Mark Melancon is the very definition of a closer


Mark Melancon has been an anchor at the back end of the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen.  Melancon has spent two seasons with the Bucs after coming over in the Joel Hanrahan trade with the Boston Red Sox.  Just how great has Melancon been for Clint Hurdle?

In 144 games, he has allowed just 1.2 walks per nine innings.  The ERA is not an effective tool when measuring relievers, but Melancon bucks that trend with his 1.65.  The right hander has limited home runs to just .2 per nine.  But for me, it’s what Melancon has done when facing familiar competition.

Melancon has been strong when facing National League Central opponents.  Outside a few singles against the Milwaukee Brewers, Melancon does nothing but fire strikes and shake the hand of his catcher as his teammates run off the field celebrating another victory.

Sep 14, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (left) and catcher Russell Martin (right) celebrate after defeating the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. The Pirates won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While a Pirates closer by committee approach is interesting to consider, the success Melancon has had is undeniable.  Take a look at the numbers against the NL Central over the past couple seasons:

The Hollow Batting Average Milwaukee Brewers have had 61 at bats against the Pirates closer and have struck out 17 times, doubled just once. That double is the only extra base hit he has allowed while the Brew Crew have scraped together  15 singles otherwise.  The patient approach was good for three wins against Melancon in 2015.  The Brewers have dinked and dunked the Bucs closer for an NL Central best .262 average. Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez have four singles each against Melancon.  No other NL Central player has four hits against the Pirates closer.

The Pathetic Batting Average Chicago Cubs have hit just .200 against Melancon.  Nobody on the free-swinging Cubbies has homered and one double stands as the only extra base hit in 40 team at bats.

The Talk Loudly and Carry a Small Stick Reds have a career .200 average in 55 career team at-bats against Melancon with only two extra base hits.  Wonder where the 0.2 home runs allowed per nine took an, ahem spike?  Two Reds hitters have taken Mark the Shark deep– Marlon Byrd and Joey Votto.

The Best-Team-in-Major-League-Baseball-History-Just-Ask-Their-Fans-The-St.Louis-Cardinals have 45 career team at bats against Melancon with a paltry .222 average.  The only extra base hits have been a double by Yadier Molina and a homer from Mark Reynolds.

Aug 30, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (left) congratulates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (right) after the Pirates defeated the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One key for Melancon was his performance when it mattered most–in August and September of 2015.  The Pirates got off to a rough start with Jason Grilli in the closer role.  The poor start made the August and September games vital as the Bucs came from the middle of the NL Central pack.  Melancon pitched 24.1 innings, gave up 17 hits and just four runs.  The right hander allowed just five walks, struckout 27 and stacked up 13 important saves.

Mark Melancon doesn’t intimidate opposing hitters.  Mark Melancon simply gets them out on a consistent basis.


The Fan Morning Show interviewed Melancon on Thursday.  It’s an interesting interview and Melancon discusses his demeanor and coming up in the Yankees system watching the best closer to play the game..

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