Zimm’s Corner: Nationals Acquire Mark Melancon

By | August 2, 2016
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Editor’s Note: In his ongoing “Zimm’s Corner” monthly report on the hometown Washington Nationals, HTTD writer Patrick Rice discusses the Nats’ acquisition of pitcher/closer Mark Melancon.

Trade: Washington Nationals acquire Mark Melancon (RHP) for Felipe Rivero (LHP) & Taylor Hearn (LHP)

As the MLB Trade Deadline came and passed yesterday at 4pm, the Washington Nationals – in dire need of a closer — made their move over the weekend, by acquiring closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In order to land Melancon, the Nationals parted ways with over-used relief pitcher Felipe Rivero and little-known pitcher Taylor Hearn from their Farm System. Former closer (and now set-up man) Jonathan Papelbon’s ineffectiveness forced General Manager Mike Rizzo’s hand.

In Melancon, the Nationals are getting an ultra-consistent closer who was brilliant with Pirates for the past three-plus years. He led the league with 51 saves last season, has played in three All-Star games, and pitched in three straight pennant races with Pittsburgh. He has a 1.51 ERA this seasons, and a combined 1.80 ERA since 2013.

In addition, Melacon hasn’t put a WHIP — Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched) – higher than 0.96 since 2013, including a career best 0.87 in 2014. By comparison, the average WHIP for a major league pitcher in 2015 was 1.29. Melancon’s WHIP in 2016 is 0.96, which is actually higher than that of Stephen Strasburg (0.98).

Jonathan Papelbon’s woes forced the NL East-leading Nationals to find help with the stretch run approaching. As age has caught up to the once great closer, Papelbon has lost considerable zip on his fastball and movement on his splitter. This season, Papelbon’s WHIP has ballooned to a career-worst 1.49, good for third-worst amongst the 28 closers with at least 10 saves this season.

Clinging to a four game lead in the division, the Nationals had to make a move and bolster their bullpen. They had substantial discussions with the New York Yankees about Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but balked at the idea of depleting their farm system in order to get one player. With Melancon, they still get an accomplished closer, while holding on to prized young assets like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Trea Turner, among others.

It has been said here, time and time again, that games in October are won with pitching and defense. Consider this, since 2014, Melancon has converted 92.7% of his saves (stats from our good friends FederalBaseball) and only two relievers have a better percentage over that same period of time: Aroldis Chapman and Zach Britton, with percentages 92.8% and 92.9% respectively.

The Nationals may not be considered “winners” at this year’s deadline, but they are in far better shape heading into the stretch run and did not sacrifice anything long term.

From a fans perspective – how much more can you ask?


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