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.

Tim Anderson on Joe West: ‘I don’t have much to say about him. Everybody knows he’s terrible.’

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During the top of the ninth inning of Saturday night’s 7-3 loss to the Cubs, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was ejected by umpire Joe West. Anderson attempted to complete a double play started by second baseman Yoan Moncada, but Javier Báez slid hard into Anderson at the second base bag to disrupt him. Anderson’s throw went past first baseman Matt Davidson, allowing a run to score.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria challenged the ruling on the field, but it was upheld after replay review. Anderson had a brief conversation with umpire Joe West then went back to his position. Shortly thereafter, West ejected Anderson, who became irate.

After the game, Anderson said of West, via Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago, “I asked him a question, and he kind of got pissed at me. I asked him if he saw [Báez] reach for my leg in the replay. He asked me if I was going to argue that, and I said, ‘No, I was just asking a question.’ And after that I didn’t say anything else. He started barking at me. Kept staring me down. I gave him, ‘Why you keep looking at me?’ Did that twice and threw me out.”

Anderson then said, “I don’t have much to say about him. Everybody knows he’s terrible. But I didn’t say much and he threw me out. It’s OK.” Anderson added about the play in which one can see Báez reach his arm out to interfere with Anderson, “Yeah, definitely. You could see it in the replay. That’s just one of the many that they missed in New York, I guess.”

Anderson’s criticism of West doesn’t come as a surprise. West has had a reputation as an instigator for decades. Major League Baseball almost never holds umpires accountable for their conduct on the field and some umpires, like West, take advantage of this knowledge.

It was a bittersweet ending for Anderson as he homered earlier in the game, becoming the first White Sox shortstop ever to have 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. It’s just the sixth 20/20 season in White Sox history, joining Alex Ríos (2010, 2012), Ray Durham (2001), Magglio Ordóñez (2001), and Tommie Agee.

Anderson accounted for the only run the White Sox scored on Sunday against the Cubs with an RBI double. On the season, he’s hitting .243/.284/.412 with those 20 homers, 26 steals, 64 RBI, and 76 runs in 594 plate appearances.