Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Is it Time to Worry About Mark Melancon?

The lifespan of a closer tends to be very short. Very few closers maintain effectiveness year after year. And when they do fall from grace it is often very swift. I’m looking at you Ernesto Frieri, Chris Perez, and Jim Johnson. So as a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates it causes me great concern to see Mark Melancon get hit so hard by the Tigers in the Pirates’ home opener. We saw this story last April with Jason Grilli and it wasn’t pretty. Lucky for the Bucs that Melancon had a four run lead to work with in the 9th inning. He needed every bit of that lead to just barely survive the Tigers’ onslaught. The Pirates need the backend of the bullpen to be effective. Any closer can have a bad day, so it shouldn’t be that alarming to see Melancon get roughed up. But there is something about Melancon’s early season appearances that portends to trouble ahead – a precipitous drop off in his velocity.
As the chart above shows Melancon has lost more than 3 mph off of the Cutter – his bread and butter pitch. Last season Melancon averaged 91.9 mph with his Cutter. This year it has dropped to a very hittable 88.7 mph. Melancon has only made three appearances thus far, and in only one of those games did he enter in a high leverage situation. But this is an alarming drop off. A 3 mph loss in velocity is no small drop, and velocity changes tend to stabilize very quickly. Something is going on here. Either Melancon is injured or he really is losing steam from his Cutter. Perhaps he will gain some of it back, but gaining back 3 mph seems very unlikely. Can Melancon pitch effectively at this velocity? I have my doubts. The Pirates might need to switch closers in the near future.


  1. Again, our hitters failed to give AJ run support. Alas, a 2 to 0 loss to the Tigers. This was a problem when he was with the team before. Lack of run support. It is a strange phenomena.

  2. Another game with no run support for the pitcher. Liriano gets the loss losing 1 – 0. UgggHHH.

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