The season is young, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have actually been playing decent baseball this past week. Only twelve games are in the books, but one pitcher has stood out to me, and it seems like he has for the rest of Pirate Nation, too.
April 12, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (35) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
How about this guy? I saw it coming all the way. Joel Hanrahan is gone. He’s history. Fans were sad to see Hanrahan go. I’m not going to lie: I was sad to see The Hammer hang up his Pirate uniform. But guess what? Hanrahan is stinking it up in Boston right now, and Melancon has the best WHIP of any pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Most of us know about Melancon, and for fans that don’t, I hope you get to know about him.
The 6’2″ 215-pounder is the set up man for Jason Grilli, and was acquired through the trade that sent Hanrahan to Boston. He was considered a “throw-in” to that trade, which I couldn’t help but laugh at. Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimental, and Ivan DeJesus were the other three guys brought over, and none of them are on the team yet. All three are young and have potential, but Melancon is on the roster now – and pitching better than anybody on the staff.
2011 was a good season for the 28-year old Colorado native Melancon. The ninth round pick by the New York Yankees in the 2006 draft was the closer for the worst team in baseball, the Houston Astros, and still managed to pick up over twenty saves.
2012 was a bad season for Melancon. He was traded for Jed Lowrie to the Boston Red Sox, and the Red Sox thought they’d give him a shot as the closer. It didn’t go too well. He was knocked around early in the season, and pitched in Triple-A Pawtucket for most of the season.
So, his 2012 season was a mess, which is why the Pirates got him for pretty much nothing. Closers are the most overvalued players in the league. Selling high on Hanrahan was a great idea, and the Bucs got a decent – not great – but decent return for Hanrahan. It’s too soon to tell how Sands, Pimental, and DeJesus will pan out, and the same goes for Melancon. You never know. He could get teed off on the rest of the season and turn out to be a disappointment, but as of now, he looks like a stud.
The right-hander made his debut for the Yankees in 2009 as a 24-year old. Since then, he’s bounced around the league, but appears to have found a home in the Bucs bullpen. It’s just seven innings, but has given up only two hits so and is yet to give up a run [ETA: until today].
Back to Hanrahan: he has pitched 4.2 innings this season in Boston and allowed six earned runs. He’s already experienced the hitter-friendliness of Fenway Park, allowing three home runs. His hamstring is aching, and his manager has yanked him out of games that he wasn’t feeling too comfortable with him pitching in. Bottom line: Hanrahan is off to a rough start in 2013.
Melancon looks great. His .29 WHIP is the best in the league. It won’t be like that for much longer, but he’s in a steady groove early on in the season, and the Pirates should be thrilled with the earlier appearance of their big move this offseason..