Melancon Down the Middle
Ever wonder what it would be like if Charlie Brown got called up to the majors? Mark Melancon's first two weeks with the Boston Red Sox are a pretty good approximation. The erstwhile Astro, acquired during the winter for shortstop Jed Lowrie and starter Kyle Weiland, coughed up 10 hits, 11 runs and five home runs in just two innings. That's not exactly what the Sox expected from a power arm who posted a 138 ERA+ and served up five homers total in 74.1 frames last season. Melancon's gopheritis earned him the boot off Bobby Valentine's roster faster than you can say "Pawtucket."
Valentine told MLB.com's Ian Browne that Melancon must work on hitting the corners while in Triple-A:
"Mark just has to be the pitcher that he is," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He struggled with his command. He's a great command pitcher, and thus far, he hasn't had it. We don't feel that he'd have the opportunity really here to work through it. He was anxious to get an opportunity to work more regularly so that he could get back to where he belongs."
Melancon's command certainly did suffer before his demotion. Check out his pitch location in 2011, and then during his homer-prone 2012:
Thirty-seven percent of Melancon's pitches have been thrown to the horizontal middle of the strike zone in 2012. For comparison, Melancon left about 27% of his offerings belt-high last season, and the average for relievers in 2012 is 25%. All five of Melancon's home runs surrendered came on pitches thrown down the middle.
Despite his "AAAARGH!"-worthy start with Boston, Sox fans shouldn't curse the Lowrie trade just yet. Melancon is 27 years old, has five years of team control left and records lots of Ks and grounders with his fastball/cutter/curve repertoire when he throws quality strikes. If he makes a few tweaks with the PawSox, Melancon should get back to giving opposing batters grief instead of his own fans.