Ryan Madson and the Free Agent Closer Class of 2011-12

Please give a warm welcome to a new writer for Crashburn Alley, Paul Boye. Paul has written for Phillies Nation, worked as a video scout for Baseball Info Solutions, and spent time in the player development and video departments of a Major League team. You can follow him on Twitter @Phrontiersman and from now on will be able to get his highly-respected thoughts on the Phillies right here.

— Bill Baer

The emergence of Ryan Madson as a near-elite reliever has been both a welcome surprise and a key component of the Phillies’ recent success. You’re no stranger to this site singing the praises of Madson, and for good reason.

But with Mad Dog’s impending free agency looming, and the price tag elephant in the room seemingly growing larger with every multi-strikeout save, it’s worth wondering just where Madson fits in with some of the other top relievers set to be free agents this winter.

Among those relievers are names like Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez, four hurlers who have spent the bulk of the last three seasons in the ninth inning. For better of for worse, these guys will all be signed to close games and earn saves, just as Madson seems primed to be.

Just as with Jayson Werth last season, speculation and curiosity abounds as to just how much Madson stands to make on the open market. It’s all but guaranteed he won’t be signing an extension this summer – credit that to Scott Boras or whomever you like – and any sort of hometown discount also seems unlikely at this point.

Bad news for Phils fans, but (potentially) great news for Madson. What’s more, Madson’s numbers since the start of the 2009 season match up quite favorably with the top names of the impending free agent class: the aforementioned Bell, Broxton, Papelbon and K-Rod. Just how favorably may even surprise you.

To put it visually, here are some abridged leaderboards. These are leaders among those who have relieved in at least 80 percent of their appearances since the start of 2009 with at least 120 innings pitched.

Strikeouts/9 IP

3. Broxton – 11.74
10. Papelbon – 10.51
13. Bell – 10.10
14. Rodriguez – 9.99
16. Madson – 9.90

Walks/9 IP

18. Madson – 2.48
41. Papelbon – 3.19
43. Bell – 3.26
75. Broxton – 3.93
t-86. Rodriguez – 4.24

Strikeout/Walk Ratio

8. Madson – 4.00
17. Papelbon – 3.30
21. Bell – 3.10
25. Broxton – 2.98
49. Rodriguez – 2.36

If you subtract intentional walks, Madson’s ration becomes even more impressive, and improves by a lot more than the others.

Strikeout/uIBB Ratio

Madson – 5.21 (+1.21)
Papelbon – 3.69 (+0.39)
Broxton – 3.40 (+0.42)
Bell – 3.32 (+0.22)
Rodriguez – 2.87 (+0.51)

And, finally, WAR (B-R)

5. Bell – 5.6
9. Papelbon – 4.4
13. Madson – 4.2
t-26. Rodriguez – 3.2
t-65. Broxton – 1.4

Madson’s early-season run of dominance has put him on the map, but this has been going on for a while now. Madson’s recent performance has put him in prime position to make a big wad of money in the coming years – especially with the reliever contracts doled out in recent years – but whether that money will come from the Phillies’ pockets remains to be seen.

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