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Entries in ryan madson (6)


Madson's Loss is Cincy's Gain

Ryan Madson had every reason to think he would be basking in the glory of a long-term, eight-figure annual deal by this point in the offseason. The 31-year-old emerged as one of the game's elite relievers since leaving behind any notions of starting in 2007, racking up at least 1.3 Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement every season and setting a new career best as the Phillies' closer with 2.2 WAR in 2011. The free agent market for late-inning arms was unusually deep, but there was little reason to think that a guy who ranked in the top 15 in reliever value over the past half-decade would get the short end of the stick.

But alas, that's exactly what happened to Madson. With Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50 million from Philly) and Heath Bell (three years, $27 million from Miami) inking lucrative long-terms deals, Joe Nathan (two years, $14.5 million) tapped to replace Neftali Feliz in Texas and the Red Sox going the trade route by getting Andrew Bailey from Oakland, Madson's market dried up. Today, reports are that he had to settle for a one-year, $8.5 million deal from the Cincinnati Reds, with possible incentives and a mutual option for 2013. That's a bitter outcome for a guy who was supposedly on the brink of a four-year, $44 million extension with the Phightin's before the Papelbon signing went down.

For Cincinnati, signing Madson goes along with the Mat Latos and Sean Marshall trades as evidence that the club is doing everything it can to achieve NL Central supremacy before perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto hits free agency and deservedly seeks $200+ million following the 2013 season. While $8.5 million isn't a bargain salary for a reliever on a per-year basis, there is far less risk for Cincy because they avoid the pitfalls of giving a leviathan multi-year commitment. They get the benefit of a top-flight closer without the headache of worrying whether his arm will still be attached in 2014 or 2015.

Madson's claim to fame is arguably the nastiest changeup in the game. He pulls the string about 10 mph slower than his fastball (84 mph last year, compared to 94 for the heater), and the pitch generates spit-take chase and miss rates. As Madson's pitch frequency over the past three years shows, he very rarely places his changeup in the strike zone..

Madson's changeup location, 2009-2011

Just 29 percent of Madson's changeups have been thrown in the strike zone since 2009, the fourth-lowest rate among MLB relievers. That's by design, as he uses the pitch to bait hitters into expanding their zones. Check out opponents' swing rate by location versus Madson's change since '09, and then the big league average:

Opponents' swing rate by pitch location vs. Madson's changeup, 2009-2011Average swing rate by pitch location vs. changeups, 2009-2011 

Batters have chased nearly half of Madson's out-of-zone changeups over the past three years, second-best in the majors among relievers over that period:

Highest changeup chase rate among relievers, 2009-2011 (min. 250 thrown)

Player Chase Rate
Jim Johnson 53.0%
Ryan Madson 49.7%
Cristhian Martinez 49.3%
Joakim Soria 47.9%
Francisco Rodriguez 47.4%
Hisanori Takahashi 45.8%
Blake Hawksworth 45.6%
Joaquin Benoit 44.7%
Kris Medlen 43.4%
Steven Jackson 43.3%


All of those chases lead to enough whiffs and wind to power the entire Rust Belt. Take a look at hitters' contact rate by pitch location against Madson's change-of-pace, versus the league average:

Opponents' contact rate by pitch location vs. Madson's changeup, 2009-2011 Average contact rate by pitch location vs. changeups, 2009-2011Madson's miss rate with his change also places second among relievers over the past three seasons:

Highest changeup miss rate among relievers, 2009-2011 (min. 250 thrown)

Player Miss Pct.
Brandon League 58.5%
Ryan Madson 55.3%
Francisco Rodriguez 48.3%
Kris Medlen 46.9%
Esmerling Vasquez 45.5%
Joaquin Benoit 45.4%
Jeff Fulchino 43.3%
Huston Street 42.5%
Joel Peralta 40.8%
Michael Wuertz 39.7%


You might as well have a pitcher at the plate when Madson tosses a changeup: opponents have a three-year batting average of .126 (best among relievers) and a .191 slugging percentage, a mark topped by just Brandon League and Pedro Feliciano.

