In 2011, Ryan Madson proved he could be a closer. For years, many wondered if he could handle the ninth-inning duties, as his mental game came under fire because of some poor outings filling in for Brad Lidge in years prior. He shut up the naysayers and then some.
And all of this almost didn’t happen. Jose Contreras began the year as the closer, saving five games early on before dealing with elbow troubles that would keep him sidelined for most of the season. Madson took over and took control.
Madson saved 32 games and blew just two opportunities as the primary closer for the first time in his career. He also managed to stay healthy through most of the year. If you’ll recall, his 2010 season was marred by a broken toe he suffered after kicking a chair in the clubhouse. Not a smart move. This past year, he refrained from such actions, but did go down for about three weeks after a batted ball struck him on his pitching hand. It was a fluke injury and one that did not harm him following the DL stint.
Compared to 2010, it wasn’t quite as dominant a season for Madson. His K/9 dipped from 10.9 to 9.2 and his BB/9 rose slightly from 2.2 to 2.4. However, it was almost impossible to do any sort of damage against him. In 60 2/3 innings, Madson allowed only two home runs and overall, just 16 earned runs for a 2.37 ERA.
Keeping the ball from leaving the ballpark was his specialty, and is what set him apart from most other closers. Of relievers with at least 30 saves, Madson and Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates were the only two pitchers in baseball to allow two home runs or less in 2011. And they say Citizens Bank Park is a hitters paradise! Of relief pitchers with at least 25 saves, Madson joined John Axford and Jose Valverde as the only ninth-inning guys with two blown saves or less. And, of RP’s with a K/9 ratio of 9 or more and a BB/9 of 2.5 or less, only J.J Putz recorded more saves.
And really, there is only one game that stands out as a negative for Madson, one of his two blown saves on the season. ON August 19 against the Washington Nationals, Madson entered the game with a two-run lead and three outs to go. He would get shelled for six runs on five hits and one walk, giving up a walk-off Grand Slam to Ryan Zimmerman. That was one of only two games in 2011 that Madson allowed more than one earned run.
For what it’s worth, Madson always holds himself accountable and is one of the friendliest players with the media in the Phillies clubhouse. If an outing doesn’t go his way, he’s usually the first to admit it. However, that didn’t happen very often this year. And when things are going right for a closer, it’s better when he’s not saying much.
Needless to say, it was an excellent 2011 season for Ryan Madson. He took the next step in his career, becoming one of the top closers in baseball, finally shedding the belief that he was better-built for a set-up role. Madson was certainly the anchor of what was otherwise a comsi-comsa bullpen. No more Bridging to Lidge, no more waiting behind the Big Truck, no sharing of the duties with up-and-comer Bastardo. Ryan Madson took over and made it count. The only question left for Madson now is, where will he be next year?
Grade: 9.3/10 – It wasn’t a perfect year, but it was pretty close. The starters helped keep him fresh throughout, but when the ninth-inning came and Madson pitched, it normally ended well.
Tuesday: Antonio Bastardo