Mark Melancon Showing His Value for the Pirates


Closers are generally seen as interchangeable pieces. They are extremely volatile in nature, often streaking across the sky like a meteor before entirely flaming out. For every Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, there are dozens of Brian Fuentes and Bobby Thigpen type pitchers, who had tremendous success for three or four years before disappearing.

While it is far too early to proclaim Mark Melancon as the second coming of a long lasting closer, he has had a remarkably solid career as a reliever, both as a setup man and as a closer. Overall, he has posted a 2.92 ERA and a 1.097 WHiP, striking out 280 batters in 299 innings. Those numbers, as solid as they are, are not even close to the production Melancon had last season, when he was 3-5 with 33 saves, posting a 1.90 ERA and a 0.873 WHiP. Melancon, with that performance, was one of the better closers in the National League.

Excluding a deceptively 2012 season with the Boston Red Sox, Mark Melancon has been a solid reliever over his career. While not one of those closers or relievers with a power arm that fires the ball at 100 MPH, Melancon has been able to use his lower 90’s cutter and excellent curve to great effect, generating ground ball after ground ball while stifling the opposition.

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That ability to generate grounders, instead of relying upon a fastball in the upper 90’s could go a long way to helping prolong Melancon’s effectiveness. His stellar control, helping Melancon to allow only 2.3 walks per nine innings, is not likely to fade over time. Even if he loses a couple of miles per hour on his pitches as he ages, Melancon has demonstrated a true ability to pitch, which should help mitigate that concern.

That likelihood that Mark Melancon can continue to perform well as he ages helps underscore his true value. Instead of a pitcher that may well flame out as the opposition figures out his fastball, Melancon has that cutter as a true weapon, helping him to generate grounder after grounder. He even showed a willingness to use other pitches last season, as his cutter usage dropped by over 12%, to keep the opposition from sitting on the one pitch. To be able to adjust his arsenal from year to year shows a knowledge of pitching beyond that which most relievers typically possess, as Melancon has become more than just a thrower.

Mark Melancon could be an effective reliever for a long time to come. Fortunately, the Pirates should have him for at least three more years.