The December 26, 2012 trade of Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt for reliever Mark Melancon and minor leaguers Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan DeJesus, and Jerry Sands was greeted with “salary dump” anger by Pirate fans and media alike. But this was not Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez.
Hanrahan had shown some underlying signs of decline in 2012. His BB rate was up to a tight-rope-walking 5.4 per 9IP and he allowed 1.2 home runs per nine innings. That’s a recipe for blown saves.
Also, in 2011, Hanrahan threw his fastball an average of 11.3 mph harder than his slider. In 2102, that difference was down to 8.4 mph.
It was no surprise when Hanrahan went down with an arm injury that required surgery and ended his 2013 season after just 7.1 innings pitched.
Melancon, on the other hand, had an excellent season, coming out of the Pirate bullpen. He pitched 71.1 innings with a 2.05 xFIP and gave the Pirates 2.5 Wins Above Replacement. He also filled in as the Pirates closer when Jason Grilli missed time with a forearm strain; and saved 16 games.
Melancon will turn 29 just prior to the start of the 2014 season. So, I searched for pitchers who were comparable to Melancon from the ages of 26 through 28 and took a look at what they did at age 29. Their performances may or may not be predictive of how Melancon will perform this season – at age 29, but I like to see how numbers of comparable players match up to my projections
From ages 26 through 28, Melancon posted these statistics:
The two relief pitchers who were most comparable to Mark Melancon from ages 26 through 28 were Keith Foulke (95% comparable), whose careeer ended in 2008, and Luke Gregerson (91.1% comparable), who currently pitches for the Padres.
At 29, Foulke had these numbers:
Foulke was a severe flyball pitcher, while Melancon is just the opposite. Foulke had a career groundball rate of 31.4%. Melancon’s career rate is 55.8% and, last year, he hit a career high of 60.3%.
Foulke did his job differently than Melancon does his, but he achieved similar results.
At age 29, Luke Gregerson had these numbers:
Gregerson is a groundball pitcher, but not quite like Mark Melancon. His career groundball rate is 47.7%. From age 26 through age 28, he induced 49.1% groundballs. His GB rate at age 29 was 45.5%.
I am projecting that Mark Melancon will be very much the same pitcher this coming season that he was in 2013. Here are the numbers:
And nobody is now angry about the Hanrahan trade.