caught looking

a blog about the philadelphia phillies. not to be confused, exactly, with "caught looking" the debut album by independent/unsigned/unheard of singer/songwriter greg roth, who is, coincidently, yours truly.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Let the Maddogs Lie

The controversy today follows the continuing saga of the back end of the Phils rotation, namely who will constitute the #4 and #5 slots in the rotation come next week. The assumed undercard has Ryan Madson at 4 and Ryan Franklin at 5, with Ricardo "No options" Rodriguez as the defacto long man out of the pen and spot starter, leaving Gavin Floyd on the outside looking and and awaiting a chance while hopefully pitching well at AAA. And that is exactly the way it should be, for reasons argued previously.

However, conflicting reports in the Philadelphia newspapers have Manager Charlie Manuel cryptically saying that he has already made a choice and that recent events will not effect his decision. While the some reports have the sound of Madson moving back to the pen, Marcus Hayes' story has a completely different tone, one of Madson having reached a point of safety with rotation status, a theory all but corroborated completely by Randy Miller's piece on the same subject.

Last night, Madson made his best case yet for staying put. He cruised into the 7th inning against the Yankees and their expected starting linup on 72 pitches, yielding a palty 4 hits a walk and no runs. At one point, he threw 15 pitches to 8 batters, all for outs. His comments reveal a young pitcher who wants some ownership and his performance over the 4 last months demonstrates that he has earned it, pure and simple. This talk of needing him in the bullpen is disengenuous. Look at this staff and this division: Is he not needed in the starting rotation?

To address this proposition once and only once, let us be clear -- there is no way in Hell that Ryan Madson should not be starting a game in the first week of the season. He has been the Phils' best pitcher in the preseason and the increasingly popular argument of 180 innings starting being more valuable than 70 innings in relief certainly holds water here. If the Phils have 4 pitchers who can log 180-200 innings, then one or twice a week, they won't even need a 7th inning guy. What makes anyone think that Maddog, after two years an appreentice to the eighth inning first to Tim Worrell, then to Ugueth Urbina, would want to and should want to again take up the mantle of Assistant Manager of the Eighth Inning to one Auther Rhodes? Madson, has done everything -- yes everything -- one would ask of a young arm battling to make the starting rotation.

Furthermore, the memories of Madson's knockout 2004 out of the pen have faded with a surprisingly average 2005, including the last month of the season when his arm was shot. The notion that the bullpen needs Madson instead of, say current projected 7th inning guy Julio Santana, is not that strong a case. Consider (WHIP/ Avg / ERA):

Madson: 1.25 / .259 / 4.14
Santana: 1.26 / .221 / 4.50

While Santana is by no means a dominant pitcher, he actually posted a better batting average against than Madson last year, albeit with a higher ERA. Santana has a career GF/FB ratio of 1.25, although it dipped last year under one. The Phils would certainly do well to monitor this situation, but to start the season, some combination of Santana, Fultz, Cormier, and Geary should be able to handle the seventh inning when it's necessary. Booker and Tejeda, also, are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to do so. Plugging Madson back into the role would not be the wisest use of available resources.

Whatever happens with Gavin Floyd, Madson's status should remain unaffected. Finding some combination among Franklin, Rodriguez, and X AAA pitcher is a completely different problem. Solve it indepently of this one.

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