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.

Manny Machado rips MLB Network talking heads over double standards

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Manny Machado has had his fair share of controversies. There was the stuff about his lack of hustle last fall. He’s thrown bats and ran into and over guys and has argued with umpires and all of that stuff. Is he well-liked? Not really. Is he a dirty player? Some say so. But even if you don’t say so, he’s been involved in some dirty plays and he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. We chronicled much of that last fall.

But he’s certainly not the only guy who has done that sort of thing before. Others have and, I think it’s fair to say, others have not caught as much flak for it as he has. There are reasons for that too, of course. Part of it is that a couple of Machado’s transgressions came in very high-profile situations like last year’s playoffs. Part of it is that he’s a big star who makes a lot of money and guys like that tend to get more attention and heat than others. Part of it is that a lot people simply don’t like Machado for whatever reason.

Machado talked at length about that last night when he took to Instagram to mock MLB Network analysts Eric Byrnes and Dan Plesac, who were going on about the Jake Marisnick plunking and his barreling into Jonathan Lucroy that led to it. Byrnes and Plesac were defending Marisnick. Machado noted that he would never have gotten that kind of defense had it been him doing the barreling instead of Marisnick.

Watch (warning: NSFW language):

 

I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Again, some of it would be justified in that Machado does have a reputation and when you have a reputation you don’t get as much benefit of the doubt. But it’s also the case that Machado was not getting much benefit of the doubt — including from these guys in particular — well before that reputation was established.

Over at the Big Lead, they found examples of Byrnes going after Machado way back in 2014. Machado’s transgressions have, from the beginning, been cast as a those of a dirty, hotheaded player who lacks class. Other players who have done exactly what Machado has done often get excused for showing “passion” and “competitiveness” or for “playing hard” instead of “playing dirty” even when there isn’t all that much actual difference between the acts in question.

Machado says it’s attributable, at least in part, to him being Latino. I think people can reasonably disagree on the question of whether Machado, personally, has been unfairly judged. But I think it’s pretty indisputable that, generally, Latino players get way, way, way less benefit of the doubt for “hard play” vs. “dirty play” and for being “hotheaded” as opposed to being “competitors” than non-Latinos get. Those stereotypes are well-established. Academic research has been conducted on that stuff, confirming such inherent bias on the part of white commentators. Some of Machado’s peers in the game have said the same thing, both in general, and about Machado’s treatment personally.

Which is to say, whether or not Machado has earned the treatment he gets, he has a point here.