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The criticism of Brad Lidge has been deserved for his performance between April and present. There have been very few outings of his this season that have ended without a cold sweat. He leads the world with the lowest WXRL, and he’ll be setting career highs and lows in all the wrong categories. Don’t want him to pitch the ninth inning for the Phillies? Neither do I.
When it comes to Ryan Madson, though, somehow the leash is much shorter. Yeah, Lidge deserves a lot of slack for how great he pitched last year… but he ran out of rope about two months ago. Madson and Chan Ho Park have been the Phillies’ best two relievers this year, but for some reason, if Madson screws up, he deserves to be banished to Kyle Kendrick duty. At least, this is the case if you read any of the knee-jerk reactions following tonight’s Brandon Moss home run on Twitter.
Including his appearance tonight, Madson has given up runs in 11 of his 64 appearances (17%). Compare that to Brett Myers — another fan favorite Plan B instead of Madson — from 2007: he gave up runs in 10 of 48 relief appearances (21%). Park, last year with the Dodgers, allowed runs in 18 of 49 relief appearances (37%).
The common justification for keeping Madson as the set-up guy instead of the closer is that he’s struggled as the closer this season. That, of course, is true. He’s blown five overall saves, including two blown saves and a loss in the ninth inning.
However, that’s a small sample size. Most people probably hate hearing the three s-words from stat nerds by now, but it’s an important principle to adhere to, simply because there’s so much that can affect the way numbers appear in a small sample. The larger the sample, the more likely the numbers will reflect reality. Flip a fair coin ten times, and you may get heads seven times. Does that mean that you have a 70% chance of flipping a coin and getting heads? Of course not.
In reality, there’s not much difference in the meaningful statistics between the eighth and ninth inning for Madson, given the small sample. I went into detail in a response to Max from Fire Eric Bruntlett last week.
There is no reason to regard Madson so disfavorably. Likewise, there is no reason to favor Park and Myers so favorably. The fact is, all three have what it takes to close out the ninth inning with a lead of one to three runs. All three have different ways of achieving the same goal, some more graceful or some more exciting than others. Should Lidge be replaced by any of the three — and he should — there should be no bickering about the decision since there’s no way to definitively prove that one is vastly superior to the others.
Yeah, Ryan Madson blew another lead in another rare opportunity to close. It’s frustrating, especially coming directly after another ugly blown save from Brad Lidge. But don’t let the frustration from Lidge, and Madson’s boringness color your perception of the Phillies’ closing options. Every single team in baseball would jump at the opportunity to add Madson to their bullpen. Set-up guys with 2+ WXRL do not grow on trees.
Trust in Madson.