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Everyone else is injured, so Ryan Madson finally gets a shot to be Phillies’ closer

Apr 25, 2011, 10:47 AM EDT

ryan-madson-phillies-nlcs Getty Images

Ryan Madson has been one of the best, most underrated relievers in baseball since moving to the bullpen full time in 2007, but because he didn’t thrive in a few brief opportunities to close games in previous seasons the Phillies have avoided giving him another chance as closer.

Philadelphia wasted no time choosing Jose Contreras as the new closer when Brad Lidge was placed on the disabled list in late March with a shoulder injury, but now that Contreras has joined him on the DL with a bum elbow manager Charlie Manuel and company have little choice but to reluctantly hand ninth-inning duties to Madson.

I’m hoping he thrives as a fill-in closer, not because I have any sort of allegiance to the Phillies but because it would help quiet the notion that the ninth inning is some sort of mythical inning where only a special breed of pitcher can record three outs with a lead of 1-3 runs. Madson is an excellent reliever with a lengthy track record of success in the seventh and eighth innings, and if given an extended opportunity to sink or swim in the ninth inning he can thrive there as well.

The only question is whether the Phillies will stick with Madson if he blows an early save or two, because anything but absolute success in the role will lead to fans and media members banging the “he’s just not a closer” drum. And unfortunately Madson isn’t fully healthy either, with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reporting that he “has been battling some arm soreness” and “required days off on Thursday and Sunday.”

All bets are off if Madson is at less than 100 percent, but if he’s healthy the Lidge and Contreras injuries may not be such horrible things if they ultimately force the Phillies to do something they should have done a while ago and give Madson an extended tryout as closer.

  1. mercyflush - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    For what it’s worth, Madson is quoted in today’s Daily News saying that his “soreness” was related to pitching 4 times in 5 days, and after taking a day off, he’s “100% fine.”

    My prediction on Madson is that he thrives in the closer’s role, they stick with him from here on out, and they re-sign him to replace Lidge after this season.

  2. snowbirdgothic - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Free Scott Mathieson!

  3. philly56 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    I actually think Madsen would be a better closer than Lidge, but with the few runs coming in and the otherwise thin bullpen I hope they don’t rely on him too much and use him too often, because if he ends up on the DL as well the bullpen is pretty much nonexistent.

  4. kcq101 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    I hope Madson thrives in this role, as well. He has the best stuff out of the bullpen. He’s also one of the nicer players on the team, as far as his contributions to local charities, etc., etc. Plus, this is a contract year for him. He deserves a good shot for much better money in free agency.

    But when it came to choosing a closer with Lidge on the DL, I did want Contreras. He’s stuff isn’t the best, but Contreras appears stoic out there on the mound, unaffected by the levity of the moment. He’s performed well so far, despite getting into a little trouble here-and-there. He still got the save when he needed.

    Madson, on the other hand, wears his emotions on his sleeve and seems to be affected by the moment. I think he’s hard on himself and seems to lose a little confidence when he gets into some jams, more so in the 9th than when he does in the 8th.

    In any event, I’m pulling for Madson to flurish. But, I didn’t disagree with using Contreras as the closer when it came time to making that decision. We’ll see how Madson performs, and, if successful, see what the club decides to do when Contreras gets healthy.

  5. Utley's Hair - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I was in the Contreras-for-closer camp before, if mostly due to not upsetting the apple cart with the line of succession with MadDog in the 8th—okay, and a little bit due to his ineffectiveness (or then-Lidge-esque) performances when given the reins of the caboose.

    Here’s hoping he doesn’t disappoint, especially with the presumed plethora of save opportunities he is bound to be presented with. (‘Cause Sarah might solidify that opinion of hers.) GO MADDOG!!!!

  6. mikedi33 - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    I dont see him resigning since he has Boras as an agent. He certainly has closer stuff. Hopefully he has the maturity to go with it now. Have to disagree with you Aaron, I think it does take a special breed of pitcher. He has to forget yesterday and handle the increased pressure. Upto now Madson has not been able to do that . Just look at his broken foot incident from last year. I hope he comes through. More worried about the 7 and 8th innings. Herndon and Baez are very iffy.

    • mercyflush - Apr 25, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      “I dont see him resigning since he has Boras as an agent”

      Boras was also his agent after the 2008 season, when Madson was a free agent and had just finished his best season for a team that won the WS, and Boras was in the news comparing him to a young Mariano (who also started as a setup guy)… and Madson signed a 3 year deal to stay in Philly, for reasonable money, because this is where he wanted to play.

      Boras doesn’t make players do anything they dont want to do. He just takes the heat for players who want to go for the biggest payday. If Madson wants to sign here he will.

