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Underrated reliever Ryan Madson comes up big for Phillies

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It’s probably time that Ryan Madson got some attention for being one of the best relievers in baseball.

He’s appeared in four of five NLCS games, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings, and went 6-2 with a 2.55 ERA, .212 opponents’ batting average, and 64/13 K/BB ratio in 55 innings during the regular season.

Since moving to the bullpen full time in 2007 he has a 3.01 ERA and more strikeouts (252) than hits allowed (242) in 269 innings.

Wednesday night in Game 4 he induced what should have been an inning-ending double play in the seventh, only to have Jimmy Rollins boot the Cody Ross ground ball and load the bases with one out and Pablo Sandoval at the plate. Things could have unraveled in a hurry, but instead Madson turned to Rollins and said, “I got you.” True to his word, he induced an actual inning-ending double play, wriggling out of trouble, and went on to toss a scoreless eighth inning too.

Madson came up big again last night in Game 5, protecting a 3-2 lead with a flawless eighth inning that saw him strike out Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, and Cody Ross. He set them down in order, all swinging, on a total of 13 pitches. Like it was nothin’.

An excellent changeup has always been Madson’s best offering and the pitch has become even tougher to hit thanks to his fastball velocity improving from low-90s early in his career to 94-95 miles per hour over the past two seasons. Toss in a good cut-fastball–which he leaned on heavily in Game 5–and Madson is a rare reliever with three plus pitches in his arsenal.

All of which is why during the past four seasons the only relievers in baseball to throw as many innings as Madson with a lower ERA are Mariano Rivera, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and Darren Oliver.

It’s time to start talking about him as one of the best relievers in the game.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.