Many thought that Mark Melancon would be traded in the off-season. Well, he’s still on the team, and he’s hoping to continue being one of the most dominant relievers in the game.
This off-season the writers at Pirates Breakdown will take a look at two different sets of projections for meaningful players on the roster and give you, the readers, their take on whether or not they think said player will meet, surpass, or fall below those projections. The projections for Steamer and ZiPS (created by Dan Szymborski) can be found on fangraphs.com. Check out all of our previous projections here.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates shipped Joel Hanrahan to Boston before the start of the 2013 season, some fans were upset that the team’s established closer was being traded for a few players who looked to have a limited impact on the franchise. And for the most part, they were right. Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Jerry Sands never made an appearance with the big league club and Stolmy Pimentel made appearances in 2013 and 2014 but was eventually designated for assignment. However, the production of the fourth player the Pirates received has more than made up for the disappointment of the others.
After putting together a dismal 2012 campaign with the Red Sox, Mark Melancon has since become one of the most reliable closers in all of baseball. Since joining the club in 2013, Melancon has saved an even 100 games with a fantastic ERA of 1.85. More impressive, though, is his incredible K/BB ratio of 203/45 in 218.1 innings of work.
It might have been the change of scenery, the magic work of Ray Searage, or a combination of both, but whatever it was, something clicked for Melancon once he arrived in Pittsburgh. Melancon will once again serve as the team’s closer in 2016 after agreeing to a $9.6 million deal this off-season to avoid arbitration. While some, including this writer, have suggested that the team capitalize on Melancon’s trade value and move him this off-season, it is without a doubt that the Pirates are a better team with him closing games in 2016.
So, what do the projections have to say for Melancon in 2016? Let’s take a look:
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Other than seeing his strikeouts per nine innings go up, Steamer is fairly pessimistic about Melancon in 2016. I am going to have to respectfully disagree with Steamer on Melancon’s save total for next season. The Pirates still project to be a good team in 2016, and it’s hard to see Melancon having such a significant drop off in saves. Eclipsing 50 may be a tough task, but I am pretty confident that Melancon will get close to or surpass 40. Steamer sees his ERA rising by over half a run next year. Given that he’ll have a team playing behind him that should be better defensively than the team last year, I also disagree with that. I’ll peg his ERA to be higher than two, but not approaching three as the projection sees it.
Of the two projections, I think ZiPS is closer to what we’ll see out of Melancon next year. ZiPS unfortunately does not projection wins, losses, or saves, but his strikeout ratio looks promising. ZiPs also believes that he’ll walk less batters per nine innings, and given Melancon’s outstanding control, that is very doable. ZiPS sees a rise in his ERA but not nearly what Steamer believes Melancon will have in 2016. What is curious to me is that both projections see a drop off in innings. Just like my rationale for his saves total, I think Melancon will see close to or more innings than he did in 2015, given that the Pirates should be in the pennant race or most of the season.
But what do you think? Will Melancon surpass his 51 saves from last season and set a new team record? Will he end up being worse than he was in 2015? Should the Pirates have capitalized on his value this off-season and inserted Tony Watson as the closer? Let us know in the comments below!