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.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

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:

Closer: Gordon
8th: Madson/Geary
7th: Alfonseca
LOOGY: Smith
6th/Longman: Condrey
Mop-up: Segovia
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.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Voice of Reason

We'll take a momentary break from talking about pitching to bring you this quote from today's Todd Zolecki piece on lineup protection for Ryan Howard:

"You could put anybody behind Ryan Howard this year, it really doesn't matter," [Joe] Sheehan [of Baseball Prospectus] said. "What's going to happen is Ryan Howard is going to hit .275 with 46 homers, which would be an unbelievable year for anybody, and people are going to say, 'Well, Pat Burrell didn't protect him.' Because at this point, Pat Burrell is blamed for everything from weather patterns to kidnappings to low home prices."

At this point, there are much much bigger things to worry about. End of story.

Monday, March 19, 2007

For Starters

With two weeks to go before the start of the season, and opening day tickets safely secured, our silence in these parts shouldn’t misconstrued as apathy. We’re just letting our job overwhelm us, as well as the task of starting our own indie record label. The second item has been made more difficult by a third factor, the continuing elusive whereabouts of our debut CD, currently lost somewhere in a UPS facility in Georgia (the state not the country, thank God). For those that have been following along, our first CD, called Caught Looking only because we really like the title and felt compelled to use it for something, will be officially released as soon as Brown can do something for us. For a sneak peek at the music, you can always hop on over to here.

Once the season starts, however, it will be back to baseball for this site and the dispatches from the music front will be kept to a minimum. We’ve been trying to figure out how to sustain this thing, considering we’re out of market and the explosion of Phillies blogs since last season has made the room a bit crowded. So, we think this year’s niche will most likely be pitching. Not that we don’t love the hitters and all, but really this season’s success is going to be made by how much improved the starters turn out to be and how much luck the club squeezes out of its seemingly overmatched bullpen.

Unlikely late-hour trades not withstanding, it will be interesting to see how the team solves the Lieber quandary. Move him to the pen and he may turn out to answer some questions, but doing so probably drops his trade value to an all-time low, all but quashing the hopes of landing a Scott Linebrink unless something catastrophic happens on a mound somewhere in another division. Flip him for a reliever or what-have-you and then answer me this? Who starts when Eaton gets hurt? How comfortable are you with Eude Brito (who may just make the team as the second lefty out of the pen – the Castro spot) or JA Happ starting a game in the major leagues?

In anycase, we like the Lieber out of the pen idea as a forced solution. The walks are low, he hasn’t really had arm issues since surgery, and as relievers like Bob Wickman demonstrate, it’s a good place to go when conditioning is an issue. Bringing the round guy in from the pen is almost a baseball tradition in the modern age. Lieber doesn’t necessarily hold runners on well and his fielding is lacking to say the least, but he works quickly and is a sinkerballer. On this team, 100 average innings out of the pen might be worth more than 200 average innings out of the gates.

No way to know now, but it’s worth thinking about. Especially since it looks like it’s going to happen.