Bobby Evans admitted to Jon Heyman that he kicks himself daily for failing to acquire one of the elite closers at the trade deadline. Mostly over the failed attempt at the only reliever that almost came to fruition, Mark Melancon. Not only does free agency offer Evans a second chance to redeem himself, but also to also salvage a deal with the closer he was reportedly in competitive reach of acquiring.
Mark Melancon, 31, is likely to be the cheapest alternative of all three closers, and looks to be the type of deal the San Francisco Giants typically pursue in the past anyway. They’re rarely involved in bidding wars, so this deal could make sense if they find the other two options to be too expensive.
His price difference isn’t for lack of production, as his numbers are startling and provide evidence of why he was highly coveted at the deadline.
Melancon dazzled posting a record of 2-2, accompanied by a 1.64 ERA, converting 47/51 saves, while striking out 65 in 71.1 innings pitched. Additionally, he held opponents to a minuscule .202 average, with a 0.9 WHIP.
He led his free-agent competitors in categories that should excite the Giants’ fans and brass. San Francisco Giants are known for superior infield defense, headlined by Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Brandon Belt. All of them have at least been finalists for Gold Glove, with Crawford winning in 2015.
Melancon induced a GB% of 54.2 percent, and that’s all a pitcher could want when pitching to contact and having an infield full of wizards as back up. He also has the lowest HR/9 (.30) out of his two competitors, posted the lowest BB/9 (1.51), and shares the highest save conversion percentage with Chapman (92%).
Aside from pitching to contact better, Melancon keeps hitters guessing every offering by throwing four pitches for strikes at any time: fastball, cutter, knuckle curve, and a changeup.
A one-inning assortment of pitches Melancon possesses contributes to his overall success, and his fastball, knuckle curve, and cutter all save runs well above average.
His most effective pitch is a unique knuckle curve, which averages 81.1 mph and was thrown 25.9 percent of the time. PITCHf/x shows that his knuckle curve holds a wKC/C of 2.22 runs saved every 100 times he throws it, well above average.
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Consistency is what stands out the most for Melancon as all his pitches are almost identically as efficient at saving runs as his knuckle curve. Melancon’s fastball has a wFA/C of 2.06 runs saved per 100 thrown, and his cutter has a wFC/C of 1.94 runs saved per 100 thrown.
He doesn’t light-up the radar gun with his fastball and his average velocity this season was 91.8 mph, but his overall consistency with run prevention for each pitch can’t go ignored.
Melancon contributed 4.1 innings to the Nationals’ 2016 NLDS series, while converting his only save and allowing zero runs. Indeed, it’s a smaller sample, but the results stayed true to the previous resume.
This is probably the San Francisco Giants most realistic closer they can obtain. With heavy interest sure to be with Jansen and Chapman, the Giants may just slip through and steal Melancon away. Whatever the club decides to do, the Giants’ brass knows they can’t live through kicking themselves the duration of a season again.
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