Mark Melancon was undeniably the Pirates best relief pitcher in 2013. The All-Star posted an incredible overall season stat line, and filled in admirably as the closer when Jason Grilli went down with an injury.
Melancon’s 2013 season totals
But he seemed to falter during the last two months of the season, posting a 4.22 ERA in 10.2 innings while opponents batted .333 against him. Ok, so he obviously struggled, why am I writing this?
Perhaps, examining his numbers more closely will suggest something different? During August and September, Melancon allowed zero walks and zero home runs. So he didn’t lose command, and he didn’t give up bombs. He struck out 13 batters in those 10.2 innings, so it doesn’t appear his stuff declined. His 59.5 GB% indicates he didn’t allow hard contact.
So he showed good command, suppressed home runs, struck out hitters at a high rate, and induced a ton of weak contact. Yet he still posted a high ERA and opponents BA? There seems to be a disconnect.
During those two months Melancon allowed an unsustainably high .447 BABIP, whereas the MLB BABIP average in 2013 was .297. He also suffered an extremely low 52.9 LOB%, the 2013 MLB average was 72.3%. So Melancon was victimized by bad luck more than he was by opposing batters. His 0.61 FIP for August/September tells that he should have had much more success.
Melancon shouldn’t be expected to duplicate his incredibly strong 2013 season, but he should continue to be a successful reliever. His last 10.2 IP last year show nothing to the contrary.
Melancon’s Aug/Sept 2013 Stats