By Jason Shetler
Since joining the Pirates bullpen in 2013, Mark Melancon has become one of the best relief arms in the game. Following the struggles of Jason Grilli in 2014, Melancon assumed the duties as the closer. His first full season as Pirates closer last season resulted in becoming the Major League saves leader with 51. Let’s breakdown Melancon’s figures from 2014 and 2015, and how he projects to do this season.
2014: 1.90 ERA, 190 ERA+, 2.09 FIP, 0.87 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 in 72 appearances
2015: 2.23 ERA, 173 ERA+, 2.82 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, 7.3 K/9 in 78 appearances
2016 (FanGraphs): 2.55 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9 in 73 appearances
Because Melancon struggled in April last year, his overall numbers were better across the board in 2014, but he still pitched at an All-Star level in 2015 nonetheless. Despite his strikeout ratio being down last season, he posted a 57% groundball rate, the same rate as the year before. Melancon was the most clutch relief pitcher in 2015, as his 5.19 Win Probability Added was the best mark among MLB relievers. The 2016 FanGraphs projection looks promising again for Melancon.
My analysis: Over the last three years, Mark Melancon has been an elite level reliever. His success can be contributed to having excellent control with a 1.4 BB/9, as well as possessing two above average offerings, the cutter and curveball. Also since joining the Pirates, Melancon has done a terrific job of keeping the ball on the ground, posting a 58% groundball rate while allowing just a total of seven home runs. The strikeout ratio was down for him last season, but that should improve in 2016, if his velocity remains consistent.