Hey, look at that: Ryan Madson thriving as the Phillies’ closer

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Last month when Jose Contreras joined Brad Lidge on the disabled list I wrote that it may actually be a semi-positive thing for the Phillies because the injuries gave Ryan Madson a chance to prove that he can be a standout closer.

Far too many Phillies fans had convinced themselves that Madson couldn’t possibly get the job done in the ninth inning because he’s struggled in a few brief closing stints in previous seasons, but my point was simple: Madson has been one of the best, most underrated setup men in baseball since 2007 and there’s nothing magical about the ninth inning.

Here’s a sample of some comments left here at the time:

– God I hate when the stat geeks pontificate about the save stat being meaningless, even when they have the proof right in front of their eyes. I mean, isn’t that what you guys are always spouting to the world … don’t believe what you see, believe the stats??? So if Madson blows an early save or two, or three or however many, that wouldn’t be enough to prove to you guys that he isn’t closer material??? I mean, you boys can’t have your cake and eat it too.

– If Madson is as good as you say he is, then he should not be a different pitcher when he closes. Yet he is. Why? Maybe, and I know, this is just an insane thought, but maybe, just maybe, those last three outs are a little more difficult to get than you stat geeks think?

– Madson, on the other hand, wears his emotions on his sleeve and seems to be affected by the moment. I think he’s hard on himself and seems to lose a little confidence when he gets into some jams, more so in the 9th than when he does in the 8th.

– Have to disagree with you Aaron, I think it does take a special breed of pitcher. He has to forget yesterday and handle the increased pressure. Up to now Madson has not been able to do that.

There’s more where those came from, but you get the idea.

Closing is a role, not a skill. Getting hitters out is a skill and Madson is very good at it, thus when given an extended chance to get established he’s very good at pitching the ninth inning with a lead of 1-3 runs. After closing out last night’s 2-1 win by striking out the side in the ninth inning Madson is 7-for-7 converting save opportunities with a 0.53 ERA, .167 opponents’ batting average, and 22 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.