Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Keys to the season: Ryan Madson

Continuing with my keys to the season series, let us consider one Ryan Madson.

Madson has been cursed over the past two years with being an effective reliever, thus limiting his overall effectiveness. Although I have been reading arguments about how much the bullpen needs him, here's the final word on the matter: Starters are more valuable than relievers. Madson has pitched about 75 or so innings a year for the past 2 years, and should easily double that in 2006. More high quality innings means a lower overall team ERA. Unless the bullpen totally implodes, Madson will be best served there.

But it goes beyond that. The very best bullpen guys have one big out pitch. Think Mariano Rivera with his cut fastball he throws over and over. Rivera doesn't have a great #2 pitch, but he doesn't need one. Hitters only see him once a game, and generally not more than a few times a year. They can't adjust to that movement and speed with so few repetitions. If Rivera was a starter, he would only be average, because starters need 3 or 4 good pitches to be effective.

Madson does not have on overwhelming great pitch. His best pitch is probably his changeup, which isn't a pitch you can throw over and over and be effective. Instead, Madson has several high quality pitches, which build on each other. His sinking fastball has the same arm motion as his changeup. Thus, he can be a very deceptive pitcher.

Furthermore, he's a groundball pitcher. Can you think of any ballpark where it's more important to be a groundball pitcher? He also has a fairly good strikeout rate. Although both characteristics by themselves are good, combined they have a chance to become very very special. Do you understand how high Madson's potential is?

One more thought: the past two years languishing in the bullpen might prove to be a blessing for our young pitcher. Consider another young star who pitched a few too many innings in his early years. Or this guy. Maybe starting promising young pitchers in the bullpen might end up being a new trend?


At 7:45 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I think that spending in the bullpen could be decent for any young pitcher, because it requires a lot of concentration on pitching selection and location. You can't just throw away pitches, so guys like Schilling and Santana have learned to conserve pitches.


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