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The Red Report: Ryan Madson

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Yeah, that's Madson's "save" face.
Yeah, that's Madson's "save" face.

Subtitle: "Ma-sty Boy the second - as ma-sty as he wants to be"

Ryan Madson

Relief Pitcher / Cincinnati Reds


200 (draft weight: 180)

feebly (L)

with strength and precision (R)

Age: 31 (b. Aug 28, 1980)

Born in: Long Beach, CA


Believe it or not, "Mad Dog" is his official bb-ref nickname. Other potentially creative nicknames include Ry-Dog, R-Mad, Ry-Ma, Mad Ryan, Mad Man, and Ryan California.


  • Madson was drafted out of high school by the Phillies in the 9th round of the 1998 draft. Also drafted in that round were Jack Wilson and Morgan Ensberg. The Reds took "Henry" Dave Therneau, who never made it to the big leagues.
  • Madson almost exclusively started in the minors. By 2003, he was starting for the AAA Scranton team and looked ready to make the leap.
  • Madson became a big league mainstay in 2004, though as a reliever and not as a starter. The Phillies already featured Eric Milton, Brett Myers, Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, Cory Lidle, and Kevin Millwood in their rotation. Madson appeared in 52 games (77 IP), posting a 9-3 record with a nearly 3 to 1 K:BB ratio, and an ERA of 2.34 (193 ERA+). He threw 87 innings in the following year but saw jumps in his hit and HR rates, and his ERA regressed to about league average.
  • The Phillies gave The Mad Man a shot at the rotation in 2006, but it didn't stick. In 17 starts he posted an ERA above 6, less than 2 Ks per walk, and a scary HR ratio. "Mad Dog" lived up to his craaaa-zy nickname on July 25, 2006, when he threw four wild pitches in the third inning against the Diamondbacks. That tied the record for most wild pitches in an inning. The team moved him back to the 'pen for good in early August 2006 to make way for another young arm, Cole Hamels.
  • Madson missed the stretch run and playoffs in 2007 but enjoyed a healthy and dominant year in 2008. He increased his velocity thanks to borrowing Jamie Moyer's strength routine (I'm picturing a raw egg for breakfast followed by tossing medicine balls and putting in a full day at the steel foundry) and was now able to ratchet up the ol' number one to as high as 97 m.p.h. He was a force in the playoffs, striking out 12 against one walk and one HR in 12 2/3 innings, as the Phillies marched to the top of the heap.
  • With Brad Lidge ineffective and hurting for much of his post-championship Phillies career, the natural move was to anoint Madson as the team's new closer. But the team had reservations about Madson's closer mentality, and he didn't help matters with several blown saves in 2009 and 2010. Madson was a tepid 15 for 26 in save opportunities in those years despite excellent peripherals. He blew three saves in a five-day stretch in 2009, and he broke his toe while kicking a chair in frustration after a blown save in early 2010. Brad Lidge explains that Madson "was putting too much pressure on himself early in his career and when I was injured to be perfect out there. Now I think he realizes, 'Hey, I can trust myself.'"
  • 2011 was a completely different story, as Madson got off to a blazing start and saved 32 games in 34 opportunities, while continuing to strike out about 4 batters per walk allowed. He also cut his HR rate in about half to an awfully impressive 0.3/9 IP (though we're talking about two versus four homeruns, which can easily be written off due to better weather or any number of other factors).
  • Bottom line is that Madson has been a very good reliever during the past several years and a dominant one in the last two. According to ESPN, only eight relievers with at least 300 innings in the past five years have a lower ERA than Madson's 2.89 mark- and he's done that in a severe hitter's park. Over the past two seasons, Madson's posted a 2.45 ERA, a 126-15 strikeouts-unintentional walks ratio, and has allowed just 96 hits (and only 6 homeruns) in 113 2/3 innings.
  • Madson's surprise signing with Cincinnati followed an intriguing winter which saw the Phillies reportedly back out of a four-year, $44M deal with their former closer. Enter Walt Jocketty and a shrewd one-year offer. Madson and agent Scott Boras are sure to test the market again next year, but hopefully the chip on Ryan's shoulder from failing to obtain an eight-figure deal will propel him to even greater heights in 2012.

What He Means to the Reds:

Quantifying the effect of a reliever is tricky. They only pitch a fraction of the innings that a starter does, but they're highly-leveraged ones. There's also the trickle-down "chaining" effect in which Dusty Baker will be free to use his lesser relievers in less critical opportunities. Valuable, but hard to say how much.

