Phillies Favorite Aside, Jonathan Papelbon is a Better Option than Ryan Madson

Posted by Frank Klose


For years, Ryan Madson was a fan favorite in Philadelphia.   He never hesitated to make sarcastic jokes to fans in the stands arriving early, and since when he first donned a #57 jersey back in 2003, he has been a fan favorite.  He was a world champion with teh Phillies in 2008.   However, with all things equal, for the best chance at a championship, the clear favorite is not Ryan Madson, but Jonathan Papelbon.

How effective was Ryan Madson as a closer? How quickly we forget. 

In 2009, Madson's first extended opportunity as a closer, he tallied 10 saves.  However, Madson did blow six save opportunities.  (Granted, some may have been as a setup man, but he's pitching an important inning either way).

To open 2010 Ryan Madson had his first long-term chance to be the Phillies closer.   It took Madson a whole four weeks to blow two saves in six opportunities and break his toe kicking a chair in the San Francisco dugout.

Speaking of San Francisco, let's not forget Madson lost the 2010 elimination game for the Phillies, giving up a crucial home run to Cody Ross with the game tied.

In Spring Training 2011, Brad Lidge succumbed to his annual injury and disabled list stint to start the season.  However, the Phillies did not trust Madson enough to become closer.   It took an injury to Jose Contreras to be given another opportunity to close, for a lack of better options.

Madson was indeed stellar the rest of 2011, earning 32 saves between late April and September.   However, is that enough to earn a four-year, big-dollar contract with the Phillies to be the closer?  If you are spending big dollars and committing four years to a closer, Papelbon is a much better bet.

It may seem like Papelbon has had a much longer career than Madson, but Papelbon is actually three months younger than Madson.  

Think Papelbon has more wear on his body?  Madson has thrown 200 2/3 more innings than Papelbon in 95 more games.

And while Madson spent time trying to find his niche in the major leagues, Papelbon was a closer from his second season on forward.  Papelbon has 219 career saves pitching in the tough AL East, while Madson has 52.   

Granted, Papelbon had a rough stretch in 2010, but finished with 37 saves and a 3.90 ERA anyway. I already saw one fan point to his 13.50 ERA in the 2009 postseason, but he gave up three runs in one game, and pitched a scoreless game otherwise.  It is not enough to raise a flag.

The potential numbers posted for Ryan Madson were four years and $44 million, or $11 million per season.  It appears that Jonathan Papelbon will earn $12.5 million or so per season.   This is what it is going to cost the Phillies for a top-closer this offseason.   If they are going to have to go a full mile, they might as well go the extra 100 yards and get the better option.

Personally, I have a hunch that Scott Boras screwed up the chances for a Phillies and Madson extended-marriage.  I find it suspicious that reports circulated with the four-year, $44 million number.  Could Boras have floated that out there in hopes another team would jump in and offer more to drive up the price for the Phillies?   He has been known to play teams against one another before.

Even if that is the case, Ryan Madson and agent Scott Boras wanted this to go to free agency.  Madson did not do so in 2009, agreeing to two-years beyond his final arbitration year.   The Phillies had an exclusive negotation window after the season to negotiate with Madson, and could have worked out a deal with him then.

Once Ryan Madson was a free agent and all things were equal, Jonathan Papelbon was the better option.