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Entries in Pittsburgh Pirates (35)

Friday
Dec282012

Bucs' Melancon Poised to Bounce Back

Mark Melancon's first and only season in Boston was brutal. The former Astro closer's combination of Ks and grounders intrigued the Red Sox enough for the club to surrender shortstop Jed Lowrie in trade last December, but Melancon gave up as many homers in early April (five) as he did during the entire 2011 season. He was banished to Triple-A Pawtucket by the middle of the month and finished the year with a 6.20 ERA, highest among all American League relievers tossing at least 45 innings. A few days ago, Melancon was shipped to the Pirates as part of a six-player deal that netted the Sox a new closer in Joel Hanrahan.

Ugly ERA and early homer woes aside, Melancon could be a steal for Pittsburgh. The 27-year-old righty showed better command upon returning from his stint with the PawSox in June, no longer throwing as many of the middle-of-the-plate cookies that crushed him in April and curbing home runs like he did during his Astros days.

In April, Melancon was an unmitigated disaster. Check out his pitch location during his first four outings with Boston:

Melancon's pitch location, April 2012

Melancon put the ball on a tee for hitters, throwing a major league-high 35% of his pitches to the horizontal middle of the strike zone. For comparison's sake, the average for relief pitchers last year was 24%. Pitchers who leave the ball over the middle get their heads handed to them -- batters slugged .492 against those offerings in 2012 -- and Melancon was no exception. All five of the April homers he surrendered came on middle-of-the-plate pitches.

The Sox demoted Melancon after his no-out, six-run, three homer pummeling against the Rangers on April 17. He turned things around in Triple-A, however, compiling a 27-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and serving up nary a home run in 21.1 innings with Pawtucket. When he returned to the majors in June, Melancon did a better job of avoiding the middle of the zone:

Melancon's pitch location, June-September 2012

Melancon threw slightly under 29% of his pitches to the middle of the plate, not far off his 27% mark during his stellar 2011 season in Houston. With sharper command, he allowed just three home runs in 43 innings and posted a 40-to-10 K-to-BB ratio.

In two ghastly April innings, Melancon had a 49.50 ERA. In 43 innings following his Triple-A stint, he had a 4.19 ERA. Melancon has typically thrown a few more meatballs than the average reliever, but he showed command similar to his halcyon days with Houston from June on and continued to rack up strikeouts and grounders. If Melancon can bury those April memories, the Bucs might have landed a low-cost closer who won't hit free agency until after the 2016 season.

Tuesday
Dec112012

@GrillCheese49's Cheddar Earns 2-Year Deal From Pirates

Jason Grilli re-signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, $6.75 million deal, and the man known on Twitter as @GrillCheese49 is pumped: "So.....I have reached my decision! Time to celebrate and get back to work." The 36-year-old might just have the most apropos Twitter handle in the game, as he has transformed from journeyman recovering from a career-threatening quad injury to lockdown reliever (and potential closer) on the strength of his cheddar.

Grilli's fastball was pretty good after the Bucs plucked him out of Triple-A Lehigh Valley during the summer of 2011. He averaged 92.4 MPH with the pitch and got hitters to swing and miss about 19% of the time, slightly above the 18% average for relievers. But he toasted hitters high in the zone after adding an extra tick of velocity in 2012.

Sitting at 93.6 MPH with his fastball, Grilli employed a simple yet deadly approach. He fired his fastball about 71% of the time, daring hitters to put good wood on pitches placed at the letters:

Grilli's fastball location in 2012

Grilli threw about 48% of his fastball high in the strike zone, the tenth-highest mark among relievers and well above the 34% average. Suffice it to say, batters couldn't handle his high cheddar:

Opponent contact rate vs. Grilli's fastball in 2012

Overall, Grilli's 28% fastball miss rate ranked just outside the top 10 and bested that of better-known relief aces like Jonathan Papelbon and Jason Motte:

Highest fastball miss rate among relievers, 2012

PitcherFastball Miss Pct.
Craig Kimbrel 38.2%
Aroldis Chapman 37.2%
Darren O'Day 35.6%
Ernesto Frieri 35.1%
Steve Delabar 32.0%
Brad Boxberger 31.8%
Jim Henderson 31.2%
J. J. Hoover 30.6%
Joel Peralta 28.6%
Jeremy Horst 28.5%
Jose Arredondo 28.2%
Jason Grilli 27.9%
Jason Motte 27.8%
Sean Marshall 27.2%
Koji Uehara 27.1%
MLB Avg. for RP 19.7%

 

Grilli could start racking up saves himself if the Pirates find a trade partner for Joel Hanrahan, who figures to earn around $7 million in 2013 before hitting free agency. The control woes that hindered Hanrahan's career with the Nationals cropped up again last year, as he issued the highest walk rate (5.43 per nine frames) of any qualified reliever this side of Carlos Marmol. With a souped-up fastball, @GrillCheese49's stuff should play just fine in the ninth.

Friday
Sep212012

McCutchen joins the 30-homer club; Pirates join the sub-.500 club

You can't say enough about Andrew McCutchen's season for the fading Pirates:

McCutchen has indeed been a hitting star at .339 with an OPS of .978

The 2012 30-homer club:

The Pirates single-season 30-homer club:

RkPlayerHRYear
1 Ralph Kiner 54 1949
2 Ralph Kiner 51 1947
3 Willie Stargell 48 1971
4 Ralph Kiner 47 1950
5 Willie Stargell 44 1973
6 Ralph Kiner 42 1951
7 Ralph Kiner 40 1948
8 Brian Giles 39 1999
9 Brian Giles 38 2002
10 Brian Giles 37 2001
11 Ralph Kiner 37 1952
12 Jason Bay 35 2006
13 Brian Giles 35 2000
14 Dick Stuart 35 1961
15 Frank Thomas 35 1958
16 Aramis Ramirez 34 2001
17 Barry Bonds 34 1992
18 Barry Bonds 33 1990
19 Willie Stargell 33 1972
20 Willie Stargell 33 1966
21 Jason Bay 32 2005
22 Bobby Bonilla 32 1990
23 Willie Stargell 32 1979
24 Reggie Sanders 31 2003
25 Jason Thompson 31 1982
26 Willie Stargell 31 1970
27 Andrew McCutchen 30 2012
28 Jeff King 30 1996
29 Dave Parker 30 1978
30 Frank Thomas 30 1953
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/21/2012.

The 2012 sub-.500 club

TmLgWLW-L%Strklast10last20last30
ARI NL 74 75 .497 L 1 6-4 10-10 14-16
PIT NL 74 75 .497 L 2 2-8 6-14 9-21
SDP NL 72 78 .480 W 1 7-3 12-8 20-10
SEA AL 70 80 .467 L 4 3-7 7-13 14-16
KCR AL 68 81 .456 W 2 6-4 10-10 15-15
BOS AL 68 83 .450 L 2 5-5 6-14 9-21
TOR AL 66 82 .446 L 3 3-7 9-11 11-19
NYM NL 66 83 .443 L 5 1-9 6-14 10-20
MIA NL 66 84 .440 L 1 4-6 7-13 12-18
MIN AL 62 88 .413 L 1 4-6 9-11 12-18
CLE AL 62 88 .413 W 1 3-7 7-13 8-22
COL NL 58 91 .389 L 6 2-8 5-15 12-18
CHC NL 58 92 .387 L 4 4-6 8-12 11-19
HOU NL 48 102 .320 L 3 4-6 8-12 9-21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table
Generated 9/21/2012.
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