Madson and an improved bullpen should also boost the starting pitching, which was undoubtedly the team's biggest weakness. But while the food was terrible, the portions weren't generous, either. The Reds were average or below-average in innings per start and average Game Score, and I suspect they'd be among the leaders if there was a stat like "disaster starts". The addition of Mat Latos surely aids the rotation. But an improved bullpen also takes some of the pressure off the starters and gives Dusty the freedom to go to his bullpen earlier in the game, if necessary.

Scouting: it's the changeup, stupid

  • Madson's famous changeup is one of the most devastating pitches in baseball, particularly against lefties. He hides it well, throws it 10 m.p.h. slower than his fastball, and cuts it away from lefties (10" of break, second most in the league), making it all but unhittable. You can see from the location map below that Madson puts his changeup (on the left) well outside to lefties compared to the average RHP changeup (on the right). Last year hitters whiffed on 33% of his changeups, nearly triple the league average. As Ms. 'Mache explains, he often sets up his change with a first-pitch fastball. If the hitter gets behind he has little choice other than to flail away at the changeup, which Madson often places out of the strike zone (his 43% swing rate on stuff out of the zone is exceptional). Madson threw his changeup 35% of the time last year, the most in his career. Hey, if it works ....
  • His fastball ain't too shabby, either. As mentioned above, improvement in his velocity during the 2008 season gave him an additional 2 m.p.h., putting his average fastball in the 94 range. It also moves well horizontally, though it's about average in terms of vertical drop. He seems to throw a four-seamer, though some Pitch F/X classifications have him throwing a two-seamer some of the time. Madson throws an occasional cutter against both lefties and righties which drops more than his fastball.
  • The change and fastball are pretty much all he throws. Madson came into professional baseball with a "show me" curve but all but abandoned it once he joined the bullpen permanently.
  • Madson generates a good amount of groundballs. About half of all batted balls against him in the past two seasons were on the ground. Unlike Sean Marshall, Madson has enjoyed a good infield defense behind him before this year, so we shouldn't see an appreciable jump in his ability to get groundball outs.


  • Ryan California built a new house in the Philly suburbs last year, using "some green things, some energy-saving things, some responsible building and materials."
  • His middle name is Michael, so "Mr. Blonde" might also work as a nickname, even if Michael Madsen spells his last name a little differently.
  • I think Madson has a decent shot at the Reds' single-season save record of 44, set by The Cowboy in 1996. If Madson approaches the mark, how will Jeff Brantley handle the potential loss of his record during the broadcasts? It's just one of many completely meaningless scenarios that we can get worked up about this season.

Contract Status

Current deal: One year, $6M (with some deferred). There's also a $11M mutual option that Madson is unlikely exercise; the Reds are on the hook for $2.5M if they don't exercise their side of the option. At least, that's how I think this works out. Among other bonuses, there's $100K for being the World Series MVP.

MLB Service time: 8.027 (Can refuse optional assignment)

Career Stats

2003 22 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 2.0 0 0 0.000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
2004 23 9 3 2.34 52 1 14 1 77.0 19 55 193 1.130 7.9 0.7 2.2 6.4 2.89
2005 24 6 5 4.14 78 0 10 0 87.0 25 79 107 1.253 8.7 1.1 2.6 8.2 3.16
2006 25 11 9 5.69 50 17 8 2 134.1 50 99 82 1.682 11.8 1.3 3.3 6.6 1.98
2007 26 2 2 3.05 38 0 9 1 56.0 23 43 151 1.268 7.7 0.8 3.7 6.9 1.87
2008 27 4 2 3.05 76 0 14 1 82.2 23 67 144 1.234 8.6 0.7 2.5 7.3 2.91
2009 28 5 5 3.26 79 0 28 10 77.1 22 78 129 1.228 8.5 0.8 2.6 9.1 3.55
2010 29 6 2 2.55 55 0 21 5 53.0 13 64 161 1.038 7.1 0.7 2.2 10.9 4.92
2011 30 4 2 2.37 62 0 46 32 60.2 16 62 164 1.154 8.0 0.3 2.4 9.2 3.88
9 Seasons 47 30 3.59 491 18 150 52 630.0 191 547 123 1.294 8.9 0.9 2.7 7.8 2.86
162 Game Avg. 6 4 3.59 66 2 20 7 84 26 73 123 1.294 8.9 0.9 2.7 7.8 2.86
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/12/2012.

2012 Projections


9.4 3.00 1.15
60.0 2.53 0.45 2.40 9.45 2.70 1.15
Bill James
65.0 3.19 0.69 2.35 8.17 3.32 1.22

Please participate in our crowd-sourcing regarding Madson's projected season: