo the Phillies do not have any proven left-handers to pitch in critical situations. But that’s not anything new.
Going into the season there were questions surrounding J.C. Romero and Bastardo, and whether either would be successful. Juan Perez and Mike Zagurski have their issues throwing strikes, but if Bastardo remains the closer the Phillies will need to either give them a real chance to prove themselves or find a suitable replacement.
My hunch is that Juan Perez develops into that dependable lefty much like Romero did a few years ago. It probably won’t last, though.
Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge will both be free agents after the season. There is absolutely no way Lidge returns (unless of course he accepts a minimum deal with incentives), and Madson's asking price could be too much for the Phillies to meet.
Instead of allowing your only two proven closers to walk away wouldn’t it be smarter to know what you have in-house in that event. If Bastardo proves himself as an effective closer down the stretch then the Phillies will know they have no need to seek a replacement heading into the 2012 season. And that could free up money for a more pressing need.