Analysis

Madson’s 8th Inning Proves His Value

The bullpen did a yeoman’s job keeping the Phillies in the game yesterday. Props to Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre and Clay Condrey for wonderful middle relief. But when the Phils tied the game, they needed to stave off any chance for a Rockies rally. Cue Ryan Madson, who had a Madson-esque eighth inning:

Clint Barmes gave Madson a great at bat, making him throw 11 pitches. Yet Madson’s location was superb (two changes were completely in the dirt and a slider was high and outside), keeping Barmes on his toes before he hit an outside fastball to second base. Against the left-handed Todd Helton, Madson opened with three sliders inside, to establish the strike zone and find a 1-2 count. Once secured, he switched to the change, dropping 10 mph in velocity with a ball, then a strike that had Helton flying out to left field. Finally, rookie Dexter Fowler stepped in and met his maker. Madson threw him a setup fastball low and away, but in the zone, at 94 mph. His second pitch was the exact same pitch, but just a bit more outside, causing the green Fowler to swing and miss. Of course, the third pitch was the change, dropping 12 mph in velocity and hitting the exact same location as the first two pitches. Predictably, Fowler swung and struck out.

About a month ago, Matthew Carruth of FanGraphs revealed a study of unhittable pitches. He found the most unhittable pitch in baseball was Madson’s changeup:

Ryan Madson’s changeup (as classified by MLBAM), thrown to same-handed hitters generated a swing and miss a whopping 36% of the time, about 5% higher than any other pitch by any other pitcher in 2008.

Clearly Madson has a formula, and clearly, it works. So far in 2009, Madson is looking like his 2008 self: The best setup man in baseball.

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