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Mark Melancon’s Struggles with Red Sox

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 05: Mark Melancon #37 of t...

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

During the 2011-’12 offseason the Red Sox and Astro‘s made a trade that brought the Red Sox their next set-up man, and the Astro’s an injury plagued, yet talented middle infielder who was looking for an opportunity in Jed Lowrie. There wasn’t a ton of reaction to this trade, but it’s proving rather significant through only 4 games in the 2012 season. More so for the Red Sox, as Melancon has stumbled out of the gate vs. the Detroit Tiger potent lineup.

Melancon is a big tall right hander with four pitches. A rather straight fastball that lives 91-94, touching 96 occasionally. He packages that with an out-pitch curve that’s devastating to right handed batters when he’s commanding the pitch. Melancon also shows a cutter and a change to keep hitters off balance, but mostly relies on his fastball/curveball combo. His delivery is pretty smooth and he gets good power from his legs, however his arm motion allows the hitter to see the ball pretty early so if he doesn’t have his best stuff (and even sometimes when he does) he’s going to get hit. Although just a small sample size, he’s looked pretty terrible with the Red Sox, which would make most alarmed. However I’m not sure it’s going to end or get much better moving forward because not only is the quality of hitting drastically better in the AL East compared to what Melancon faced last year, it’s also stacked with power hitting, patient left handers. Melancon’s splits in 2011 were ugly vs. LH batters, as you can see below.

There’s a noticeable drop in his K-rate vs. LH batters, and he’s putting more of them on base, with a disgusting 5.15 BB/9. Add that with a generally better and deeper pool of hitters, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster that was in front of the Red Sox when they made this move in the winter. There’s always the chance that Melancon makes some adjustments, and I am sure the pitching coach will address some issue with him, but my initial reactions aren’t good. The most glaring issue to me is Melancon presents the ball early when he’s loading up. It’s a small difference, but those are the kinds of things that can make or break you when facing much tougher competition like the Detroit Tigers. There may come a day this season where Bobby V needs to keep Melancon away from left handed hitters, and put him in a position to succeed and offer his new team the most value against opposing lineups. Judging by Valentine’s reputation, that day may or may not come.
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