Paying Madson is also a far better use of resources than, say, bringing back incumbent closer Francisco Cordero. Sure, Cordero sported a 2.45 ERA last year, but the 36-year-old did it with a disintegrating strikeout rate (15.3 percent of batters faced, continuing a five-year decline) and a Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) above four. When you put the two side-by-side in some key categories, there's really no comparison:

In 2011:

Player K Pct. Walk Pct. HR Pct. FIP
Madson 25.2 6.5 0.9 2.54
Cordero 15.3 8 2.4 4.02


Three-Year (2009-2011):

Player K Pct. Walk Pct. HR Pct. FIP
Madson 26.7 6.8 1.8 2.74
Cordero 18.4 10.2 1.7 3.69


As an added bonus, Madson doesn't cost the Reds a draft pick and they will snag a sandwich pick between rounds one and two when Cordero presumably signs elsewhere.

For Madson, signing for one year with an opt-out for 2013 is obviously far from ideal. Save for exceptions like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, the long-term health and performance of even the game's best high-leverage relievers is tenuous. Madson could be nails next year, setting himself up for another run at a Papelbon-esque deal, or he could come down with a shoulder or elbow injury or  just have an off-year, depressing his value and perhaps denying him from ever truly cashing in.

This looked like Madson's time to get filthy stinking rich. He certainly could still do that by being lights-out in Cincinnati and choosing to hit the market again next winter, and in the meantime he gets a nice pay day in 2012. But a reliever is one snapped ligament or a few wall-scraping home runs away from having a drastically different value in the eyes of teams, and even someone as good as Madson is subject to the caprices of life in the 'pen. Reds GM Walt Jocketty will sign this deal with a smile, and Madson with a sigh.


Papelbon vs. Madson

Over the weekend, the Phillies agreed to terms with reliever Jonathan Papelbon on a four-year, $50 million free agent deal that includes a vesting option that could take the total value of the contract north of $60 million. Philly was thought to be on the verge of a four-year, $44 million deal with incumbent closer and fellow free agent Ryan Madson, but the deal supposedly fell through due to a fifth-year vesting option that would have bumped Madson's potential earnings up to $57 million.

Setting aside for a moment the question of whether it makes sense to pay any reliever such a sum when he pitches, at most, five percent of his team's total innings, the Phillies' preference of Papelbon over Madson seems to make little sense unless the new Collective Bargaining Agreement scraps first-round draft pick compensation. There's little difference between the two in terms of recent and projected performance, and bringing in Papelbon could cost Philly's farm system needed young talent to boot.

Take a look at how Papelbon and Madson have pitched since 2009:

Papelbon: 199 IP, 10.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, 2.64 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

Madson: 191 IP, 9.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, 2.74 FIP

Papelbon records more Ks, but Madson issues slightly fewer walks and gets taken deep a bit less often. Overall, the difference between Papelbon and Madson's fielding-independent numbers has been a tenth of a run per nine innings pitched.

Digging a little deeper, we find that Papelbon holds slight advantages in getting strikes and putting the ball in the zone, while Madson actually gets more swings and misses and more chases on pitches off the plate:

Papelbon: 66.8 Strike%, 28.2 Miss% 47.9 Zone%, 35 Chase%

Madson: 65.9 Strike%, 30.5 Miss%, 46.5 Zone%, 39.1 Chase%

You might be tempted to think that, as a result of pitching in the cut-throat AL East, Papelbon has faced a significantly tougher slate of hitters than Madson. But that doesn't appear to be the case. Take a look at their Opponent Quality OPS totals from 2009-2011, from Baseball Prospectus:


2009: .792 (T-52 among pitchers with 50+ IP)

2010: .765 (T-69)

2011: .752 (T-143)


2009: .781 (T-167)

2010: .765 (T-69)

2011: .756 (T-93)

Papelbon faced significantly tougher hitters in '09, but they were tied in 2010 and Madson had the harder go of it in 2011.

