Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Ryan Madson Reclamation Project 

I feel a great deal of pity for Ryan Madson. Once beloved by bloggers for his skill as a middle reliever, Madson had wanted to break into the rotation and become a starting pitcher. After all, that is where the glory really lies, not in middle relief. Unfortunately, Madson’s move into the bullpen was a total fiasco. So much so that he was moved back to the bullpen before returning to the rotation due to injuries and Gavin Floyd’s demotion. Like Icarus, who tried to fly too high and burned his wings, falling to earth, Madson has fallen to earth. No longer the beloved darling of the blogging community, now you have to ask if Madson will live up to his promise and be a pitcher for the Phillies in 2007 and beyond.

First a few stats to gaze over:

Madson: 2006
HR/9: 1.68
BB/9: 3.72
K/9: 6.11
FIP: 5.60
ERA: 6.02
WHIP: 1.73

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

Now compare that with 2005:

HR/9: 1.14
BB/9: 2.59
K/9: 8.17
FIP: 3.67
ERA: 4.14
WHIP: 1.25

And compare that with 2004, the first time bloggers took notice of Ryan:

HR/9: 0.70
BB/9: 2.22
K/9: 6.43
FIP: 3.31
ERA: 2.34
WHIP: 1.14

It has all been pretty bad. I think I have one simple stat that describes the problem:

Games Started / Relief Appearances:

2004: 1 / 51
2005: 0 / 78
2006: 17 / 6

Kind of get a feel for where I am going with this? And remember that Ryan’s sole start prior to 2006 was his disastrous start in 2004 against the White Sox, where he lasted two-thirds of an inning, surrendering three home runs and six runs on six hits and a walk. Simply put, the Phillies decision to move Ryan to the rotation seemed to make sense – why keep a strong pitcher like Ryan off the mound until the seventh or eighth inning, when you can bring him aboard in the first and benefit from his skills.

And prior to the 2006 campaign, Ryan was one of the Phillies best pitchers. His FIP ERA, the stat you measure how a player does with a neutral defense, identified him as a strong pitcher. He did things well, amassing a three-to-one strikeout to walk ratio, and he was pretty tight with the home runs. His 2004-2005 HR/9 is 0.93, which is pretty good for playing at Citizens Bank Ballpark. Matched along with Jon Lieber and Cory Lidle, two other ground-ball tossing pitchers, I had high hopes for Ryan when he beat out Ryan Franklin for the last spot in the Phillies rotation.

But things haven’t worked out that way. He’s surrendering home runs and extra-base hits at a proidigious pace. Check out the opposition’s slugging percentage against:

2004: .336
2005: .426
2006: .536

A one hundred point increase each season, roughly. What makes Ryan’s ’06 slide so miserable is that he isn’t controlling his own destiny. Ryan’s K/BB ratio has slipped to 1.64-to-1. Once a pitcher who got a lot of outs by throwing groundball outs, Ryan has slipped:

2004: 1.94
2005: 1.57
2006: 1.19

Being an increasingly flyball-oriented pitcher at Citizens Bank Ballpark is a dangerous occupation. Just ask Gavin Floyd (see tomorrow’s post). That vulnerability is showing in his home / road stats:

Home / Away
HR/9: 1.79 / 1.58
BB/9: 4.11 / 3.33
K/9: 6.26 / 5.96

So can Ryan’s career be rescued? Brought back from the near-dead? I say yes. As long as Ryan is moved back to the ‘pen for 2007, I think he’ll regain his 2004-2005 form and be a terrific pitcher once more. For whatever reason the long haul of a start doesn’t agree with Ryan. Getting him back to the bullpen where he’d pitch one or two innings a game will suit him better. And I think that he’ll benefit from improved defense. Consider, the Phillies aren’t playing good defense behind Ryan:

2004: .727
2005: .701
2006: .659

Initially, remembering my good friend Tom’s arguments about line-drives and their effect on DER, I had wondered if Ryan was to blame for his demise on defense. Then I discovered that Ryan’s line-drives allowed had actually decreased in 2006, from 25.3% to 20.3%. Given the three-quarters of line drives fall for hits, this means that a pitcher surrendering line drives shoots himself in the foot by handicapping his defense. Not the case here: Ryan is giving the defense more to work with and yet he’s still being served with shoddy glove work. Improved defense, especially in the outfield (I am talking about you, Aaron Rowand), will help that in 2007.

Good luck, Ryan. I am rooting for you.

If Madson can return to previous seasons' form, then the bullpen will be better down the stretch run. Even Rhodes is pitching better since the infuriating Lidle comments.
It seems the reason Madson has done so poorly as a starter is that his lack of pitches are exposed the second time the batters see him. He's got a good fastball and a great change, his curveball is still suspect.

He won't be put back in the rotation until either his other pitches develop or better relievers come along. There has even been a rumor of Madson becoming the closer within the next few years.
Anonymous made a great point, I'll have to look at Ryan's split stats and see if there is any merit to that....
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