Pittsburgh Pirates may benefit from a closer-by-committee approach


The Pittsburgh Pirates may have a case this season for going with a “Closer by Committee” approach.

We have seen for many years in the NFL that a Running Back by committee approach works rather well. In the NFL, It helps keeps legs fresh, preserves the body to help prevent injury and causes defenses problems. In comparison, a closer by committee approach could help keep the arms fresh by allowing match-ups and game situations to determine who closes and prevent injuries.

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Many of the naysayers think that a closer by committee approach means one of two things. First, you don’t have a true closer and are allowing guys to audition for the closer role. Second, if you are part way thru a season, some see it as a sign that you are packing it in. However, if you have multiple relievers who are clearly capable of closing, why not go with a committee. The benefits are absolutely real:  you will be able to preserve the pitcher’s career longevity, and have two or three guys that can come in to shut down your opponent.

Jason Grilli. Joel Hanrahan. Evan Meek. Matt Capps. These are all former Pittsburgh Pirates closers. While each was dominant at one time, they all have one thing in common. They seemed to lose the ability to be effective in the closers role whether it be from fatigue or injury. In order to keep Mark Melancon effective and healthy, moving to a closer by committee approach could extend his career.

Mark Melancon will begin this season, his seventh, at the age of 30 while making $5.4 million. He comes in as the incumbent closer after finally taking over full-time for his predecessor, Grilli, who imploded in April of 2014. Last season, he managed 33 saves, a 1.90 ERA, 0.873 WHIP and  71 strike outs in 71 innings of work. Mark the Shark has seen action in just one game so far this spring.

Tony Watson enters his fifth season, approaching 30 years of age and making $1.75 million. The strong throwing lefty managed to pickup 10 wins last season in relief experience. He had two saves, a 1.63 ERA, 1.022 WHIP and 81 Strikeouts in 77.1 innings of work. So far this spring, its been elementary for Watson as he has continued to impress on the mound.

After reviewing last season’s stats and performances,  I feel a committee approach between Melancon and Watson, while leaving Jared Hughes in the setup man role, could be beneficial to the team long term. As we continue on during Spring training, keep an eye on the performance of the Pirates Shark Tank. While watching, don’t forget to look for their top pitches as told here by fellow staffer Jason Rollison.

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