Return of the Mad Dog
Not that we're into trumpeting things we predicted and its not as if it was a hard call to make, but today, Paul Hagan mostly confirms that Ryan Madson, one of the best reliever of 2004 and still above average in 2005, will be the team's 8th innning guy.
After an inauspicious start, he has steadily improved. He has a 1.86 earned run average and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last seven outings, covering 8 2/3 innings.
As a rookie in 2004, Madson had a 1.65 earned run average in 51 relief appearances. The following year he made 78 appearances, but his ERA rose to 4.14. Last year he shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation (17 starts) and mastered neither as his ERA ballooned to 5.69.
As revelations go, this one's hardly a main event. Madson easily has the best stuff of any of the relievers outside of Gordon and is the only one with experience in both the 8th and 9th inning, aside from 6-Fingers Alfonseca, who would have been a good pick up 5 years ago.
However, what to expect from Madson is anyone's guess. He hasn't been dominant in anyway since his rookie year, when his tough changeup and low profile worked to his advantage against national league hitters. He also pitched largely in the 7th inning that year (if we recall correctly). His 2005 was not as kind, but there are some things to consider about that:
-His role shuffled around somewhat in 2005, with addition of now-incarcerated Ugeth Urbina, who promptly blew 6 games in his stint with the Phils. Madson went from being the 7th inning guy, to the 8th inning guy, back to being the 7th inning guy during the season. Truthfully, Madson's role with the team has been anything but stable during his 3 years with the club. We dont' tend to think that's terribly important, but to some pitchers, it obviously is. Good command and a solid Spring Training should definitely earn him closer-in-waiting status on this team, with this bullpen as thin as it is.
-While his work load went way up (as did his his ERA down the stretch, which went from 3.12 on Sept 9th to a full run higher by the close of the season), his K/9 jumped from 6.43 to 8.17. So, it's not as if the league completely figured him out in 2005. His stats got worse for other reason, which brings us to point 3.
-Although he made 27 more appearances in 2005 than 2004, he only pitched 10 more innings. That's ALOT of overmanagement by Manuel in terms of using his bullpen. Madson is a guy who could give you 2 quality innings, or he is probably the most likely arm in the bullpen to provide such, so it might be worth thinking about pairing him with another pitcher than can also provide 1-2 innings and alternate the two game to game. Geoffy Geary, who threw an incredible 90+ innings of last year of above-average relief, despite starting out the season as a nobody and even being optioned at one point in mid-season, would mostly likely be that guy. It might be an leap of faith to expect Charlie to handle this type of arrangement, since by all accounts, it seems to be against his 1-inning each nature. However, talent and resources being that they are, the best thing for the team might not being the traditional strategy that Manuel uses.
Right now, if one were to lay out the bullpen assignments, they should probably look this way:
First call-up: Bisenius
Is this a good bullpen? I think we all know, probably not. Not unless one of Alfonseca or Segovia force use in higher leverage innings by catching a little lightening in a bottle. Segovia will probably get shielded, much the way Fabio Castro was last year, being the new guy, but also could be thrown into the rotation mix through injuries, much the way Scott Mathieson was last year. Expecting anything more than the bare minimum of competency from Zegovia probably isn't wise or fair. That's Double-A the wildcard and most important part fo this gang. And that is something we just don't have a read on yet.