      • mikedi33 - Apr 25, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        Agreed if he wants to be here he will but I dont see him giving a big hometown discount at this time in his career. If he proves he is closer material there is going to be too many other clubs willing to throw big time $$ at him. I see another jayson Werth situation playing out . Hope I am wrong though.

      • mox19380 - Apr 26, 2011 at 10:32 AM

        but Madson wasn’t a free agent after that season, he was still under arbitration. the Phil’s signed him to a 3-year deal to avoid the decision going down to an arbitrator…. Agent’s have little sway until a player is a “true” free agent

  7. ytsur - Apr 25, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Lidge was a set-up man before becoming a closer…….many more really good set up pichers DO NOT become closers than those who do.

  8. Chris Fiorentino - Apr 25, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    “The only question is whether the Phillies will stick with Madson if he blows an early save or two, because anything but absolute success in the role will lead to fans and media members banging the “he’s just not a closer” drum.”

    God I hate when the stat geeks pontificate about the save stat being meaningless, even when they have the proof right in front of their eyes. I mean, isn’t that what you guys are always spouting to the world…don’t believe what you see…believe the stats??? So if Madson blows an early save or two, or three or however many, that wouldn’t be enough to prove to you guys that he isn’t closer material??? I mean, you boys can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    If Madson is as good as you say he is, then he should not be a different pitcher when he closes. Yet he is. Why? Maybe, and I know, this is just an insane thought, but maybe, just maybe, those last three outs are a little more difficult to get than you stat geeks think?

    Nah, it’s all hogwash. It was pure coincidence that Madson struggled more than any other time during the last few years when he closed. Pure coincidence.

    • Reflex - Apr 25, 2011 at 4:10 PM

      Yes, its all hogwash. And watching how many good middle relievers suddenly become lights out closers, only to regress a couple years later to middle relievers demonstrates it pretty effectively. Besides, blowing a game in the 7th is every bit as critical as blowing a game in the 9th.

  9. cur68 - Apr 25, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    I think he’ll be a great closer. With Halladay posting his usual 7 or 8 complete game victories and the other guys trying to keep up, he won’t have to worry much about fatigue. One fly in the ointment, though. Isn’t the wife pregnant? Due in like 2 or 3 months? Right in the middle of the toughest part of the schedule he’ll be off becoming a daddy. Have the people of Philadelphia been made aware, because, as has been reported elsewhere, this is unacceptable.

  10. xmatt0926x - Apr 25, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Unfortunately, Charlie Manuel’s poor pitcher useage has reared its ugly head again. This time at least the team is admitting that overuse is the issue with Madson and Contreras. Ruben Amaro even admitted as much yesterday in his quotes about Contreras. Dont get me wrong. I love the silly bastard like most Phillie fans do. He is the legendary folk hero “Uncle Charlie” and he’s all huggable and loveable with his silly quotes and his “he done real good” manner. The problem is that he just can’t run a bullpen and is known to grind those guys down very early. I mentioned this earlier in the year in response to a different article about Manuel and some guy on here bit my head off and accused me of lying about a instance where Manuel used Brad Lidge in a blowout even after Lidge was quoted as saying he needed a break. Again, we love the guy, but this is one of his drawbacks.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Apr 25, 2011 at 6:03 PM

      I don’t see any panic or doomsday talk. Just some debate on the closer position on the Phillies. I don’t think you will find a Phillies fan who doesn’t think the team is going to win 95+ games this year.

    • dprat - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:16 PM

      Ease up, there, xmatt. IIRC, no one called you a liar. What someone pointed out was that the scenario, as you laid it out in your post, never happened. You misremembered the situation. And it was demonstrated to you by another poster (I think that second poster was me, again, IIRC), with proof from Baseball Reference.

      So summing up… the Lidge scenario you described… did not happen.

      And the allegation that someone called you a liar… also, did not happen.

      That is all.

    • mox19380 - Apr 26, 2011 at 10:22 AM

      isn’t rich doobee somewhat responsible for that as well? ultimately isn’t he the one who needs to tell charlie whether or not a pitcher is available?

  11. Brian - Apr 25, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    man I really hope all this panic and doomsday-talk subsides when the Phillies have the best record in baseball…oh, wait.

  12. mox19380 - Apr 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    26 saves and 15 blown saves in 41 attempts. Just in cased anyone really has been misled to think that he hasn’t been given legitimate shots at the closer role. Not to say that he may not be ready for it now but he has really seemed out of his element in the closer spot in previous attempts to fill the role for Brad Lidge.

    For what it’s worth I don’t understand why people believe he needs to be a closer, the setup man is just as important in today’s game of baseball and often times more important. there’s a great write-up in the Philadelphia daily from spring training about his importance (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies/Contreras-or-Madson-Or–drumroll–both-.html)

    It shows that empirically the setup man faces better hitters in more difficult situations.

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