By Jason Shetler
Since taking over as Pirates pitching coach in August of 2010, Ray Searage has become “The Godfather of Reclamation Projects”, as he’s been able to help turn around struggling starters. The list includes the likes of Charlie Morton, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley. While Searage’s work of getting the most out of starting pitchers has been well documented, and rightly so, you almost forget about the relievers, the most notable being Mark Melancon.
After becoming the Houston Astros closer in 2011, Melancon was acquired by the Boston Red Sox that offseason. Much like the Red Sox disastrous 2012 season, he struggled and was never able to get on track. Melancon was on the move again prior to 2013, as he was dealt to the Pirates as part of the Joel Hanrahan deal. During his two seasons so far in Pittsburgh, Melancon has been nothing short of stellar. Here is a breakdown of the numbers from his time in Boston and now with the Pirates.
2012 (Red Sox): 6.20 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.2 K/9, 50% groundball rate
2013-2014 (Pirates): 1.65 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 1.2 BB/9, 8.9 K/9, 59% groundball rate
In addition to the solid numbers the past two seasons, Melancon’s cutter has been thrown more. Here are the figures.
2011-2012 (Astros/RedSox): 32% cutter percentage, 29% O-Swing (swings on pitches outside)
2013-2014 (Pirates): 56% cutter percentage, 42% O-Swing
The cutter has certainly become a primary pitch for Melancon. Not only has it been his go to pitch, but when he spots it on the outside corner, he’s gotten a ton of swings and misses with it. During his time with the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox combined, Melancon had a 3.4 BB/9. With the Pirates, he’s more than cut that walk ratio in half at 1.2.
The acquisition of Melancon has definitely been one of Neal Huntington’s best moves, and because he went from a reliever with some control issues and struggles to now one of the Top 10 relievers in all of baseball, you could make a very good argument that he’s been Ray Searage’s best reclamation project.