There's also the question of how Papelbon fits in at Citizens Bank Park. ESPN's Keith Law thinks Papelbon's fly ball-heavy approach will get him in trouble:

Papelbon has remade himself once after bottoming out with a fastball-only approach a few years ago, but even now he relies heavily on the hard but very flat four-seamer, which likely won't translate well to a good home run park in Philadelphia.

From 2009-2011, Papelbon has a 46 percent fly ball rate. He's all about the high heat:

Papelbon's pitch location, 2009-2011

Madson, by contrast, has a 32 percent fly ball rate. He's more apt to locate his fastball, cutter and changeup lower in the zone:

Madson's pitch location, 2009-2011

Considering that CPB increases homers by 16 percent for lefty hitters and 20 percent for righties (per StatCorner), it stands to reason that some of Papelbon's high heaters that died in the Fenway outfield or bonked off the Monster will leave the park entirely.

Past performance certainly matters, but what teams pay for (or should pay for) in free agency is future production. And on that front, Papelbon and Madson (both 31 years old) are barely distinguishable, according to The Hardball Times' Oliver projection system. Oliver forecasts 6.3 Wins Above Replacement for Papelbon over the next four years, compared to 5.7 for Madson. If the two were presidential candidates, we'd call that a statistical dead heat.

If the two can barely be told apart in terms of past and projected value, Madson apparently could have been had for a slightly smaller contract, and Madson is a better fit for CPB due to his ground ball ability, then the draft pick compensation that Papelbon may cost the Phillies makes their choice all the more curious.

Philly has emptied out its farm system in recent years in the quest for present wins, and it's hard to argue with the club's success. But, considering that Papelbon and Madson are near equals performance-wise, it seems like the Phillies gave up their first-round pick (31st overall) to Boston in the 2012 draft for nothing. Both Papelbon and Madson are Type A free agents, but it wouldn't have cost the Phillies any compensatory picks to retain their own free agent. Based on past research by Victor Wang, the Phillies punted a pick worth an average of $5-6 million.

This is where things get cloudy, though -- ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the new CBA may well eliminate first-round draft pick compensation:

In return, the players would get this concession from the owners -- there will be no first-round pick draft compensation. In recent years, teams have become increasingly reluctant to sign free agents tied to first-round draft picks, which has impacted the market for those players. There will continue to be draft pick compensations, but in some other form -- either in later rounds or in supplemental rounds.

If we accept the premise that the Phillies, a high-revenue club from whom every win makes a major difference in making the playoffs, were going to spend big bucks on a closer, their choice of Papelbon over Madson is slightly questionable if the new CBA allows them to hold on to their first-round pick and a bad move if they have to give it up. Given Philly's choice, I have to believe that they expect to hold on to that pick.



As advertised, Madson Avenue

Madison Avenue in New York is renowned as the advertising capital of the world. Occasionally, when we hear about a pitcher advertised as "having a great pitch," we take it with the same degree of hyperbole that we hear in an ad for a "great" product.

But today, I put the well-advertised change-up of the Phillies hurler, Ryan Madson, to the taste test, which in our case is our heat map.

The Taste Test

Let's start by looking at his fastball because the efficacy of a change-up is measured off the fastball.

Ryan Madson Fastball - In play averageYou can see as you look at the map, that of the 224 fastballs he has thrown, 39 have been put in play, resulting in 15 hits, producing an in play average of .385.

Let's see the change-up, Ryan.

Ryan Madson's change-upLook at all the nice blue. Madson has thrown 110 of these beauties and batters are 2-for-15 off it for an in-play average of .133.

Congratulations, Ryan you have passed the taste test. Your change-up is as good as advertised.

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